Mike Riley became the Oregon State football coach in 1997. The Beavers hadn't had a winning season in 27 years.
Riley stayed two seasons and didn't have a winning season, either. But he built a foundation, 5-6 in 1998, that enticed the San Diego Chargers to hire him as head coach and allowed successor Dennis Erickson to prosper in Corvallis.
When Erickson jumped to the 49ers in 2003, Riley returned and kept Oregon State football humming. The Beavers are 79-59 in those 11 seasons.
But Oregon State football has turned sluggish. The Beavers went 3-9 in 2011 and this season are 6-6, with a loss to I-AA Eastern Washington, close wins over Utah and San Diego State, and five straight defeats to end the regular season.
On Christmas Eve, the Beavers play Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl. The Broncos aren't their typical tough selves, but they're capable. Riley needs a victory to stave off increasing doubt that Oregon State can compete in a tougher-than-ever Pac-12.