Monday, February 26, 2024

Some Pullman business owners are frustrated with the city's plan to draw people downtown

Spokesman-Review 2/26/2024 story (link) mentions C. J. Roberts’ three downtown Pullman businesses. They are:

=Pups and Cups coffee shop, adjacent to Audian theater on East Main Street.

=Grander Goods natural market, a zero waste specialty refill store, and It’s Poke-Man, a bar/restaurant. Both are at 100

East Main Street where Cafe Moro (later Manny’s Coffee House) was located.

A downtown Pullman Merchant told Pullman ::: Cup of the Palouse on 2/26/202 that the two businesses will be closing in April, but Pups and Cups will stay open.

Some Pullman business owners are frustrated with the city's plan to draw people downtown

By Alexandria Osborne, for Spokesman-Review Feb 26, 2024 

Frustrated by an $11.7 million city project to revitalize downtown, Pullman business owner C.J. Robert said she has had enough.

Robert said she will sell all three of her businesses: a coffee shop, a bulk foods store and a small restaurant, which will be listed with a real estate agent by March 1.

The main point of the Downtown Pullman Project was to beautify downtown, make it more walkable and highlight key gems in the area, she said. The project was also meant to address why people avoid the downtown area in the first place, including the lack of activities for children, she said.

“These were all things that absolutely we, as small businesses, wanted to happen,” Robert said.

But Robert said city officials have not been responsive to the concerns of local businesses over access, duration of the project and more.

Pullman Mayor Francis Benjamin said the project is meant to make downtown Pullman more attractive and improve the area for the local businesses.

Benjamin said the city plans to work with the contractor to ensure there is maximum access to businesses during construction, including a required 4-foot walkway in front of all buildings the entire time. The exception is when concrete is being torn out, but Benjamin said an area can only be closed for a maximum of seven days.

“(We’re) keeping that as short as possible to minimize the amount of time that businesses don’t have access to the front door,” he said.

The city is working with businesses on using backdoor access as well so businesses do not have to shut down while the front is closed, he said.

Benjamin said the city plans steady communication with local business owners so they know what to expect and when, which includes weekly updates on certain closures and different events to help drive business to the downtown area.

“Obviously there’s some business owners that are going to choose to just shut down, and I’m sorry for that. We are trying to work with them,” he said. “I’ve had a number of conversations … with business owners who are excited about the work that’s being done and what it’s going to mean for their business.”

Local business owners and city council members have had multiple conversations about this project, and Robert said she has been actively involved in those conversations for the past year and a half.

But Robert said local business owners have been told for five years the project would only take place during the summer months. In December, the project was extended and will now take at least twice as long.

“(They) decided to throw away everything businesses advocated for and then extended the project by 115%, more than double, at the drop of a hat because they ‘didn’t want to lose the money,’ ” she said.

Now, she will experience a loss selling her businesses because she does not own the buildings, so she will only be able to sell based on what their equipment is worth.

Robert said she did not want to sell, but she expects to see a huge loss in all three if she keeps them, especially because businesses in the college town already take huge losses during the summer months. Profits also have taken a hit because of inflation.

Robert said what she hopes her businesses are worth is not shown on paper.

“On paper, it doesn’t look as good because you don’t make money,” she said. “I haven’t been able to pay myself in probably a year and a half, but welcome to being a small business owner in Pullman. You’re working to basically continue to keep your doors open.”

While Robert said few business owners will openly say the same thing, the results of an anonymous survey showed 77% of business owners believe they will be out of business during the six and a half months the downtown project will take place.

Nick Pitsilonis, the Black Cypress restaurant owner, anticipates losing at least 50% of revenue while the project is in process.

“(That is) presuming the entirety of Main Street will be shut down due to vehicular traffic and parking, and that’s relatively conservative,” Pitsilonis said. “I think it could be closer to 60%, that might be a little more realistic.”

He hopes a model for construction can be made to minimize negative impacts on local businesses, he said.

Pitsolonis said he does not see his business being able to allow as many guests to come into his restaurant at once while the project takes place, so he is looking to have a temporary model where he does high-end, fancy dinners for groups of 24 on the weekends, when there is adequate parking and traffic flow.

“I’m not certain there’s enough folks in general around here for that kind of thing, but that’s the angle I think I’m taking because I don’t see how we can get 100 people through the doors,” he said.

Pitsilonis said he believes his business can bounce back when the project is done because he has some equity he can draw upon for the Black Cypress to survive.

On the other hand, he thinks it might take time to get community members back because they might build new relationships with businesses in Moscow during the time the project is in process.

“I think we’ll be all right eventually,” he said. “It will be a little bit damaging and, in some respects, create certain lasting impacts that will be hard and take some time to recover from.”

Pitsilonis said local business owners have been wanting a new downtown project for a long time, but the trick now is to survive, which will take a lot of effort from the community at large.

“The big piece is that … the community wants to support businesses during this time,” Benjamin said. “There are people working to help businesses be successful, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Saturday, February 24, 2024

STATE SWIM CHAMPIONS: Pullman swimming dynasty is in full bloom after back-to-back titles Pullman boys win back-to-back state swimming titles

STATE SWIM CHAMPIONS: Pullman swimming dynasty is in full bloom after back-to-back titles

Pullman boys win back-to-back state swimming titles

By Cody Wendt, Lewiston Trib, Feb 23 2024

The story of Pullman Greyhound boys swimming the past two seasons has been defined by one watershed after another.

