Stories are what legends are hewn from, and the list of stories about Teri Mariani is nearly endless. There was the time Teri got lost while driving through San Diego with longtime Vikings booster Jerry Nudelman. Or the time Teri hired head football coach Jerry Glanville. Or the time Teri’s softball team came in third at nationals. After 38 years as a Portland State student-athlete, coach and administrator, Mariani has done just about everything and has seen the athletic department’s transition from a tiny Division II program to a Division I mid-major on the rise. Today is her last day on the job.
Forever a viking
Stories are what legends are hewn from, and the list of stories about Teri Mariani is nearly endless.
There was the time Teri got lost while driving through San Diego with longtime Vikings booster Jerry Nudelman. Or the time Teri hired head football coach Jerry Glanville. Or the time Teri’s softball team came in third at nationals.
After 38 years as a Portland State student-athlete, coach and administrator, Mariani has done just about everything and has seen the athletic department’s transition from a tiny Division II program to a Division I mid-major on the rise.
Today is her last day on the job.
Mariani grew up in Southeast Portland and came to the South Park Blocks in 1970 after a successful three-sport career at St. Mary’s Academy. She immediately made an impact on the Vikings’ volleyball, basketball and softball teams.
“I hopped across the street to Portland State,” Mariani said. “I figured I went to the best high school in the state, I might as well go to the best college in the state.”
Mouse Davis, the former football head coach and current offensive coordinator, remembers Mariani as a competitive, talented athlete.
“She was full of piss and vinegar,” Davis said. “She always had her competitive juices flowing. I think if you cut her arms, a little green is going to drop out of there.”
Mariani remembers her playing days fondly, but she recalls a time when female athletes had to have their heads covered with paper bags and be led through the men’s locker room to use the trainer’s room, because there was no access from the women’s locker room.
The actual sports were a bit different as well, especially basketball.
“You had defensive players and offensive players. They didn’t feel like women should go full court. It was too [taxing]. They didn’t want you to sweat,” Mariani said. “By the time I got to college here, we were going full court. It’s pretty comical to think about [now].”
It was during Mariani’s highly successful stint as a multi-sport student-athlete that she first considered the possibility of coaching as a career.
“A lot of the women coaches, they were my mentors,” Mariani said. “Really, that’s when I started to realize that’s a profession I could go in to.”
Limited by opportunities to play women’s sports professionally, she knew she wanted to remain around the sports she loved.
“I wanted to do something in athletics, but I didn’t think I had the patience to be a teacher,” she said. “When you’re coaching, you’re teaching too. But you’re teaching people who want to be there. I knew teaching wasn’t in my future.”
Instead, she started her journey toward becoming the longest tenured coach in school history by taking on additional responsibilities during her playing days. She credits her coaches, including volleyball and softball coach Marlene Piper and basketball coach Sharky Nelson, for trusting her, and said it made the transition from player to coach easier.
“They kept encouraging me and gave me some responsibilities, even when I was an athlete, that were kind of like assistant coach responsibilities,” Mariani said.
Mariani graduated in 1976 and immediately took over as softball head coach when Piper decided to focus on coaching the volleyball team. It was that mentoring and trust, in part, that helped Mariani to a 663-581 record in 29 years as head coach of the softball team, including the 1991 season when her team placed third in the Division II NCAA Tournament.
During the mid-’90s Mariani began laying the groundwork for the formation of the Pacific Coast Softball League, now in its sixth year. She calls the PCSC one of her proudest accomplishments.
More recently, Mariani took a chance on an under-recruited kid from Battleground, Wash., who turned out to be one of the greatest players in PSU softball history: pitching ace and slugger Mandy Hill.
“She is this program. Without her, we wouldn’t even continue to have a team,” Hill said. “For the resources and money we have, she’s been the best. She’s the face of Portland State softball. It’s sad to see her go and I’m really happy she’s retiring on a good note.”
Hill said one of her favorite memories is of Mariani, usually quite mild-mannered and shy, getting kicked out of a game during Hill’s freshman season–her only under Mariani.
“When she got kicked out, she was steaming out of her ears,” Hill said. “She wasn’t going to leave the stadium unless they kicked her out.”
After retiring from coaching following the conclusion of the 2005 season, Mariani was prepared to enjoy a regular 9-to-5 job as an administrator, but former athletic director Tom Burman’s sudden departure for a job at the University of Wyoming altered those plans.
“I was trying to get into a nice, quiet job,” Mariani said.
Instead of a quiet transition into retirement, former PSU President Daniel O. Bernstine cajoled Mariani into taking on the responsibility of being interim athletic director.
Mariani would steward the program through a tumultuous time that included a search for a new football head coach after Tim Walsh left for a job at Army. She eventually found Walsh’s replacement in Glanville, a former NFL head coach and the biggest hire in Portland State athletics history.
“I didn’t expect it would be 15 months, to be honest,” she said. “There were a lot of things that came up that I certainly didn’t anticipate.”
Mariani lives just four blocks from the house where she grew up in Southeast Portland, and said she plans on spending time doing projects around her house and enjoying exploring Oregon. After taking some time off, she said she will begin volunteering, perhaps with an organization aimed at helping homeless children.
And, fittingly, Mariani will still be around Portland State, continuing one of her many duties of calling radio games for Vikings athletics on the Internet and radio.
The connections she has made here are too strong to stay away for good.
“If what gets you up and coming to work every day are the people you’re working with, that’s a huge value,” Mariani said. “It’s been such a great ride.”
As interim athletic director, Teri Mariani had an influential hand in bringing head football coach Jerry Glanville to Portland State. In her own words, here is that story.
I certainly didn’t expect someone of the caliber of Jerry Glanville that would be interested in it, either. We decided to do a shortened search just to see who would apply, and Jerry’s name came across the fax machine. Mouse [Davis] didn’t tell me it was Jerry who was interested. I wasn’t sure whether it was a joke. I actually went back and talked to [sports information director] Mike Lund and said, “Do you think this is real?” I called [associate athletic director of marketing] Scott Herrin in and said, “I’m going to call him. I know I’m going to recognize his voice, so I want you to sit here and make sure you think this is real, too.”I called him up and it was definitely him. I said, “Are you serious about this?” I wanted to make sure he knew everything about our budget, everything, before he came out for a visit. I knew if he came out for a visit, unless he flat out said he wasn’t interested, we were going to have to at least make an offer to him. You couldn’t bring him in for a secret visit. Word was going to get out. I didn’t want it to be a circus. We probably had three serious phone conversations before he came out. He flat out told me, “It doesn’t matter how much I like the job, my wife has to love the city.”I put together a group of women who would spend time with her. They were recruiting her while my focus was with Jerry. I knew we had to have the support of [the rest of the university]. It turned out well. It’s nice to hang your hat on that.This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Mariani’s list of accomplishments
PSU female athlete of the year, 1976Oregon Sports Hall of FamePortland State Athletics Hall of FamePortland Metropolitan Softball Association Hall of FameOregon Sports Awards “Merit Award” recipientThird-place finish in the 1991 Division II NCAA Tournament663-581 record in 29 years as softball head coach
Mariani career timeline1970: Starts attending Portland State during fall term1976: Mariani graduates and is subsequently hired as head softball coach 1991: Leads team to third place in Division II NCAA Tournament1995: Starts planning for a new softball league2002: Pacific Coast Softball Conference has inaugural season2005: Retires from coaching with 663-581 career record2005: Hired as interim athletic director2007: Helps hire Jerry Glanville 2008: Retires after 32-year career at PSU