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Massari sets course for OSU future

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - MARK MASSARICORVALLIS — There’s so much to do and only so much time to do it.

Maybe Mark Massari can figure out how to squeeze more than 24 hours from a day.

The newly named deputy athletic director at Oregon State is going to have his hands full with his new duties, for sure.

Massari, 45, will help oversee fundraising, marketing, communications, broadcast and media partners, and be involved with ticket sales, strategic and game-day planning and helping to create the “Beaver brand.” He’ll focus specifically on football and men’s basketball, though he already is involved in helping Pat Casey with the $4.2-million renovation of Goss Stadium that will soon get

underway.

It’s going to be busy, busy, busy for the new right-hand man to athletic director Bob De Carolis.

And to think, Massari could be living on the beach at Santa Barbara, Calif., where he served as AD for the past six years.

But he enjoyed his time as an assistant AD at Oregon State from 2002-08. He has family in Oregon — a brother in Portland, his parents in Tigard. He loves football, and UCSB doesn’t have the pigskin sport. And Corvallis isn’t a bad place to raise children. Massari’s daughter, 10-year-old Madeline, and son, 8-year-old Joey, will grow up around Beaver sports.

“Santa Barbara is a special place for a lot of reasons, and I’ll miss it,” Massari says. “But Corvallis has a community and university that are one. The university is so vibrant, such a huge part of everyday life in the city. I’m excited to be back.”

And besides that, Massari’s father — Mike — has become a “huge Beaver fan,” Mark says.

The two biggest items on Massari’s plate to begin with are the Valley Football Center renovation and the Reser Stadium project.

With two lead gifts “almost done,” the Napa, Calif., native and former Sacramento State linebacker says, donations have hit $30 million for the $42 million Valley makeover that coach Mike Riley has been pushing to get started. Originally scheduled to begin after the 2015 season, it is now going to get underway after the current campaign.

“We’ve outgrown the building,” Massari says. “We know it needs to get done. We can do something creative to start phasing it right after the season. I’m not sure we’ll finish it before next season, but we’ll start it.”

Immediately after the Valley Center is completed, De Carolis and Massari will turn to what must be done to the west side of Reser Stadium. There are two possibilities.

The first is make the west side identical to what was done on the east side nearly a decade ago at a cost of roughly $80 million.

“We’d have to fund it like we did for ‘Raising Reser,’” Massari says.

Or, for $20 million to $30 million, OSU officials could put together a less gaudy redo “without taxing the fan base or the donors, other than a small investment fee,” he says.

That would mean raising the elevation of the west grandstands, modernizing the suites and press box, improving the concourse, restrooms and concessions, and redoing the seating, constructing some premium theater seats “with not a loge, but a nice VIP feel,” but also bench seatings in the lower stands “where fans stand a lot.”

“We’d try to have something for everybody,” says MassariRes, who thinks there is the possibility of some roof expansion, too, from end zone to end zone.

Massari says when the stadium was expanded by 11,000 seats in 2005, industry experts told OSU officials that 60 percent of season ticket-holders would move to the new side.

“Only 20 percent did,” he says. “But that’s Beaver Nation. They wanted to stay where they’d been, with their friends. They liked what the west side is. But we also know we need to upgrade there sometime soon.”

It sounds to me as if De Carolis and Massari are leaning toward the latter option, which would add only a couple of thousand seats to the stadium, which now has a capacity of just fewer than 46,000.

“We think between 46,000 and 50,000 is where we’d like to be at,” Massari says. “You want it to be enough, but we’re trying to get really close to inventory and demand, where we can grow a little bit at a time.”

The season ticket base is at about 25,000, “maybe a thousand less than we were a year ago,” Massari says. “But we were at 11,000 when I started working here in 2002. And we’re going to continue to build on it.”

Massari says marketing has changed dramatically since he left Oregon State in 2008.

“Every game is on TV now,” he says. “The expectation of what you can provide a fan as opposed to someone who watches games from the comfort of his home is different. If we don’t make it better, we have to at least make it as good.

“There’s something about the game-day experience you can’t get in front of your TV. When you bring your child to experience the band and the smell of football in the air and to see the red and orange tinge of the trees in the fall, the chain saw revving up for the fans ... you can’t get that at home.”

But Massari knows some fans want more. And he will do what he can to encourage suggestions from them.

“We have to have some humility and say we want ideas,” he says. “What do you see? What do you like? We won’t be defensive about it. I want fans to know their voice is important.”

Massari has coined a phrase he hopes will stick: “a Benny for your Thoughts.” Game-day ushers will wear buttons soliciting advice, with some sort of inducement offered to fans with ideas.

One idea is to open up Tommy Prothro Field two hours before game time and let kids young and old toss the football around. The hope is Truax Center continues to grow as a pregame stop for fans, too.

“We have a culture we want to keep,” Massari says, “but there’s a bunch of stuff we want to do better.”

Massari is working with Nike on home uniforms that will be labeled “Bold” for black and “United” for orange. Fans will be alerted in advance so they can wear the color of the day. The look, he says, will be “Beaver authentic.”

“Our coaches have that mantra about them,” Massari says. “We’re authentic people. In a state that splits its loyalties, we want to fight for our side of that and get our piece of that pie. When we launch our brand, we just have to communicate it. We’re a program you don’t sleep on. It’s the same way with our fan base. There’s a fight about our school and our programs and our supporters that I love.”

De Carolis’ contract runs through 2016. Despite a diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease in 2012, the Beavers’ AD would like to go beyond that to see the Reser project to completion.

Some believe Massari was brought in as De Carolis’ heir apparent.

“I wasn’t promised that,” Massari insists. “I didn’t ask for that. And I don’t deserve that. I just have to come in and do a good job. Bob has a chance to finish off a great project he started with Mitch (Barnhart, his predecessor), and I’m here to serve him.”

It’s a good thing Massari has come aboard, too. There is no time to waste in the arms race that is Pac-12 athletics.

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