Though it had fielded distinguished rosters and alumni through the decades, Pullman had never claimed a boys team state title prior to 2023. Now, it has performed that feat back-to-back, and its championship showing last weekend at the Washington Class 2A state meet at King’s County Aquatic Center represented many all-time highs.

The Hounds finished first in six different events, set new meet records in four events and school records in seven, fielded at least one All-American honoree and potentially as many as three (having had two last year), and totaled 289 team points (improving on 286 a year earlier).

They also made the most of the journey, according to coach Jacob Hogg.

“This year’s group was a really tight-knit group of boys, so the trip to State with Teo (Uberuaga) and Will (Miller) being the captains and the only two seniors kind of gave them a really good farewell,” Hogg said. “Those two have been through Pullman High School — four-year lettermen. Teo had finished third a bunch of times throughout his career at Pullman and finally got to finish second (in the 500-yard freestyle). Will did a personal-best time (45.58 seconds) in the 100 free. They were very energetic.

“We had a lot of fun on the trip. Just really proud of them, and it was really a very easy group to coach and have fun with.”

Last year, Miller and compatriot Jake McCoy achieved All-American status in the 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley, respectively, signifying that their best times for the season ranked among the top 100 nationwide after all results, including those from parts of the country where swimming is a spring sport, were tallied. They have now improved on the marks that gained them the status previously, but await official confirmation whether they repeat as All-Americans.

Meanwhile, their teammate Ben Madson will not have to wait. The junior’s first-place mark of 20.83 seconds in the 50 freestyle was not only a meet and school record, but passed the threshold for automatic All-American recognition.

This era of Pullman swimming success has cut across boys and girls competition, with the Greyhound girls having titled as a team as recently as 2021 and placed second while fielding individual 500 freestyle state champion Poppy Edge last fall. The Hound swimming community is fed by the Cougar Aquatics youth club program, of which Miller, McCoy, Madson, Uberuaga, Edge and more are alums.

Western Washington foe Sammamish, which has been Pullman’s top swimming rival at the state level — beating out the girls for first and coming in second to the boys — is set to move up to Class 3A starting next school year. With two individual state champions and several more athletes that “made huge strides this year,” including the likes of sophomores Zane Pumphrey, Nolan Pollestad and Levi Ritter, Hogg is optimistic about the possibility of his boys mustering a state title three-peat.

“It’s a fun side job to have, coaching these kids, so I just hope I can do it for as long as they’ll have me,” Hogg said. “I hope we keep doing well, and more importantly, I hope we just keep having fun. That’s maybe a little bit of the different energy I bring compared to maybe coaches they’ve had in the past; I try to make it as much fun as possible, and it seems to be paying off.”


Sunday, January 21, 2024

THE VOICE: Alex McGregor speaks out for Northwest farmers

THE VOICE: Alex McGregor speaks out for Northwest farmers

  • “When Alex speaks, everybody listens,” said Colfax cattle rancher Tom Kammerzell, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association president.
  • Chairman of The McGregor Company, McGregor advocates on behalf of farm families on a wide range of issues, including maintaining the services of the Snake River dams.

Story by Matthew Weaver, Capital Press, Jan. 19, 2024

COLFAX, Wash. — Any public meeting receives a jolt of energy the moment Alex McGregor stands up to speak.

“Good morning!” he’ll revive the audience with a booming voice. Or “Good afternoon, friends!”

A microphone is usually unnecessary.

The chairman of The McGregor Company, a major provider of fertilizers and other inputs in the Northwest, uses that voice to advocate on matters critical for farm families: Conservation policy. The farm bill. Environmental issues.

McGregor, 74, is particularly involved in the long-running fight to maintain the four lower Snake River dams. He calls recent federal mediation in a lawsuit over dam operations “miscast and even deceitful.”

The Biden administration and plaintiffs announced a settlement agreement in December. Most ag and electric utility stakeholders felt ignored.

“You have to have sound science and meaningful dialogue as cornerstones in that process,” McGregor said. “The benefits of the dams are substantial, and trying to shut out agriculture, home owners and businesses is highly inappropriate.”

District Judge Michael Simon will decide whether to stay the litigation following a Jan. 12 deadline for the government to respond to filings by all parties involved in the lawsuit, in reaction to the proposed plan.

The plan moves the region into “areas of uncertainty that are troublesome,” McGregor said.

“...If we go through this process of restricting clean hydropower that can be generated, and making transport by barge more difficult and less safe, that to me is a dead-end road,” he said.

McGregor works alongside longtime company employee Leslie Druffel. Druffel serves as co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association’s Inland Ports and Navigation Group, an intervenor-defendant during the mediation.

“We’re both going full-blast trying to speak out on the issues that matter,” McGregor said. “I haven’t slowed down, but the pace of the challenges has accelerated.”

The company has advocated on behalf of agriculture, rural communities and electricity ratepayers all along.

“We’re not about to stop now,” McGregor said.

The McGregor Company

There’s an enormous wealth of knowledge and history behind that voice.

McGregor’s family dates back more than 140 years on the Palouse, raising sheep, wheat, alfalfa and barley.

Sherman McGregor, Alex’s father, began experimenting with commercial fertilizers in 1948, working with other farmers and the Washington State College dryland experiment station in Lind.

Research and agronomy efforts proved so successful that Sherman founded The McGregor Company in 1956.

Today, 36 company locations offer fertilizer, agri-chemical and equipment services throughout Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Alex took over as president in 1989. He moved into the chairman role in 2017, as son Ian became president.

