Portland State names Valerie Cleary as new Director of Athletics


Portland State names Valerie Cleary as new Director of Athletics

Portland State University President Wim Wiewel has named Valerie Cleary the new Director of Athletics for the Vikings program. Cleary returns to Portland State after spending the past two years as AD at Willamette University in Salem.

Cleary replaces Mark Rountree, who is moving on to a role as Deputy Athletics Director of Georgia Tech.

"As our former associate athletics director who served as interim director before Mark was hired, Valerie Cleary has a keen understanding that academics and community engagement are a central part of the values of Portland State University athletics," said President Wiewel. "She also has deep experience and knowledge not only of athletics and athletes but of Oregon and the Northwest. We are thrilled that Valerie is returning to our campus as PSU's new athletics director."  

Previously, Cleary was the senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Portland State. She served in that capacity from September 2013 until she was named PSU's interim athletics director in the fall of 2014 as PSU was completing an AD search that led to Rountree's hiring. Cleary was named AD at Willamette in the spring of 2015.

"I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to return to Portland State," Cleary said. "I feel fortunate to return to a campus and department where I learned so much and developed lifelong friendships. Most importantly, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to build upon the work of Mark Rountree and the fantastic staff in supporting exceptional Viking student-athletes."

Cleary takes over leadership of a Viking program that has won 28 conference team championships and made 18 NCAA post-season appearances since 2003. She will step into the development process of the Viking Pavilion, the academic and athletic center that will soon house the department upon its completion in approximately 14 months.

Cleary already has a working knowledge of the Viking program and most of its staff from her previous stint on the Park Blocks. During her tenure as interim AD in late 2014, she gave Bruce Barnum his initial one-year contract to be Head Football Coach and established other personnel changes.

Cleary has a significant range of experience. In addition to her time at Portland State and Willamette, she did admissions work at Pacific University, and director of student-athlete enhancement programs at Boise State University.

Cleary earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2000 from California State University, Chico, with a major in social science and an emphasis in sociology, multicultural and gender studies. In 2003, she received a Master of Science degree from California State University, Long Beach in counseling with a focus on student development in higher education.

While working at Boise State from 2002 through 2008, Cleary held several positions.

She was an educational specialist helping with BSU's Educational Talent Search for one year, then worked for three years as the coordinator of the TRIO Dissemination Partnership. She became the academic advisor and BroncoLIFE coordinator for the Athletics Department in 2006. Cleary was named the director of student-athlete enhancement programs in 2008.

At Pacific, she was the assistant director of undergraduate admissions from September of 2010 through October of 2012. She was promoted to associate director of undergraduate admissions in October of 2012.

Cleary is scheduled to begin at Portland State on January 1. Rountree will be leaving PSU on Dec. 16. Deputy AD Matt Billings will serve as interim athletics director during the two-week span.

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.15 - Neil Lomax

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.15 - Neil Lomax

Neil Lomax is Portland State. He is, without question, the greatest Viking of all-time. When he left PSU he had 90 collegiate records with his name on them. Lomax threw for 13, 320 yards and 106 touchdowns at PSU, once threw for seven touchdowns in a single quarter, and finished seventh in Heisman voting in 1980 despite playing in Division 1-AA.

Lomax went on to play eight seasons in the NFL with the St.Louis/Phoenix Cardinals where he threw for 22,771 yards and 136 touchdowns, and twice earned Pro Bowl honors (1984 and 1987).

He was elected to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Portland State Viking Hall of Fame in 1997.

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.16 - Jack Thompson

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.16 - Jack Thompson

“The Throwin’ Samoan” Jack Thompson was the most prolific passer in the history of college football when left Pullman in 1978, and 40-years later his legend lives on.

Thompson was not only the leader of the huddle, he was the leader of a culture. Thompson helped usher in the movement of great Polynesian talent coming over to play college football.


He left WSU with 7,818 passing yards and 53 touchdowns, was a three-time All-Conference selection, a three-time All-American (Honorable Mention, Second-Team, and First-Team), and had his name etched all over the WSU record books.


