Oregon State promoted defensive coordinator Trent Bray, a former Beavers linebacker who dramatically improved the team’s defense the past two-plus seasons, to head coach on Tuesday night.
Bray, 41, replaces Jonathan Smith, who was introduced earlier Tuesday as Michigan State‘s head coach. Bray joined Smith’s staff at Oregon State in 2018 as linebackers coach but began making his mark when Smith elevated him to defensive coordinator in 2021. After the defense performed well down the stretch, Bray earned the permanent coordinator title before the LA Bowl. Bray also served as an Oregon State assistant from 2012 to 2014 under Mike Riley before joining Riley at Nebraska, where he served as interim head coach after Riley’s firing in 2017.
“After interviewing several qualified candidates, we realized our top choice, Trent, has already been a mainstay at the Valley Football Center and Reser Stadium,” athletic director Scott Barnes said in a statement. “He’s been a part of Beaver Nation for a long time and love for this place is real. The connection and trust he has built with our student athletes is unmatched. His energy and determination as head coach will be a catalyst for continued program success.”
Oregon State is 20-9 with Bray as its defensive coordinator and led the Pac-12 in both points allowed and yards allowed in 2022. According to sources, the school considered several candidates with previous head-coaching experience, including San Jose State’s Brent Brennan and Paul Chryst, an offensive analyst at Texas and a former Oregon State offensive coordinator who went on to coach both Pitt and Wisconsin. Oregon State finished the regular season 8-4 and is ranked No. 20 in the latest CFP standings as it awaits a bowl berth this coming weekend.
Bray played for Oregon State from 2002 to 2005, earning first-team all-conference honors in his final season. He coached at Arizona State in 2010 and 2011 before returning to his alma mater.
“I’ve been a part of Oregon State for a long time, as a coach and a student-athlete, and know how special Beaver Nation is,” Bray said in a statement. “I’m excited to lead an outstanding group of men our fans can be proud of.”
He takes over Oregon State during a time of transition and uncertainty, as the Pac-12 is set to dissolve. Oregon State and Washington State, the two Pac-12 members who didn’t find homes in other conferences, are seeking full control of the Pac-12’s governing board and finances. The Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a lower court’s ruling from earlier this month that granted control to the two schools.
Oregon State and Washington State still must finalize their 2024 football schedules and other key matters. Bray’s hire provides Oregon State with a chance to maintain continuity with its roster, including key players such as star running back Damien Martinez, who has said he plans to remain with the program.