Importance of farm families

McGregor grew up “in that tiny little town” of Hooper, Wash., about 45 miles west of Colfax, where the company is headquartered. When he was a kid, it had a population of about 50 people. Today, about 25 people live there.

He spent a year at law school, then got his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural history at the University of Washington.

Rather than studying the history of farm families, he wanted to be involved in serving them.

“I’ve been at this for 48 years come February,” McGregor said. “What drives me now is a sense of how important farm families are to agriculture, and how important agriculture is to the Inland Northwest.”

About 96% of the arable land in Washington is farmed by family enterprises, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

McGregor points to gains the industry has made during the lifetime of today’s farmers: Productivity has increased 200%, waterborne soil erosion has been reduced 85%, dust reduced six-fold and stubble burning reduced 22-fold.

They are “the biggest gains in productivity and stewardship of any generation since crops were first sown 11,000 years ago,” McGregor said. “It’s a really good message.”

And McGregor is a really good messenger, industry leaders say.

‘When Alex speaks, everybody listens’

“He is a kind and enthusiastic supporter of everyone, and sees the good in the world that oftentimes many of us forget to look at,” said Druffel, the company’s outreach coordinator and McGregor’s partner in advocacy.

“When Alex speaks, everybody listens,” said Tom Kammerzell, president of the waterways association and a Colfax, Wash., cattle rancher. “He is well-spoken, makes his point and does his homework. He advocates and speaks from the heart. Alex is as good as it gets.”

“Alex McGregor’s impact on Washington agriculture is undeniable,” said Derek Sandison, state Department of Agriculture director. “His experience in and passion for the industry are what continue to make him such a valuable advocate and trusted voice. I appreciate his leadership and the wealth of knowledge he brings to every collaborative opportunity.”

“He enthusiastically shares his voice, his passion, and his historical knowledge of our region and our ag industry, providing important background to leaders, lawmakers, and the public,” said Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers. “When we do tours, especially of the Snake River dams, Alex can connect the dots between what people are seeing and how that touches their lives in a way few others can.”

McGregor has been recognized as WAWG’s Member of the Year several times, Hennings said, “an honor he truly deserves.”

Historian Richard Scheuerman, a longtime friend and collaborator, recalled a time McGregor testified before Congress about the farm bill.

“Literally in the same week, he’s in Washington, D.C., with the top decision makers in the land working on policy favorable to farmers nationwide, and ... he’s visiting with a group of elementary children in rural LaCrosse about the story of agriculture in the Northwest,” Scheuerman said. “He cares about second-graders and he cares about farmers in the Inland Northwest and beyond. He just operates at all these levels, and it’s incredibly impressive.”

Personal time

On a recent Wednesday, McGregor was developing the company’s annual presentation for upcoming grower winter agronomy meetings.

He then turned his attention to maintaining crop insurance in the new farm bill in Congress, an ongoing concern.

Later that evening, he and Linda, his wife of 46 years, would babysit several of their 12 grandchildren. They have three kids — Ian, Kate and Emily.

On weekends, he likes to drive rail motorcars, or “speeders,” often traveling by rail to Thornton, St. John and Hooper with up to 40 other people in 20 speeder cars.

Traveling by rail gives him a new perspective on the land, even in places with which he’s familiar, he said.

He plans to write a new edition of his first book, “Counting Sheep,” focusing on his 50 years in agriculture – as time allows.

“I’m hoping the pace of challenges slows down a bit,” he said. “But I don’t see that happening right away.”

What’s at stake

It’s more important than ever to help young people understand agriculture, and why it matters, McGregor said.

“If people live a long ways from the farm or are three generations removed from agriculture, they don’t understand, and that’s really our responsibility – to make sure that they do,” he said. “Whether they could or should, they won’t, they have other things to do – unless we reach out and tell our story.”

He’ll continue to help doing that wherever he can, he said.

“I want another generation to have their time in the barrel, too,” he said. “We need to help those young people understand: Opportunity, what’s at stake, why it matters. We’ll get that story done, all of us, but so far, results are mixed.”

‘When we all pull together’

McGregor recently came across a 1998 article he wrote for the industry magazine Wheat Life.

It was all about dams and salmon.

“Same story today,” he said. “It means we haven’t advanced very far, because for 25 years, things have been driven by lawsuits.”

Agricultural stakeholders aren’t convinced breaching the dams will solve the problem of fish survival. They say more information is needed about ocean warming or latent mortality – the death of salmon in estuaries or the ocean because of the stress experienced passing through the dams. Salmon returns have also struggled in West Coast rivers that have no dams.

They’re concerned about negative environmental and economic repercussions if the dams are removed, including the loss of barging on the river system that is used to get crops to overseas markets. More pollution, higher electricity costs and the loss of irrigation water are additional concerns.

McGregor fears both political parties are losing track of the importance of international trade.

“The difference it makes for our economy, but the difference it makes for the world, when hunger is at, alas, record levels,” he said. “We can’t isolate ourselves from being an essential element in feeding the world.”

Farm families have a good reputation, but need to make sure the public and legislators understand what they do, and why, he said.

“We’re going down a wrong path when we focus on things that don’t improve the environment and don’t improve the survival of fish,” he said. “When we all pull together, we can get things done.”

‘Unquenchable optimism’

For veteran farmers disheartened by yet another legal battle over dams, McGregor points to “unquenchable optimism,” one of several key traits displayed by the pioneers as they came to the region.

