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O-line coach Mike Cavanaugh explains why he's staying at Oregon State

CORVALLIS -- It was a difficult decision for Mike Cavanaugh.

Accept an offer to coach the offensive line -- for a nice raise in pay -- under coach Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. Or remain at Oregon State, where he has coached the O-line the past nine years for coach Mike Riley.

In the end, Cavanaugh chose to stay.

"I was very serious" about the Oklahoma State offer, Cavanaugh says. "I wouldn't have gone (for the interview) to waste time. But you have to go with your gut -- where you want to live and all. It wasn't time to leave Oregon State."CAVANAUGH

A major factor in Cavanaugh's decision to remain at OSU is the young men he coaches, including star center Isaac Seumalo, son of defensive line coach Joe Seumalo. Cavanaugh and Joe Seumalo coached together at Hawaii in 1999 and 2000. Isaac Seumalo and Blair Cavanaugh -- Mike's son, who is a walk-on sophomore receiver at OSU -- have been friends since they were 4 years old.

"The relationship we have is very meaningful," the elder Cavanaugh says. "Joe refers to me as Isaac's second dad. I called (Isaac) to tell him I was going for the interview. I visited with several of my other players, too.

"There are Sean Harlow, Josh Mitchell, Grant Bays, and then the new group (of freshmen) coming in. You recruit them; you develop a relationship with them. You look forward to going back to work and getting after it with them."

Cavanaugh heard from each of his linemen after his decision was revealed.

"They're happy," he says. "I know everybody thinks I'm this mean, rotten guy. I coach 'em hard and love 'em hard, and (the players) know I love 'em. It's pretty neat."

The biggest factor in turning down Oklahoma State, Cavanaugh says, "is the guy at the head of the hallway."

The reference is to Riley, who hired Cavanaugh out of Hawaii in 2005.

"There's nobody in the country like the guy," Cavanaugh says. "He's a great coach. He works at it hard, but with a smile on his face, with laughter and a demeanor that is unbelievable. It makes for a great working environment.

"We have a great staff. We work hard, but we also hang out together. We have barbecues, share a few beers together … it really is a family atmosphere, which is pretty cool. And it all starts with the head man."

Cavanaugh interviewed with Gundy at Stillwater last Tuesday and Wednesday. "Cav" says he got a good feeling about Gundy, who has a 77-38 record in nine years as Oklahoma State's coach, including 41-11 the past four seasons.

"I really enjoyed him," Cavanaugh says. "A family guy. Good coaching philosophy. He's done a great job there. The staff really likes him. They put me through a thorough (interview) process, and he was there the whole time. He's a good, classy guy."

As Cavanaugh was about to leave for his return flight to Eugene, Gundy said he wanted to get input from his assistants.

"He asked that I call him once I got off the airplane," Cavanaugh says. "It was late when I got back, so we spoke the next morning. He offered me the job."

Cavanaugh said he spent the rest of the day speaking with "mentors," including Riley; brother Rich Cavanaugh, head coach for 29 years at Southern Connecticut State; brother-in-law Kevin Gilbride, a long-time NFL coach; Southern Methodist coach June Jones, and Danny Langsdorf, who recently left his job as Oregon State's offensive coordinator to become quarterback coach of the New York Giants.

Mike's wife, Laurie, "was good either way," he says. "She's a great coach's wife. She said, 'You have to do what makes you happy.' "

The Cowboys offered a significant pay increase for Cavanaugh, who made $238,000 at Oregon State last season.

"They made me a pretty good offer," Cavanaugh says. But the money part was "not a lot" of his decision. Relationships with coaches and players at Oregon State won out.

During his time in Corvallis, Cavanaugh has coached several O-linemen who went on to play in the NFL, including Andy Levitre, Kyle DeVan, Doug Nienhuis, Adam Koets, Roy Schuening and Mike Remmers. They have often reflected on their love and respect for the man who coached them during their time in Corvallis.

Cavanaugh will have five new players to work with next season -- JC transfer tackle Bobby Keenan, 6-5 and 280 out of American River (Calif.), and prep standouts Drew Clarkson (6-3, 275) from Camas, Wash., Yanni Demogerontas (6-5, 270) from Orland Park, Ill., Trent Moore (6-5, 250) from Chandler, Ariz., and Robert Olson (6-5, 260) from Eden Prairie, Minn.

"We'll start Drew out at center," Cavanaugh says. "Yanni, Trent and Robert are hybrid guys -- tall enough to play tackle, but also capable of playing guard. Bobby will get a good look at tackle this spring. I love his work ethic. Can't wait to get going with him.

"I'm excited about all of them. They're our kind of players -- smart guys, tough guys. I like the consistency they've played with in the past. They have a love for the game. That's what we're looking for."

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