Sep 4, 2015; Kalamazoo, MI, USA; General view of Michigan State Spartans helmet on field prior to a game against Western Michigan at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the Oregon State Beavers-Oregon Ducks rivalry clash Friday, reports emerged of the Michigan State Spartans targeting Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith as their new head coach. On Saturday, several reports emerged of that deal being done, and Smith being set to inform his Beavers’ players of his decision:

The Spartans then confirmed the move:

Here’s more from that Wednesday FootballScoop report from John Brice:

“Barring something unforeseen, he is the target,” a source told FootballScoop midweek.

Added another, “Jonathan Smith is the focus. They’ve talked to a lot of guys, but he is who they want.”

…As much as Smith has served his alma mater and poured into Oregon State, he has become increasingly disenfranchised with the nomadic future for Oregon State athletics with the impending dissolution of the PAC-12.

…Per sources with direct information, Michigan State also would be on the hook for just an $3 million buyout to Oregon State in the event it finalizes a deal with Smith.

The Spartans’ job came open when they fired former head coach Mel Tucker in September following complaints from sexual abuse awareness advocate Brenda Tracy that Tucker sexually harassed her in 2022. Tucker was early on in the middle of a 10-year, $95 million contract extension signed in 2021, but Michigan State’s firing of him for cause means they wouldn’t pay the $79 million remaining on his contract, and a university investigation determined last month that Tucker sexually harassed Tracy. However, Tucker is contesting that dismissal and Tracy’s claims, and he’s reportedly planning to sue the school.

Smith played quarterback at Oregon State from 1998-2001, then started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant. He then coached at Idaho, Montana, Boise State, and Washington before taking over as the Beavers’ head coach in November 2017, shortly after Gary Anderson made the unusual move to resign mid-season.

Oregon State went 2-10 in Smith’s first season, 2018, but had posted notable improvement since then. That’s included a 10-3 season last year and a 8-4 mark to date this year. But, as Brice’s piece above notes, the departures of so many Pac-12 schools (Oregon State and Washington State are currently the only ones left) and the uncertainty ahead for the conference causes problems for the Beavers.

For the remaining Pac-2 schools, a merger or scheduling alliance with the Mountain West, or a poaching of teams from that conference or others, has been discussed. As has the distribution of conference funds. But nothing’s been decided yet, and there are plenty of concerns for the Oregon State going forward. And Michigan State certainly seems to have more athletic department dollars available (especially if they wind up not having to pay Tucker much of his remaining contract), including with their Big Ten media deal. So it’s understandable why Smith might feel this was the right move to make, even if it means him leaving his alma mater.

[Matt Zenitz on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.