Thompson was drafted third overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1979 NFL Draft and played six seasons in the league before calling it a career.


Thompson is one of only two Washington State football players to have their jersey retired (Mel Hein being the other), and in 2014 he was part of the inaugural class of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.18 - Rueben Mayes

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.18 - Rueben Mayes

Rueben Mayes was an absolute monster on the gridiron and is one of the best running backs in the history of the Pac-12 conference. Mayes was the first running back in Washington State history to have back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons and set a then NCAA record when he rushed for 357 yards in a single game against the Oregon Ducks in 1984. Mayes was a two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year and his 3,519 career rushing yards is still a Washington State record. 

Mayes was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 1986 NFL Draft, where he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1986 and made two Pro Bowl appearances.

In 2008 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. 

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.20 - Mario Bailey

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.20 - Mario Bailey

Mario Baily was one of the smallest men on the football field but he always managed to have the biggest impact. The 5’6”, 162lb Bailey lit up opposing defenses with ease and was a key part of the Huskies run to a national title in 1991.

In that championship season, his final with the Huskies, Bailey hauled in 62 catches for 1,037 yards and 17 touchdowns, was a Consensus All-American, and Pac-10 Player of the Year.

When Bailey left UW he was the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,093) and receiving touchdown (26), and second in receptions (131).

UW has had great receivers in the years since - Reggie Williams (2001-2003), Jermaine Kearse (2008-2011), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2011-2013), and Dante Pettis (2014-2017) just to name a few – but it took a decade before any UW receiver put up numbers that rivaled Bailey’s. Bailey will always be the gold standard at UW.

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.21 - Mike Utley

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.21 - Mike Utley

Mike Utley was truly a force to be reckoned with while at Washington State. In 1988 he anchored the WSU offensive line that helped lead the Cougars to a 9-3 record and a victory in the Aloha Bowl.  It was the first time the Cougars had won nine or more games since 1930, and it was the first bowl victory since they beat the Bruins 14-0 in the 1916 Rose Bowl. 

Utley was a Consensus First-Team All-American in 1988, a two-time All-Pac-10 Conference First Team selection, and in 2016 was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Utley was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1989 NFL Draft, but his promising NFL career was cut short just three seasons later. In 1991 Utley fractured his sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae and was paralyzed from the chest down. In an image that fans remember to this day, Utley mustered the strength to give the fans a thumbs up as he was carted off the field.

Utley had now regained the use of his upper body but remains paralyzed from the waist down. The thumbs up he flashed to the crowd has gone on to become a sign of inspiration and is the official logo of the Mike Utley Foundation.

For more information on the Mike Utley Foundation and to help find a cure for paralysis visit


New NCAA rule helps "elite" prospects, but does it really?

USA Today

New NCAA rule helps "elite" prospects, but does it really?

It was announced yesterday that moving forward the NCAA will now allow “elite” college prospects to sign with agents and give them the ability to return to college if they are not selected in the NBA Draft. At first glance, the new rules is a victory for student-athletes, but is it really?

As multiple media personalities have pointed out, this moves seems more like a PR stunt than a step in the right direction. The NCAA is all about amateurism, and it wants to protect that at all costs.

Let's outline some of the key points of this new rule:


  • This rule does not apply to all college basketball players. It only applies to those deemed “elite.” The job of deciding who is elite and who isn’t falls on the back of USA Basketball. The interesting part here is that it appears that USA Basketball didn’t agree to, nor does it want this responsibility. According to an article by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, “USA Basketball doesn't have the infrastructure or interest in accepting the role of evaluating the nation's top prospects… USA Basketball prefers that the NBA make those decisions”
  • The problem here is that it also appears the neither the NBA or the NBPA has agreed to this new rule. The NCAA more or less went over the heads of the NBA, burdening them and USA Basketball with tasks they had not formally agreed to. While discussions have been had, there was never a general consensus moving forward with regards to a rule change.
  • Of the few this rule will impact, even fewer will actually take advantage of it. Many players who go undrafted will try to land with teams overseas, teams in the G-League, or land a roster spot in the NBA Summer League. Few, if any, will actually return to college. As Wojnarowski pointed out on Twitter, if you are undrafted now odds are you will undrafted a year from now as well. Why prolong becoming a professional? 

