There’s a video right now going viral across the college athletics nation titled “Year of the Duck”. Produced by the Oregon Athletic Department and GoDucks.com, it highlights what was one of the greatest years in Oregon Athletics history.
Featuring statistics, headlines, and clips from just about every program, it was a testament to just how far the Ducks have come in recent years.
Among the best team accomplishments of the university this year were the No. 2 final ranking by the Oregon football team, the National Championship appearance by the volleyball program, the Sweet 16 appearance by the Oregon men’s basketball team, the National Championship by the women’s cross country team, the National Championship by the women’s indoor track team, and the National Championship by the acrobatics and tumbling team.
And if you think the accolades stop there, you really need to check out the video.
For me, watching this brief video really opened my eyes to how the Ducks are just getting started, especially when talking about the Ducks football program.
Now I’m sure there are many college football fans and northwesterners who are doubting me, thinking that Washington, Washington State, or Oregon State will come flying by the Ducks and surpass their northwest brethren as the King of the Pac-12. Unfortunately for those fans, they are wrong. In fact, Oregon football is just getting started.
Prior to the Chip Kelly era in Eugene, Mike Bellotti laid a solid foundation for a program that really had yet to make an impact on a national stage. While they had been to Rose Bowls and fielded decent teams, those teams were far too few and scattered over the course of 90 years.
Then, with Bellotti’s intelligence and Phil Knight’s philanthropy, the Ducks began to rise.
2000 saw Oregon achieve their first 10-win season in school history while 2001 was arguably the greatest season in Ducks football history until the past three years.
Building off the success of his 2000 squad, Bellotti and the Ducks soared to the top of the polls, barely missed out on a national championship (many still believe it should have been Oregon playing Miami instead), and came away with a No. 2 ranking at the end of the year.
In the following years Bellotti and the Oregon Athletics Department continued to build the base of the Oregon football program, garnering national attention with bold campaigns and stellar players. Retiring at the end of the 2008 season, Bellotti finished his career at Oregon with a 116-55 record, four ten-win+ seasons, and 12 bowl games, a number that outmatched the number of bowl games Oregn had previously been to.
With the foundation laid, the baton was passed to Chip Kelly to continue constructing the Oregon football monster, and boy did he build. 2009 saw the Ducks dethrone the USC Trojans, take home the Pac-10 Title, and make their first appearance in the Rose Bowl since the 1994 season. While they lost to Ohio State in the game, the national attention Oregon was receiving due to Kelly’s innovative spread offense was huge in generating momentum for the coming years. In his second year, all Chip Kelly did was take the Ducks to their first National Championship appearance in school history with a quarterback who had seen just limited time in 2008 (Darron Thomas).
Once again just missing out on a huge win for the program (Oregon lost the contest 22-19 to Auburn on a last-second field goal), the Ducks didn’t lose any momentum whatsoever.
Kelly’s final two years were defined by unprecedented success and national attention, with the program triumphing in two straight BCS Bowls (2012 Rose Bowl vs. Wisconsin and the 2013 Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl vs. Kansas State). While Kelly’s legacy can be argued to have been a little tarnished by the NCAA infractions committed during his tenure, there’s no disputing the fact that Oregon football really “arrived” to the national powerhouse party over the course of 2009-2013.
The Present and Future
Now that the NCAA has concluded its investigation into the Oregon football program and levied sanctions against it that don’t include a bowl ban, the skies have never been clearer in Eugene.
Mark Helfrich, an outstanding quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator who spent the past three years waiting in the shadows of Kelly, has now stepped up to the throne and will look to guide the Ducks to greater heights.
For while many are uncertain about his potential to lead a national powerhouse and continue to develop it, don’t think the Oregon Athletics Department, one that has become a staple across the nation, would be so reckless as to hire a coach who couldn’t thrive in the national spotlight.
With players like De’Anthony Thomas, Marcus Mariota, Colt Lyerla, Josh Huff, Bralon Addison, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Terrance Mitchell, Tyler Johnstone, Arik Armstead, and Brian Jackson on the roster, it’s not hard to see why the Ducks are one of the favorites to take home the last-ever BCS National Championship.
And don’t think that the players aren’t thinking about that every single damn day.
Yes, Oregon football’s mantra is still “Win The Day”, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be any intense motivation behind that slogan to get you to work even harder in practice. Sometimes players need an arduous goal to really get their gears grinding, and this year it just so happens the bar has been set at a BCS National Championship: a lofty goal, but not an unrealistic one.
Looking forward (as is the motivation behind this post about Oregon football), the future could not be brighter. As I mentioned earlier, there are some northwest, Pac-12, and college football fans who would like to believe the Ducks are done after this year. And once again I am very afraid to tell them that they could not be more wrong. The Oregon football program is just getting started, and has its Athletics Department, in large part, to thank.
The outstanding work of all the employees at the University of Oregon has led to this unprecedented rise in Oregon football that has really been unmatched by any team. Facilities are continually being improved, innovations are still being made, and recruits all around the nation are taking notice.
In fact, Oregon has already received commitments from standout running back Royce Freeman (ESPN 300, Four-star ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com), Aaron Springs (ESPN 300, Four-star ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com), and Tui Talia (Four-star JUCO commit on Scout.com and Rivals.com).
While many believe Oregon is already in the national spotlight, it is becoming more and more evident after every year that more prospects are beginning to take notice of the Ducks. Don’t think that the increased attention surrounding the program and its standing as a national powerhouse won’t pay huge dividends in the coming years.
In a sense, Oregon football is like one of those skyscrapers in Dubai. The foundations of the building were laid by Bellotti (and arguably Rich Brooks as well), the middle portion was innovated and developed by Kelly, and now Helfrich will see further development as the Oregon skyscraper continues to rise higher…and higher…and higher.
2013 will not be the final year of Oregon football greatness, it will just be a continuation of the beginning.
The Ducks are a national powerhouse and will remain so for a good portion of time. Incoming recruits will continue to bring in the talent necessary for Mark Helfrich to thrive, coaches around the nation will flock to Eugene, and a Duck empire will be born.
So strap in and hold tight Oregon fans, they’re just getting started.