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BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Interim says he'll stay loyal no matter what happens in search

Last Monday, as Scott Barnes addressed the media in the wake of Gary Andersen's resignation as head football coach at Oregon State, he didn't mention interim coach Cory Hall as a candidate for Andersen's replacement.

So I sought out Barnes afterward and asked the athletic director what chance Hall would have of being back on the coaching staff next season.

"I will tell you unequivocably, I will be an incredible advocate for Cory Hall," Barnes said. "And that will mean a lot."

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cory Hall, interim head coach of the Oregon State Beavers, got off on a high note last week even in defeat.I took that to mean that, to whoever Barnes hired after a "national search," he would strongly suggest that the head coach retain Hall on his staff.

So after last Saturday's 36-33 loss to Colorado, I asked Barnes if he'd changed his mind about Hall — if, in fact, he now considered Hall a viable candidate for the head coaching job.

"My original comment on that was, we'll leave this wide open," Barnes said Monday. "That's where we sit now.

"I can't say enough about the job Cory has done as it relates to what I'd hoped — galvanize and inspire. He has the trust and the respect of those young men. That was apparent Saturday.

"My stance hasn't changed. This is a wide-open search, and I'll leave it at that."

I could be wrong, but it sure seemed that the implication from Barnes was that, while he was appreciative Hall was taking over the program in mid-stream, he would be looking elsewhere for a permanent coach.

And who could blame him? Hall, 40, is in his second season coaching cornerbacks at Oregon State. He has never been even a coordinator at the college level. Three years ago, Hall was an intern for Andersen at Wisconsin. Less than a decade ago, he was defensive coordinator at a middle school in Los Angeles.

Experience is critical at the major-college level, so I get where Hall wouldn't meet the criteria Barnes is looking for.

I'm not suggesting Hall should get the permanent head job. He did a masterful job rallying the troops and putting together a plan that nearly pulled off an upset of the Buffaloes.

It's entirely possible, however, that the jolt of energy created a perfect storm and lifted the Beavers to the synergy that was evident last Saturday at Reser Stadium. That could wear off, and the Beavers could revert to the team that couldn't put together a competitive complete game against their previous five FBS opponents. Even if we continue to see the new, improved Beavers, envisioning a 1-11 season is not farfetched.

It's important, though, that Hall be considered a viable candidate for at least one reason.

The letter-of-intent signing date has been moved up significantly — from the first week in February to Dec. 20. Hall and his staff will be out recruiting during the bye week. They'll be selling Oregon State football with or without them. It's a very uncomfortable, if unavoidable, position.

The Beavers have nine verbal commits for a recruiting class that will max out at about 18 signees. They'd like to hang on to the commits. Hall has reached out to all of them in the past week, offering as much reassurance as he can.

"I've received a lot of support from the current commits," he said.

Barnes says he has also talked via phone with several of the commits.

"We've received very good responses from them," he said.

The Beavers haven't lost any of the commits yet, but that's probably unavoidable, too. Recruits decide on a school as much for the coaching staff as for anything else.

Hall, more than the other coaches, is important in this. If he returns — as head coach, defensive coordinator or just as cornerbacks coach — there's a connection with which the recruits can identify. Hall was considered the best recruiter on Andersen's staff. He is charismatic and an excellent representative for the university.

There's no question Hall wants to be considered for the head coaching job next season. He has enjoyed his time at Oregon State. Cory and wife, Sarah, have two children together and a third, a boy, on the way. They consider Corvallis an excellent place to raise their kids.

But Hall is savvy enough to play the good soldier.

"Would I like to lead Beaver Nation for the next 10 to 15 years?" he asked rhetorically. "Absolutely. I think everybody knows that, or I wouldn't have stepped into this role.

"But do I think Scott will make the best decision for Oregon state football? Yes, I do. If those plans do not include Cory Hall, I have 100 percent faith and confidence in the decision Scott and Mr. (Ed) Ray (the school president) will make."

Barnes is already at work in the hiring process. He has a search firm lined up, which will identify candidates. He understands the importance of making a hire well in advance of the Dec. 20 signing date.

"We have a jump on things," Barnes said. "We're happy to be able to start the process in some form. Depending on the candidates and where we stand at the end of the season, we'll want to strike very quickly — literally, as the season ends."

We'll see what happens with the Beavers the rest of the season. For now, Barnes would be wise to assure recruits that Hall will be back in some form — even as an assistant — next season, and remains a candidate for the head job. Hall's body of work has shown he deserves that.

"I don't know what will happen," Barnes said. "Our search is wide open. But Cory is doing exactly what I'd hoped he'd do as a leader."

Whatever happens, Hall said he will remain a loyalist.

"I'm a loyal type of guy," he said. "And I'm going to be loyal to Oregon State."

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