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To fix this mess, the Viks need a local

On Sports

When Portland State decided in 1998 to drop baseball, a former pitcher, baseball coach and athletic director at the school walked out of the room where the announcement was made, shaking his head.

'They're on a downward spiral,' Roy Love said sadly.

It was the last PSU function that Love - who bled Viking green and white for most of his life - ever attended. As Portland State searches for a new athletic director and football coach, his sympathies are with the person who now fills the AD chair.

'The person I feel the most sorry for right now is Teri Mariani,' Love said. 'She's in a terrible position.'

Mariani, much like Love in that she's a former athlete and coach at PSU who has given a lifetime in service to the athletic department, didn't create the mess that has become Portland State athletics. But as the interim AD, she's in charge of attempting to clean it up.

'I'm not sleeping well,' she said this week. 'This has been very difficult.'

The core problem at Portland State is neglect. Daniel Bernstine, the university president, has let things go to the point of absurdity. PSU has spent a year seeking a new athletic director. A year! Four finalists have been in place since the start of 2007, but the interviews won't be completed until March.

Vibrant promotional campaigns - once the lifeblood of the athletic department - are virtually dead.

It's as if the school either expects people to just show up at football and basketball games out of a sense of duty, or hopes they don't show up - so the whole thing can eventually be shut down. They're actually trying to run a Division I basketball program in a 1,200-seat arena.

Love doesn't want to sound bitter, and he was reluctant to talk, but eventually he opened up. He presided over the school's glory days in athletics, and he doesn't want to see the ship sink.

'For the last several years, they've brought people in (for the AD job) who don't know what's going on as far as Portland State and the city of Portland,' he said. 'They don't know the history. They don't know how it can work. The last two athletic directors (Tom Burman and Jim Sterk) were here to use the job as a steppingstone.

'I'm not sure they've had a president who really knows how to orchestrate athletics at a place like this,' he said. 'He doesn't know who to hire and what needs to be done. There is no way in hell that Portland State shouldn't be more than competitive in all sports in the Big Sky Conference.'

Love is still steamed over the school dropping baseball.

'Rather than raise money to support programs, they have chosen to drop them,' he said. 'Baseball and wrestling were competing at the Pac-10 level, and they chose not to support them.

'I'm not sure there was a real commitment. I was lucky - when I was there we had presidents who wanted to make it work. There was commitment.

'But now? Well, how many new sponsors and contributors have been added to the program since they moved from Division II to Division I-AA? Not very many. They have a very dedicated group of supporters who have been with them for years - great people - but not many new ones.'

It rankles Love that of the four finalists for the AD job, none is a PSU graduate or has much of a local connection.

'They're going to make the same mistake again,' he said. 'I'd find a local guy who went to PSU - someone working in athletic administration or private business. There are some very bright people out there. Then I'd go talk to some of the best high school football coaches in the area - guys like Steve Coury, Ken Potter, Chad Carlson - and hire one of them to coach.

'We hired Mouse Davis out of Hillsboro High School. It's the same game, you just have to learn the rules.'

As for me, I'd go right now to Mouse, the youngest 74-year-old man on the planet, and beg him to take the job for a couple of years, and then have him pick his replacement. He's an energetic, innovative coach and even better person, a guy who would inject immediate excitement into the football program.

But from what I've seen, Bernstine talks a good game but doesn't really know what to do.

On Sept. 23, 1998, Bernstine said, 'What we need to do now is generate broad campus and community support for our athletic programs. They are an integral part of our presence in this region and an important co-curricular activity for our students.'

Sounded good at the time. But was anything actually done to help make that happen?

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