March, 20 2023
The Oregon State Beavers have a fine basketball history and tradition. Despite the dominance of UCLA, the school has won 12 conference titles, saw the team receive a #1 seed in the 1980 NCAA tournament, and produced Hall of Fame coaches Slats Gill and Ralph Miller, and All-America players such as Gary Payton, Steve Johnson, Mel Counts and Dave Gambee. Yet their only Final Four appearance was led by Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer, Terry Baker.
As a high school star in Portland, Baker was all-city in football, basketball and baseball with Jefferson High winning city championships in all three sports and Oregon state titles in two. He was nationally recruited but was convinced to stay close to home by Gill, as Terry was fan of OSU basketball. After leading the freshman team in scoring he came out for football that spring only because he had so many of his baseball games canceled by rain.
After his first few days of practice Hall of Fame Coach Tommy Prothro did not think Baker had the makeup to play tailback in his single wing offense. While his opinion of Baker changed, Terry shared the tailback spot that fall. But despite part-time duty and playing an unfamiliar position, Baker finished sixth in the nation in total offense. The following season Prothro changed the Beaver offense to the T formation so that Baker could go back to his old position of quarterback. As a senior, Baker led the nation in total offense as OSU went 9-2. In the Liberty Bowl, Baker provided the only score of the game with a 99-yard first quarter touchdown run.
In basketball he was one of the first players off the bench for Gill as the sophomore guard averaged 7 points per game. A teammate said this of Terry, “It’s his passing, his maneuverability and the way he directs our offense that are his strong points. We call him our quarterback. He’s the kind of player who can make a college team go, and he always comes up with the big play when you need it.”
As a junior, Oregon State went 24-5 and reached the Western Regional Finals of the NCAA tournament. The 1963 Final Four run began with a first-round four-point victory over Seattle. The Western Regional began with a semifinal win over San Francisco where Baker scored 21 points and concluded with a 15 point night in an 18-point win over Arizona State sending the team to Louisville to meet top-ranked Cincinnati in the national semifinal. Unfortunately his Final Four experience was not as successful as Baker was held scoreless by the Bearcats in an 80-46 loss.