“Look back at the achievements of this greatest generation of people now retiring,” he said. “We haven’t won all the battles, but we’ve really held our own pretty well, because we’ve been in the trenches, we’ve been speaking out. We have to keep doing that.”

He has a “great deal of admiration” for the farm families who set down roots in agriculture.

“If I can help remind people there are good reasons to be optimistic, help tell our story and win a skirmish or two along the way, I want to do that,” McGregor said. “But it’s bigger than me. ... It’s talented people on farms. It’s not that hard to speak out, you just do it, do it and do it. It gets easier over time. You might even get to a point where you are excited about it and want to tell the story. Then you’re on a roll.”


From Joe Beach, editor/publisher, Capital Press, Jan. 19. 2024

Alex McGregor is a well-known and boisterous voice for agriculture in the Northwest.

He is the chairman of The McGregor Company, a major provider of fertilizers and other inputs in the Northwest.

This week, Matthew Weaver wrote an indepth profile of McGregor.

People who know him say his booming voice adds a jolt of energy to the room when he stands up to speak in advocacy on matters critical for farm families.

“When Alex speaks, everybody listens,” said Tom Kammerzell, president of the waterways association and a Colfax, Wash., cattle rancher. “He is well-spoken, makes his point and does his homework. He advocates and speaks from the heart. Alex is as good as it gets.”

McGregor works alongside longtime company employee Leslie Druffel. Druffel serves as co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association’s Inland Ports and Navigation Group, an intervenor-defendant during the mediation.

“We’re both going full-blast trying to speak out on the issues that matter,” McGregor said. “I haven’t slowed down, but the pace of the challenges has accelerated.”

People in the know say McGregor has made a difference.

“Alex McGregor’s impact on Washington agriculture is undeniable,” said Derek Sandison, state Department of Agriculture director. “His experience in and passion for the industry are what continue to make him such a valuable advocate and trusted voice. I appreciate his leadership and the wealth of knowledge he brings to every collaborative opportunity.”

It doesn’t appear that McGregor plans to stop anytime soon.

“I’ve been at this for 48 years come February,” McGregor said. “What drives me now is a sense of how important farm families are to agriculture, and how important agriculture is to the Inland Northwest.”



Cutlines for photos. All photos by Matthew Weaver, Capital Press, and appeared in the Capital Press Jan. 19, 2024, issues unless otherwise indicated.

=McGregor Company President Alex McGregor, with son Ian McGregor, vice president of the company, in Colfax, Wash. Both are Pullman High School alumni. Screen grab from YouTube video posted by Pullman Regional Hospital on June 9, 2020.

=Alex McGregor at The McGregor Company headquarters in Colfax, Wash. The company offers fertilizer, agri-chemical and equipment services in 36 locations throughout Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

=Jason Biggs, director of the rail, freight and ports program for the Washington State Department of Transportation, visits with Alex McGregor during the Nov. 2 ceremony for the Winona train trestle, which was rebuilt after a fire in August.

=Alex McGregor and his father, Sherman McGregor, founder of The McGregor Company, in 1985. Courtesy of The McGregor Company

=Alex McGregor beams as the first grain train rolls across the rebuilt train trestle Nov. 2 in Winona, Wash.

=Alex McGregor participates in a tour designed to show regional and national ag leaders the importance of the lower Snake River dams in 2021.

=McGregor Co. employee Leslie Druffel serves as co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association’s Inland Ports and Navigation Group.

=A class photo of the students and teacher of the first through fourth grades of Hooper Grade School for the 1958-59 school year in Hooper, Wash. In the first row, from left, are Mary McGregor, unknown and Nancy Mays. In the second row, from left, are Vickie Tobin, Alex McGregor, Ina Marie Blegan and Mrs. Alley. Photo by Leo’s Studio, 1958. Photo courtesy of the Whitman County Library, from the private collection of The McGregor Company. (WCL0282, Photo appeared in an issue of Washington Association of Wheat Grower’s “Wheat Life Magazine.”


Alex McGregor

Title: Chairman, The McGregor Company, in Colfax, Wash.

Age: 74

Hometown: Hooper, Wash.

Current location: Lives in the country outside Pullman, Wash.

Education: master’s degree and Ph.D., degree, both in agricultural history, University of Washington

Family: Wife Linda, married 46 years; children Ian, Kate and Emily; 12 grandchildren, ages ranging from 5 to 25


• “Counting Sheep, From Open Range to Agribusiness on the Columbia Plateau” – chosen by the Washington State Centennial Commission as one of the top one hundred books written in the state during its first century.

• “Harvest Heritage,” co-authored with Richard Scheuerman

• “Merchants, Packers, and a Rugged Path to Success, Walla Walla and the Mullan Road, 1860-83” in The Mullan Road, editors Paul McDermott, Ronald Grim and Philip Mobley.

Hobbies: Writing, stamp collecting, driving rail motor cars, also known as speeders

Website: https://



Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Pullman's Trent Bray: Named new head football coach of Oregon State U in November 2023

Trent Bray introduced 11/29/2023 as the new head coach of the Oregon State U football. The former defensive coordinator of the Beavers and a graduate of Pullman High and OSU succeeds Jonathan Smith. Video from KGW-TV, Channel 8/NBC, Portland. 

One-on-One with Oregon State Head Football Coach Trent Bray 11/29/2023 from BeaverBlitzVideo


Oregon State bets on Trent Bray/Behind-the-scenes story of the hire.

