Tim Euhus watched with pride and excitement late Thursday morning at Valley Football Center as Jonathan Smith, one of his old quarterbacks, was announced as Oregon State’s new football coach.
At the same time, his phone was busy with texts from other former teammates as they shared the same emotions while watching from afar.
“John’s crushing that press conference and he’s going to bring that swagger back to Oregon State,” said Euhus, a former Beaver tight end, describing the messages he was receiving.
Euhus was among those with OSU ties attending the press conference who are keenly interested in the direction of the next chapter of Beaver football.
Smith is charged with turning around a program that’s won seven combined games — three in conference — in the last three seasons. Gary Andersen vacated the head coaching position midseason after what was described as a mutual decision. OSU finished 1-11.
Former OSU and NFL player Steve Preece has faith that Smith is the man for the job.
Preece says Smith’s success as a student-athlete at Oregon State means something. He knows how to win. He also knows the school, the Pac-12 Conference and the recruiting territory.
“It couldn’t be a better fit. I’m elated,” said Preece, an OSU Sports Hall of Famer who was kept apprised of the coaching search throughout the seven-week process. “Considering the group they were looking at at the end, great choice.”
Preece said Smith is smart and knowledgeable and has been mentored by accomplished coaches such as Dennis Erickson, Mike Riley and most recently, Washington head coach Chris Peterson, whom Smith has spent the last six seasons with.
Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes said the university is impressed with the pedigree.
“Because, in the end, that pedigree has grown a young, heralded football player from Oregon State into one of the top offensive coordinators and young head coaches in America,” he said.
OSU President Ed Ray said the school “found the perfect person at the perfect moment” and that Smith has proven he can deliver positive results.
Ray said Smith can connect with players and fans and has the vision and capability to get the football team back to the pinnacle of success in the sport.
“It is not acceptable to be mediocre in the classroom. It is not acceptable to be mediocre on the field of competition,” Ray said.
Preece acknowledged Oregon State isn’t an easy place to win, and that it takes establishing a culture of success and maintaining it.
He said Andersen left the program in as good or better shape at certain player positions than when he arrived nearly three years ago, and facilities are better. Preece sees an improving situation.
“I believe (Smith) can win quicker than people think because I think we were bigger, stronger, faster with more players than this record shows,” he said.
Barnes said one of his first interviews for the opening was with Smith, who then became the benchmark for the rest of the candidates.
Smith provided a scenario in which he walks into a recruit’s home displaying his 2000 Pac-10 championship ring as a player, which he was also wearing Thursday.
“That didn’t hurt him one bit,” Barnes said.
They met again Tuesday night during an emotional encounter as Barnes internally reaffirmed what he knew about Smith and eventually offered him the job.
Barnes said Smith has tenacity and is “incredibly authentic.” He introduced Smith to the football team, with a reminder of their new coach’s conference title, Thursday morning just prior to the press conference.
“He’s got grit, he’s got unparalleled passion for this place,” Barnes said. “He knows how to do it and he knows how to do it the right way.”