Following the free fall from the apex of college football’s elite, Oregon (10-2) has yet to bottom out under the leadership of first year head coach Mark Helfrich.
There’s typically a change in direction when changing head coaches. Your program either moves forward or backward. Rarely do things stay the same. In the case of Oregon, you be the judge.
Riding a six-game winning streak back in October, the Ducks used a well-played third quarter to defeat Washington State. No change in recent form there. But a post game rant by Oregon defensive coordinator revealed flawed character. As documented here at ACU, Nick Alliotti asserted WSU Coach Mike Leach was “low class” for directing his team to play their best for 60-minutes, regardless of the score. Alliotti later issued a public apology for his slip of the tongue. However, his lack of respect for a colleague offered a glimpse into the culture in Eugene.
About a month later following a loss to Stanford, Oregon players made disparaging comments about the chance to play in the grand-daddy of all college post season games, the Rose Bowl. “I don’t want to play in a Rose Bowl unless I’m playing for a national championship,” whined wide receiver Josh Huff.
Those sentiments were echoed by De’Anthony Thomas. “It’s not a big deal at all,” said a dismissive Thomas. “We already won a Rose Bowl, so it feels like, ‘Whatever.'”
Again, it would seem the character of the Oregon football program may not match their win/loss record.
Yesterday several Oregon football players were caught on video (YouTube viewer below) acting out.
Usually a snowball fight is little more than a bit of fun among friends. Duck players took it to a whole different level.
Exhibiting pack-dog behavior, Oregon players chose to intimidate anyone unlucky enough to be in the crossfire of their testosterone driven display of aggression. They took advantage of bad weather conditions to pelt anyone within throwing range with snowballs. But that didn’t prove satisfying enough. To feed their need to intimidate, players stopped traffic to dump blinding amounts of snow on the windshields of passing cars.
One Oregon player stepped in front of a car to taunt and embarrass the driver by heaving a massive snowball then practice some sort of end zone dance before allowing the driver to pass safely.
Instead of conducting themselves appropriate to being a member of the fraternity of college football players, Oregon players exhibited behavior more closely associated with gang thugs. In so doing, they have misrepresented the Pac-12 and the University of Oregon.
Immature arrogance has emanated from the Oregon football program repeatedly in recent weeks. Perhaps the BCS committee wanted no part of such antics associated with their bowl games explaining why the Ducks were snubbed.
After four consecutive BCS bowl appearances, Oregon failed to earn a fifth invitation. Many speculated the Ducks would be in line to play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Oregon was passed over in favor of Oklahoma, a program well established under Coach Bob Stoops.
Coach Helfrich has his work cut out for him between now and December 30th when his team faces Texas (8-4) in the Alamo Bowl. While putting together a game plan to earn a win over Coach Mack Brown on the Longhorns, Helfrich needs to focus on improving the culture of respect within his program. Heck, Coach Brown has problems of his own soothing savage attacks by once proud Texas supporters demanding more wins. That’s another story for another time.
Yet another teaching/coaching moment for first year man Mark Helfrich. He’s definitely up for the challenge and knows what needs to change. Time will tell if he has the ear of everyone associated with the Oregon football program.
It wasn’t all that long ago Oregon football deserved to be considered among the elite of college football when Coach Mike Bellotti was in charge. Then again, what else would you expect when Bill Moos was the athletic director carving out a plan to elevate both the character and performance of all Oregon sports teams back in those days.
The transition between head coaches of a major college football program is always scrutinized. Fortunately for Helfrich, he can, and likely will, make the necessary adjustments to get things right in the minds of his players, staff and fans.