By John Canzano  11/29/2023

An elected official in the state of Washington reached out to me early in the college football season with a tip.

“You should do a column about Trent Bray growing up in Pullman,” Mike Baumgartner, the Spokane County treasurer, wrote.

Bray will be introduced as the head football coach at Oregon State in a news conference on Wednesday at 2 p.m. 

The Beavers hired a search firm on Sunday and performed a ‘speed-dating’ interview process on Monday, rifling through seven candidates via Zoom before handing the keys to Bray.

That Bray ended up with the job was not a shock. Athletic director Scott Barnes was boxed into a corner by donors, alumni, current players and unfortunate circumstances. 

Oregon State has no conference affiliation beyond next July, no television contract, it remains jammed up in a lawsuit against the Pac-12, and hasn’t released a 2024 football schedule.

There’s a tsunami of uncertainty in Corvallis. Given mounting pressure with the transfer portal (Dec. 4) opening, the risk of alienating donors and losing players wasn’t a risk Barnes was willing to take.

As one source told me on Monday: “It’s Bray — Barnes really has no choice.”

Bray must have looked like a lifeboat amid the choppy seas.

Barnes climbed aboard.

I’ve been thinking about that tip from Baumgartner. Prior to becoming treasurer, he worked as a Washington state senator who served as a State Department Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraq surge.

His focus was counterinsurgency.

Baumgartner also happened to be very close friends with the late Mike Leach. I can imagine those two had some interesting conversations. 

Leach, who had a law degree, loved to talk about anything but football. In fact, in the spring of 2022 at Mississippi State, Baumgartner and Leach co-taught a class on insurgent warfare and football strategy. 

It was billed as a discussion about “the similarities between good football and warfare.”

Baumgartner told me months ago that I needed to pay closer attention to Bray. OSU’s defensive coordinator had grown up in Pullman alongside Baumgartner’s little brother. 

The lawmaker told me that Bray was “exceptionally tough, but had almost no athletic ability.”

That surprised me. I watched Bray on the field as a player under Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley. He started 33 consecutive games at OSU, was named team co-captain and made first-team All-Pac-10 one season. He made lots of plays.

“Normally Division-I linebackers are phenomenal athletes,” Baumgartner explained, “but Trent might be the best football player relative to athletic ability in the game’s history. He could barely touch the rim.”

I talked about hitting with Hall of Fame player Tony Gwynn years ago. He was blessed with tremendous vision and outstanding hand-eye coordination. 

But Gwynn was also a maniacal student of the game. He knew what his batting averages were in certain pitch counts, what pitches he hit best, and what zone he wanted the ball in. He was in a constant struggle against his limitations, even if his ceiling was sky-high compared to the average human with a wood bat in his hands.

Because of that, Gwynn was able teach hitting to others.

Some other gifted MLB hitters I’ve spoken with — Bill Madlock comes to mind — have told me that they weren’t even thinking at the plate. Madlock, a career .305 hitter, wasn’t sitting on a curve ball or a fastball. He wasn’t plotting to put the pitcher in an unfavorable count. Madlock just stepped into the batter’s box in a gentle trance, swung at anything he liked, and won four batting titles.

You can’t teach that.

It’s natural.

Bray can really teach the game, ex-Oregon State players tell me. Maybe because he had to know it well to be successful as a player himself. Or maybe because his father, Craig, was a very good college coach himself.

Craig Bray coached at Miami, Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State, among other places. I asked Trent Bray last spring about his father’s influence. He said that observing his dad’s football practices shaped him.

“I knew from high school that I wanted to coach,” Trent told me.

The family didn’t draw up formations on the backs of napkins during dinner. But they did talk football a lot. And Trent said of his own high school playing days: “The Monday after every game I’d bring home the video tape, the VHS tape, and we’d watch it. He’d tell me everything I did wrong. I learned a bunch from that.”

Jonathan Smith left Oregon State in a predicament. He got spooked by the uncertainty and ran into the arms of Michigan State on Saturday morning. OSU paid Smith $4.85 million this season. The Spartans upped that considerably to $7.25 million in his first year at MSU.

Barnes told me on Monday that he put a contract extension in front of Smith five weeks ago. The AD didn’t disclose the terms. But as Barnes said “Jonathan didn’t bite.”

Saturday was a gut punch for Oregon State fans. Smith was the guy who was going to lead the Beavers out of this mess. 

He was going to punch back. OSU and its fan base were going to laugh last, and try to make the College Football Playoff against the odds. They were going to show the world, together. And then, Smith ditched and ran off to the safety and security of the Big Ten.

Decide for yourself if you blame him.

“It’s hard. You lose a partner and a friend that you’ve been in the trenches with for six years,” Barnes told me on Monday. “The guy is a Beaver. We did everything. We wanted him to stay. It’s sad.”

Oregon State spun out of the sadness by hiring Glenn Sugiyama, managing partner of DHR International search firm. Sugiyama was hired six years ago in the search that, coincidentally, brought Smith back to Corvallis. 

This search, Sugiyama confessed to confidants as he headed to Oregon on Sunday evening, was unlike anything he’d ever seen in 18 years.

The Beavers had Bray right under their nose. They liked him. They needed to act quickly and line up a pool of candidates they could compare him against. That’s where Sugiyama comes in.

Oregon State got an early inquiry from Paul Chryst, the former Wisconsin coach who is now at Texas as an analyst. 

