This article is a part of the START issue, a guide for all incoming Oregon State University students and their families going through START, which aims to help familiarize them with the campus, college life, academic success and more.
Founded in 1868 in Corvallis, Ore., Oregon State University carries with it a 152-year old history in academics, with nearly just as much history in athletics to go along with it.
Less than three decades after the official founding of OSU, the school formerly known as Oregon Agricultural College began participation in intercollegiate athletics. Beginning in 1893 with a limited number of sports, Oregon State has now expanded its reach to form 16 different athletics programs.
With over 125 years of history since Oregon State’s early days in collegiate athletics, the Beavers have produced a few noteworthy seasons from more than a few noteworthy players from across all their sports. From professional athletes to Olympians to pro sports Hall-of-Famers, the Beavers have their fair share of notable sports alumni.
Oregon State’s sports teams also have current players making noise through the PAC-12 conference as well as across the national landscape. Those players, new and old, as well as a few coaches and some of the great teams they have come together to form over the years, make up a part of the Beavers’ athletic history that spans more than a century.
Catching up on an era that began in the 19th century can be tricky, but for those joining Oregon State and looking to invest in Beavers’ athletics, there are a few major people, events and programs to know about.
Oregon State Sports Teams and Big Wins:
Of the sixteen sports Oregon State University competes in, seven of them are men’s programs, while nine are women’s teams. Both men and women compete in basketball, golf, rowing and soccer. The other three men’s teams are football, baseball, and wrestling, while the other five women’s teams are softball, gymnastics, track and field, volleyball and cross country.
Between their 125 years of sports history, the Beavers have amassed four team NCAA Championships between their athletics programs. In 1961, Oregon State’s Men’s Cross Country team won the university’s first championship. The final three have all come in the 21st century from the Beavers’ baseball program.
Oregon State’s first two NCAA Championships for baseball came in consecutive years between 2006 and 2007, and both were wins over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the final round of the College World Series.
The third and most recent College World Series win came in 2018 against the Arkansas Razorbacks, when the Beavers’ overcame a 0-1 series deficit, winning the next two games and taking home the program’s third title. The OSU Baseball team is the only one to face all possible elimination games in the College World Series and still win a national championship, something they achieved in both 2006 and 2018.
The Beavers have managed more major wins through their programs as well. The football program has won both the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, in 1941 and 2000 respectively. Both the men’s and women’s basketball programs have made the Final Four in the NCAA tournament, with the men reaching in 1949 and 1963 and the women getting that far as recently as the 2016 season. Oregon State has seen some individual championships from their athletes as well in sports such as wrestling, women’s track and field, golf and gymnastics.
Notable OSU Sports Alumni:
Terry Baker: Oregon State’s first and only Heisman Trophy winner for football. Baker won the award back in 1962 after throwing for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns while running for an additional 538 yards and nine touchdowns.
Gary Payton: A consensus All-American player in college, Payton was a four-year starter on the Beavers’ men’s basketball team from 1987 to 1990 who eventually became a Hall of Fame player in the NBA. Payton is second all-time in points in a career for OSU, as well as first in both assists and steals.
Sydney Wiese: Oregon State’s first-ever first-round pick in the WNBA Draft, Wiese is a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks selected 11th overall in 2017 after a four-year playing career with the Beavers. In college, Wiese was a one-time first-team All PAC-12 player who made the program’s first Final Four appearance in 2016.
Dick Fosbury: Fosbury is an Oregon native, alumni of Oregon State, and gold medal winner in the high jump. In 1968, Fosbury took home the gold in the Summer Olympics when he used the “back first” Fosbury Flop technique to clear the horizontal bar. The technique had never been used officially until Fosbury popularized it, making it commonplace in today’s high jump event.
Joni Huntley: Like Fosbury, Huntley was born in Oregon, attended Oregon State, and is also an Olympic medal winner in the high jump. Not only did Huntley win a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics, but she also became the first American woman to clear six-feet in the high jump event.
Les Gutches: Les Gutches ended his four-year Oregon State wrestling career as one of the most accomplished student-athletes in the university’s history. Gutches is a three-time All-American from 1994 to 1996, and a two time NCAA individual championship winner, as well as a 2011 inductee into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson: Chad “OchoCinco” is a two time First-Team All-Pro in the NFL, as well as a six time Pro Bowl player, but the former NFL star got his start with Oregon State. Johnson played one season for the Beavers, but managed to record eight touchdowns on 37 receptions and was a part of Oregon State’s Fiesta Bowl victory in 2000.
Recent Graduates and Current Stars:
Mikayla Pivec: Pivec wrapped up her college career with the Oregon State Women’s Basketball team this season, but left behind an impressive legacy as she will now take her talents to the WNBA as a third-round pick of the Atlanta Dream. In her four-year college career, Pivec finished fourth in the school record books in career assists, eighth in points, and first in rebounds.
Tres Tinkle: Similar to Pivec, Tinkle wrapped up his four-year career as an Oregon State student-athlete for the Men’s Basketball team, leaving behind some records on his way out the door. Not only did Tinkle set the record for consecutive double-digit scoring games with 96, but the forward also broke Gary Payton’s record for most points scored in a career for the Beavers.
Devan Turner: Turner will be a senior next season for the Oregon State wrestling program, but already has an impressive resume as a student-athlete. The 133-pound wrestler is a two-time qualifier for the NCAA tournament, and most recently, Turner won the PAC-12 tournament in 2020.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr.: An outside linebacker for the Oregon State football team, Rashed Jr. will enter his senior season after a breakout performance in 2019. The linebacker played in all 12 games for the Beavers’ last season, and made each snap count, leading the nation in tackles for loss with 22.5 and recording the third-most sacks in the NCAA with 14.
Jonathan Smith: Smith has been the head coach for the Beavers’ football program since 2018, but is also a graduate of the university and played four years at quarterback from 1998 to 2001, winning a PAC-10 title and a Fiesta Bowl as a player.
Laura Berg: Berg has coached the Beavers’ softball team for eight seasons, and has seen some successful years in that tenure, including four appearances in the regional round of the NCAA tournament. As a player, Berg has accomplished even more, having won three gold medals on the United States National Team through three consecutive Olympics.
There’s much more to Oregon State athletics than the biggest names and the biggest seasons, but the story of Beavers’ sports as a whole can not be told without their contributions. And with any luck, the current cast of Oregon State student-athletes and coaches can provide as much history as the school’s most accomplished alumni have.