In short, the rule seems nice on the outside but in the end it falls short of having any real substance to it. If the outcome with the rule is the same as the outcome without it (go undrafted, play overseas for example) what does the rule really change? Perhaps it changes the public perception of the NCAA. A pat on the back of sorts; a “look what we did for our athletes” moment. Until the NBA/NBPA and USA Basketball are on board, and until you allow this rule to help all athletes, not just the elite ones, you haven’t done anything.







31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.23 - Jason Hanson

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.23 - Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson is not only one of the greatest kickers in the history of the Pac-12, he is easily one of the greatest kickers to ever play in the NFL. Hanson walked-on at Washington State in 1988, won the starting kicker job and was named a Freshman All-American. 

In his four years at WSU, Hanson connected on 96.5% of this extra point attempts (139-144), and 65.6 of his field goal attempts (63-96). His success earned him a second-round selection in the 1992 NFL Draft, 56th overall by the Detroit Lions.

Hanson would go on to have a very successful 21-year career in the NFL, all of them played with the Detroit Lions.

Hanson was named to the 1992 NFL All-Rookie Team and was twice a Pro Bowler (1997 and 1999). Hanson’s name is all over the NFL Record books where he is:

  • Sixth all-time in games played (327)
  • Seventh all-time in extra points made (665)
  • Fourth all-time in points scored (2150)
  • Fourth all-time in field goals made (495)
  • His 21-seasons with one team is the most ever in the NFL

Hanson announced his retirement from the NFL in 2013 and was inducted into the Detroit Lions Ring of Honor later the same year.

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.24 - Jason Gesser

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.24 - Jason Gesser

Marcus Mariota isn’t the only quarterback from St.Louis High School in Hawaii to take the Pacific Northwest by storm. Over a decade before Mariota ever stepped foot on Oregon’s campus, a quarterback by the name of Jason Gesser was lighting the Pac-12 on fire. Gesser, who led St.Louis High School to multiple state championships in the late 90’s, was a star on The Palouse.

Gesser took over as the starting quarterback at Washington State, and with him the Cougars found success. In 2001 and 2002 Gesser led the Cougars to back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history, culminating in a trip to the 2003 Rose Bowl. The Cougars lost the Rose Bowl to the Oklahoma Sooners, but it was still one of the greatest seasons in program history. The Cougars went 10-3 that year behind the 3,408 yards passing and 28 touchdowns of Gesser, and were at one point ranked No.3 in the nation. To his day, that is the highest ranking the Cougars have ever achieved. 

In the years since Gesser left WSU, the Cougars have won 10-games just once (2003) and have yet to return to the Rose Bowl. 

The Wazzu legend ended his career in Pullman having passed for 8,830 yards, 70 touchdowns, and in 2002 was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of Year.

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.26 - Ahmad Rashad

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.26 - Ahmad Rashad

All month we are counting down the Top 31 players from NW colleges to play college football. Make sure you check out the Giveaway Page for your chance to enter and win prizes! 

Today he goes by Ahmad Rashad, but you may remember him from his time in Eugene when he was known as Bobby Moore. Rashad was one of the greatest dual-threat athletes in the history of Oregon football, playing and setting school records at both running back and wide receiver. When Rashad left campus he held 14 school records, was a two-time All-American, and was the only player to lead the conference in scoring from two different positions.

After a successful career with the Ducks Rashad was drafted fourth overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1972 NFL Draft, and while he had some success with the Cardinals it was a different team where he made his mark.

In 1976 Rashad joined the Minnesota Vikings, where he would remain until his playing days ended in 1982. While with Minnesota Rashad was a four-time Pro-Bowler (1978-1981), a second-team All-Pro in 1979, and twice surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark (1979, 1980). In his time in the NFL Rashad had 495 catches for  6,831 yards and  44 touchdowns. 

In 2017 Rashad was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2007), and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame (Class of 1987).