Bronco Mendenhall, out of football for two seasons after he left Virginia, wanted in on the search, too. 

And San Jose State coach Brent Brennan was a no-brainer to include given that knows how to build a winner amid difficult circumstances.

Barnes also wanted to interview Matt Wells, an offensive analyst at Oklahoma. Wells had worked under Barnes at Utah State. 

In fact, when Gary Andersen left the Aggies for Wisconsin in 2012, Barnes promoted Wells from offensive coordinator to head coach. It was a winning move. One that foreshadowed this week’s internal-promotion move at OSU.

Sugiyama vetted the candidates. He added Air Force coach Trent Calhoun and Maryland offensive coordinator Josh Gattis into the mix. Calhoun has Oregon roots, but runs the triple-option offense. Gattis was an interesting addition. Both interviewed on Monday via Zoom.

Gattis won the Broyles Award in 2021 as the nation’s top assistant. He previously called plays at Miami, Michigan and Alabama. But he lacked a deep connection to the Pacific Northwest. If the Beavers were going to take a flyer on a first-time head coach, they wanted to go with one they knew well.

It was Bray’s job to lose, wasn’t it?

I’m going to take a step back here. At some schools, the job of head football coach is turn key. Insert a bozo at USC and you win seven or eight games a year. Oregon’s resources make it an easier job, too. But at a place like Oregon State in 2023 and beyond, it’s going to take a unique fit.

As impressive as the scrambled pool of candidates was, there were only two coaches involved in the search who I thought had a chance to be successful. One is Bray. The other is Brennan, who went 7-1 at San Jose State a couple of seasons ago. I wish the Beavers could have hired them both. The challenges are going to be so great in 2024 and 2025 that it’s basically an ‘all-hands’ situation.

Bray got the OSU job.

Brennan goes back to San Jose State, where he’ll make a bowl game again next season.

An insider at Oregon State told me there could be a “surprise or two” when it comes to the offensive and defensive coordinator hires. Keep an eye there. Because while Barnes declined on Tuesday night to provide salary information for Bray, I have to think the AD is sitting on at least $1.5 million in savings on the head coaching salary. It’s possible the Beavers are going to arm Bray with some real help.

Bray will be on the sideline next season. Right where he’s been for the last few years at OSU. 

He told me a couple of springs ago that he prefers being on the sideline vs. the coaching box during games. He’d weighed the perspective gained from being an ‘eye-in-the-sky’ defensive coordinator vs. being near players and decided to stay on the field.

“Defensive football is such an emotionally tense part of the game,” he told me. “Being around the players, being able to look them in the eyes, outweighs what I’d be able to see in the box.”

Dennis Erickson told me on Wednesday that Bray was a fair athlete as a player. Not great. Not terrible. But he steered the conversation back to Bray’s father, and the football intelligence that Trent as a kid gained through osmosis.

“His football IQ was above anybody I’d ever been around,” Erickson said. “He got to the ball. He understood the game. He wasn’t the greatest athlete, but he made a lot of plays.”

That brings me to a story. I took a risk a couple of springs ago and left the newspaper industry. I launched this independent writing endeavor. I bet on myself. It’s been an exhilarating ride. I’ve never felt more connected with my readers or had more fun. But one of the interesting byproducts involves Bray.

I am more involved now with the photographers. I have a terrific trio of shooters who work games in Oregon. 

Another lives in Pullman. And a handful of others work and live in places such as California, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.

During the 2023 football season, I asked the photographers if they could get more photos of Jonathan Smith, Oregon State’s head football coach. I figured I might need them this offseason. The photographers who worked in the Pacific Northwest sent a stream of photos of Smith throughout the season. But the ones who worked in Colorado, Arizona and Utah did something else.

It was peculiar.

I’d asked them to photograph OSU’s head coach.

A couple of them sent photos of Trent Bray.

They didn’t know what Smith looked like. They showed up to games, observed Bray’s demeanor on the sideline, his pacing during games, his stern expression, and the way players responded to him. More than one of them mistakenly believed Bray — not Smith — was the OSU head coach.

I now find that interesting.


Oregon State hires Trent Bray as football coach, replacing Jonathan Smith

By Nick Daschel, Oregonian 11/28/2023

 Oregon State is again turning to one of its beloved former players to run the football program.

 Trent Bray is set to become the Beavers next football coach, replacing Jonathan Smith, the school announced Tuesday. Bray, 41, is the 32nd head coach in Oregon State’s 127-year football history.

 “After interviewing several qualified candidates, we realized our top choice, Trent, has already been a mainstay at the Valley Football Center and Reser Stadium,” OSU athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “He’s been a part of Beaver Nation for a long time and (his) love for this place is real. The connection and trust he has built with our student athletes is unmatched. His energy and determination as head coach will be a catalyst for continued program success.”

A news conference introducing Bray will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday. It is not open to the public.

There was a coaching vacancy when Smith, OSU’s former star quarterback-turned-coach, resigned after six years Saturday to become coach at Michigan State. Like Smith in 2018, Bray is a first-time head coach.

Bray has deep ties to Oregon State. He played linebacker for the Beavers from 2002-05 and ranks No. 6 on the school’s all-time list with 337 career tackles. As a coach, Bray was an OSU graduate assistant in 2012, then linebackers coach in 2013-14 under coach Mike Riley.

Bray returned to Oregon State in 2018 to serve as Smith’s inside linebackers coach. Late in the 2021 season, defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar was fired and Bray replaced him on an interim basis. Before OSU’s 2021 bowl game, Bray was promoted to defensive coordinator, a role he continues to serve while also coaching linebackers.

