April 15, 2024 

Oregon State’s exodus is hard to watch

Eight players have entered the transfer portal

Two weeks ago, the Oregon State Beavers were 40 minutes of basketball away from the Final Four. Now eight players — including stars Raegan Beers, Timea Gardiner, Talia von Oelhoffen and Donovyn Hunter — have put their names in the transfer portal, gutting the program.

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The players have said their thank yous to the fans and the Oregon State community. But this exodus puts a fine point on the painful consequences of the break-up of the Pac-12, and the big-money football realignment that set it in motion.

Oregon State’s women’s basketball program is collateral damage and the damage is hard to digest.

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On Friday, von Oelhoffen responded on X to Rich Burk, a play-by-play announcer for the Pac-12 Network. Burk asked whether the players had met as a group — without coaches or family members — to discuss their plans moving forward.

In the post, von Oelhofen is referring to the blowback some of the players have received as they’ve announced their decisions — fans reacting in real time to the consequences of realignment. Oregon State will play in the West Coast Conference for the next two seasons.

Former Beavers star Sydney Wiese shared her feelings in a lengthy Facebook post on Friday.

“…I have taken the time to think to myself- what would I do under the circumstances that these kids are facing? NIL. PAC-12 conference is no longer. Transfer portal makes it real easy. It’s a pretty hard trifecta to deny.

“Can I blame these kids for making an incredibly hard decision to leave? No, not given everything (and personal reasons respective to each individual) that they are working through. College is hard enough- adding this into the mix, I can’t imagine trying to navigate it all.”

Oregon State alum Sydney Wiese

Beavers head coach Scott Rueck has not commented since the players’ exits have begun. This is not the first time Rueck has been in a position to rebuild the program. When he took the job back in 2010, there was one player on the roster with Division I experience. He held tryouts to fill that first roster. The team finished 9-21. Four years later, the Beavers became a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament. In 2016, they reached the Final Four. This year’s trip to the Elite Eight was the Beavers’ best Tournament performance since then.

Rueck will again have to rebuild a program, this time the one he built himself, and hope that the circumstances in the next two years put his program in a better position. Or, the man who has said coaching at his alma mater is his dream job, could choose to move on himself.

Over the weekend, senior AJ Marotte posted that she will be staying with Oregon State to “finish what she started.” The post included a photo of her with her arm around Rueck.

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But know that what we’re watching isn’t the players’ fault. They didn’t ask for their conference to fall apart or for their school to be left behind. They didn’t have any say when their university leaders — doing the best they could under challenging circumstances — moved them into a mid-major conference for the next two years, where the NIL potential and exposure possibilities are certainly more limited.

They have the agency and the capability now to decide what’s best for themselves and they are doing that. Doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to watch.

Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

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