Top secret Viking sports primer

When you sign up to be a Viking fan, you must prepare for limited options. Portland State has men and women’s basketball, football, women’s soccer, softball, wrestling, track and field, cross country and volleyball. “That’s a lot!” you may say. But the football is Division 1-AA and there is no baseball team or tennis program and no men’s soccer. See: Big Sky.


The Big Sky

There’s a reason the Viks play D 1-AA football and there isn’t a full compliment of programs. That reason is the Big Sky Conference, home to schools that are on the bubble of being either a D 1 or a D 2 school. It’s the purgatory of conferences. Poor schools like PSU and Sacramento State get to wallow in mediocrity. But that doesn’t mean fun isn’t to be had. See: We’re the champs.


We’re the champs

Another thing you get when you’re a member of the fledgling Viking Nation is Big Sky championships. If you like winning, Portland State does it. Last year the soccer team, men’s basketball team and golf team all clinched regular season or conference tournament championships. The men’s team hosted the Big Sky basketball tournament. But with all the winning, beware of the real tradition of Portland State. See: Losing.



With wins comes losses. For PSU, they often come more than the wins. PSU has had a spectacularly average football team for most of the new century and when beloved and legendary softball head coach Teri Mariani retired at last season’s end, she did so with a losing career coaching record – all 29 years at PSU. The hardest working team at Portland State, the women’s basketball team, just finished up a 3-23 season under first year coach Charity Elliot. The men’s team hosted the tournament but only to lose in the first round to Weber State despite home court advantage. Two years ago the football team endured a 4-7 year before rebounding to a respectable 7-4 in 2004. Yet, the culture of losing is slowly disappearing, thanks to what people are calling “Burman Hires.” See: Burman Hires


Burman Hires

PSU Athletic Director Tom Burman has hired every Viking head coach except for football vet Tim Walsh, who is entering his 13th year. Recent hires include soccer coach Tim Bennett, women’s hoops coach Charity Elliot and the men’s teams coach Ken Bone. These are all energetic, young coaches with the exception of Bone, who is energetic and middle-aged. Now if only someone will come watch them coach. See: Apathy in the South Park Blocks


Apathy in the South Park Blocks

A commuter school with a diverse student body made up of returning students, older students, too cool for sports hipsters and traditional youngsters, Portland State is a campus wholly lacking in community and identity, two things sports teams thrive off of. No community equals no fans, and no fans equals no momentum for sports programs. However, there are signs of change, highlighted by last year’s men’s basketball team and their run to a 20 win season, a regular season Big Sky championship and the chance to host the Big Sky tournament. The lonely Stott Center was packed on cold winter nights as the Vikings battled in front of sold out crowds for the first time since basketball returned to the Park Blocks in the 1990s. But with the newfound success comes a demand for more of the same. See: Who to watch.


Who to watch



This team has got some serious talent in Joe Rubin and a stifling run defense that shut down OSU. They also have veteran coach Tim Walsh, a new offense and a new offensive coordinator who has installed a version of the shotgun. When junior quarterback Sawyer Smith and company aren’t bumping heads with bruising D 1 schools like Oregon State and Boise State, they should have a relatively easy time navigating the Big Sky. Look for eight or nine wins and an upset at either Montana or Boise State. Viking wins at both most likely means a trip to the D 1-AA playoffs.


Men’s Basketball

Coming off of a 20-win season that was so successful it cost them their head coach (Heath Schroyer defected to Fresno State to be an assistant for more money.) The men’s basketball team is in a period of transition. New coach Ken Bone wants to push tempo and play fast defense, but he wonders about this team’s ability to do that.

“We’re going to take steps toward that philosophy,” he said. In the meanwhile, the Vikings are going to be plenty beefy up front, potentially starting a combination of 7-0 sophomore center Scott Morrison, 6-9 junior forward Anthony Washington and 6-7 senior forward Tyler Hollist. Still, questions remain in the backcourt. See how Bone deals with recruits he didn’t sign and look for JC transfer point guard Ryan Sommer to start.


Women’s Basketball

The women’s basketball team will be interesting to watch as they attempt to rebound from a 3-23 year in 2004. One major problem for the Vikings was an anemic offense that starred junior Heather Arns, who led the Viks in every relevant statistical category last season. Joining her in 2005, will be a bevy of talented in-state recruits, true freshmen who head coach Charity Elliott says must come in and perform immediately.

“We are really excited about the combination of players, attitudes and work ethic,” Elliott said. “But the freshmen have to step up.”

The Vikings lost post Monica Uhlrig for the season due to injury, further depleting their post corp. This Viking team will live and die by speed, defense and shooting. It could be fun. Then again, it could be just like last year.



Watch new head coach Tim Bennett guide a women’s soccer team that won a regular season title last year to a tourney win. Bennett gets Gold Booter Jamie Blakesly plus a nice mix of youngsters and veterans. They look to build off of a disappointing 1-3 start, including a 1-2 loss at Oregon to former coach Tara Erickson.



I’m not going to pretend to understand volleyball, because that would be insulting. But this is a team that’s 3-2 on the year and looks competitive. They recently beat intercity rivals UP 3-1 to claim this year’s bragging rights. Sounds good to me.

Those are all the sports that are in walking distance of campus. It is your job as a Portland State Vikings fan to go and spy on, I mean, support, all these teams (and even who play away from campus). It’s a hard, thankless job, but somebody’s got to do it and it might as well be you. Welcome to the Park Blocks. Now burn this document.