Bray has also coached at Nebraska (2015-17) and Arizona State (2009-11). Bray’s father, Craig, is a former Oregon State defensive coordinator.

The high-energy Bray transformed a defense that had struggled for most of Smith’s first four years. In 2022, the Beavers had the Pac-12′s top defense, giving up 20 points and 332 yards per game. Despite losing three defensive backs to the NFL and both inside linebackers, OSU was among the conference’s top four in rushing and total defense this season.

Bray is enormously popular among the current players. Earlier this season, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei compared Bray to his former defensive coordinator Brent Venables while he was at Clemson.

“He reminds me a lot of how Coach V was and his demeanor. He’s out there, full speed with the players, yelling, running, into guys’ face, did something wrong he’s right there. Very active and I love that as a defensive coordinator,” Uiagalelei said. “Coach Bray is a smart-ass coach.”

Bray’s 2023 Oregon State defensive coordinator salary was $700,000, scheduled for an increase to $750,000 in 2024.

Smith was introduced as Michigan State’s coach Tuesday. Smith hired five assistants from his Oregon State 2023 staff in Jim Michalczik (offensive line), Keith Bhonapha (running backs), Brian Lindgren (offensive coordinator), Blue Adams (secondary) and Brian Wozniak (tight ends).

Aside from Bray, four current OSU assistants remain in Corvallis in Kefense Hynson (receivers), Legi Suiaunoa (defensive line), Anthony Perkins (corners) and Jake Cookus (special teams). It’s not known how many current OSU assistants will join Bray’s staff. All four have a contract that runs through February 2025.

PHOTO: Oregon State defensive coordinator Trent Bray becomes the 32nd football head coach in school history, replacing Jonathan Smith.Sean Meagher/The Oregonian



Trent Bray gives Oregon State Beavers best chance at building on Jonathan Smith’s success

By Bill Oram, Oregonian, 11/28/2023

 Trent Bray was recruited to Oregon State by Dennis Erickson, played for Mike Riley and coached with Jonathan Smith.

 In fact, the only Beavers coach of the last quarter century Bray doesn’t have ties to is Gary Andersen.

Check, check, check and, uh, yeah, definitely check.

If there was one person who could reassure the fanbase and stanch the panic of Jonathan Smith’s clumsy exit to Michigan State, it’s Bray, who has built the Beavers into one of the Pac-12′s top defensive teams each of the last two seasons.

He represents continuity at a time of unprecedented disruption. And offers a through line to the great teams of Oregon State’s history.

I’ve written before about Bray’s childhood lugging cables on the sidelines of Washington State’s Martin Stadium. His dad, Craig, then a Cougars assistant and later Oregon State’s defensive coordinator for the Fiesta Bowl run, would host team dinners at the family home.

Trent Bray grew up in this world.

Earlier this week, I reached out to former Oregon State baseball coach Pat Casey. The three-time national champion has been in Corvallis for the better part of three decades.

He’s seen a lot of change and gotten to know a lot of coaches. Smith would drop by Casey’s house near campus and, over a beer, the two would talk about life and coaching and family. Casey, who first met Smith as a high schooler who was considering playing two sports at Oregon State, offered a healthy dose of perspective for Beavers fans.

“I’ve seen this happen before,” Casey said. “‘Hey, a guy’s gonna leave and it’s over. Shoot, when Dennis (Erickson) left, you know, the program was going to go right back to the 28 losing seasons.”

Didn’t happen that way.

This is, of course, a different situation. Oregon State wasn’t facing the college football equivalent of relegation when Erickson left. Nor was the athletic department bracing for a dramatic cratering of its operating budget.

Bray has his work cut out for him as a first-time head coach to steer this program through the fog. He is young, smart and high-energy. If he wasn’t going to be the head coach here, he would have been the most in-demand defensive coordinator in the country, with USC reportedly interested.

Maybe his inexperience makes him a riskier hire in Corvallis than reported candidates such as former Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst and ex-BYU and Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall — who both have OSU roots, as well.

But in this moment for Oregon State, experience might not be the key ingredient.

Smith pulled off a near miracle rebuilding the Beavers’ culture and imbuing the program with a winning mentality. No matter how many bruises he left behind with his heavily telegraphed departure barely 12 hours after getting hammered by Oregon, Smith’s six years in Corvallis go down as one of the most impressive coaching jobs we’ve seen anywhere.

Athletic director Scott Barnes understood the Beavers couldn’t lose that momentum. Starting over wasn’t an option. Not with Oregon State’s realignment fate still unsettled, next year’s schedule yet to be released and the transfer portal days away from opening.

Still, this is a big step up for Bray. He will inherit higher expectations than any first-year Oregon State coach — ever.

This is one of the most important hires the Beavers have ever had to make. Get it wrong, at this moment, and the Beavers are at risk of sliding out of college football relevance, with a much tougher climb back to the mountaintop.

The Beavers have reached bowl eligibility in each of their last three seasons, with a 10-win season sandwiched in the middle. The pledge of All-America running back Damien Martinez to return to Oregon State next season — despite opportunities to certainly earn more in NIL money elsewhere — sets an impressive standard for the Beavers.

DJ Uiagalelei has not announced what he intends to do next season. Nor has freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles, who before Smith left was seen as the quarterback of the future in Corvallis and still could be, if he doesn’t join Smith in East Lansing or jump elsewhere.

Bray is a well-liked leader among players. Earlier this season, Uiagalelei compared him to former Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who is now the head coach at Oklahoma.

“He’s out there full speed with the players, yelling, running, (getting) into guys’ face. (If you) did something wrong, he’s right there,” Uiagalelei said.

Players respect the hustle. And for whatever he lacks in experience, Bray will have a vast network of experienced coaches in his corner.

Erickson. Riley. His dad. Don’t be shocked if Riley finds his way back into the fold at OSU in some kind of advisory role, much as he did when Smith was in his first season.

Under different circumstances, the Beavers might have been smart to go for a bigger name or a more established hire. Someone like Chryst would have checked those boxes.

But the theme of the last several months in Corvallis, since the disintegration of the Pac-12, has been the fear of losing all that has been built.

Choosing Bray to succeed Smith gives Oregon State its best hope of keeping it going.

PHOTO Oregon State defensive coordinator Trent Bray as the Beavers hold fall football practice in Corvallis, Oregon on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. Sean Meagher/The Oregonian


Bill Oram: Trent Bray’s rise at Oregon State is a great story. Will this be a great defense?

By Bill Oram, Oregonian, 8/27/2022

Trent Bray’s first job on the sideline of big-time college football was a simple one: making sure Bill Doba’s head remained attached to his neck.

When Washington State’s defensive coordinator moved up and down the field at Martin Stadium, the 10-year-old son of the team’s secondary coach scampered to keep up, lugging the cables connected to Doba’s headset.

In the prehistoric days before cell phones and WiFi, Doba would lose his freedom to prowl the sideline if those wires ever got tangled.

Let out too much slack and Doba could trip.

If a cord ended up under the foot of, say, a 300-pound lineman, Doba’s head might jerk back and the headset could go flying.

An important job the kid had.

Almost as important as the one he has now.

But before Bray, now 39, became the defensive coordinator at Oregon State, he was a coach’s son growing up in Pullman. And if you’re wondering what the Beavers defense might look like now that Bray, initially tabbed as the interim last November, has had a full offseason to implement his system, you can learn a lot from those early days.

Bray grew up studying at the feet of his dad, Craig. On Thursday nights, the Bray home would fill with Washington State defensive backs and safeties. Craig Bray would man the barbecue while Trent and his brother Josh would hang out and play video games with the Cougars’ secondary.

As he got older, Trent started to understand why his dad hosted those evening gatherings.

“He actually did it for us more than he did for himself or the players,” Trent said.

That was also his first glimpse of the camaraderie of team sports.

“That had a big impact on me,” he said one week before the Beavers season opener. “Probably was a big part of why I wanted to get into coaching so much.”

That those first bread crumbs led him to become the defensive coordinator at Oregon State is all too fitting.

It’s possible that no one else on earth is more qualified to coach defense at OSU.

Bray was in high school when his dad joined his old boss, Dennis Erickson, as the defensive coordinator at OSU and became the architect of the defense that propelled the Beavers to the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.

When Trent Bray talks about simplifying the defense, as he often did after becoming the interim coordinator last year and again throughout training camp this year, that is a philosophy passed down from his dad.

“When we were good there at Oregon State, we were so simple it was ridiculous,” Craig Bray told me last week while on a walk near his home in southwestern Montana.

To the Brays, simple doesn’t mean unsophisticated.

“It’s not what you do,” Trent said, “it’s allowing your guys to do it.”

In 2002, Bray followed his dad to Corvallis to play linebacker and four years later left as the school’s sixth all-time leading tackler.

But he had long known his future was in coaching, and he went on to link up with his dad on Erickson’s staff Arizona State, then with Mike Riley at both Oregon State and Nebraska before returning for a second stint in Corvallis in 2018.

And while it’s easy to say Trent is just following in his dad’s footsteps, Craig said this about his son: “He had a knowledge way, way ahead of where I was at many stages of his coaching career.”

But if Trent ever does have a question about coaching defense, he can pick up the phone and call his dad.

And if Craig doesn’t answer, Trent can just amble outside and knock on the front door of another former OSU defensive coordinator, Mark Banker, who had the job when Trent was playing and now is his next-door neighbor in Corvallis.

But Trent said when he has questions for those two mentors, they are more philosophical rather than the nitty gritty of coaching.

“He doesn’t ask for a lot,” Craig said. “I think he’s pretty confident that he knows what he wants to do.”

And what that is will finally be on display when the Beavers open the season next Saturday against Boise State.

There is a lot of enthusiasm around the Beavers program and a desire to improve on last year’s seven-win mark. There has been open discussion of reaching the Pac-12 championship game, a sign of a program coming out of its rebuilding phase.

The Beavers’ ceiling might ultimately be determined by the offense and junior quarterback Chance Nolan’s improvement. But it’s the defense, with eight returning starters, that is the greatest source of optimism for the Beavers.

That defense will be tested early, first with the Broncos’ deceptive offense and then the explosive potential of Fresno State and quarterback Jake Haener.

Craig Bray will be watching, even though he has long been a wreck when his son’s teams play.

“I get really stressed out,” he said. “But I think I’ll be less stressed out because I know Trent’s in control.”

He’s come a long way from those days carrying cables for Bill Doba and getting his first taste of life on the sideline, watching coaches and the way they interacted with players.

“It was just a really unique perspective and something most people don’t experience,” he said.

In that way, his new job is the same. Only now he’s the one wearing the headset.