The Secret I Could Not Tell…Until Now

Entrance into Autzen

“The media in this state HATES Chip Kelly.”

I could not believe my ears as I was talking to a former television anchor sportscaster in Oregon.  He was in my office in the fall of 2011, and what he told me was depressing and astounding.  Remember — at that time I was just beginning to produce what now has become over fifty instructional football videos and a similar number of text analysis of Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense.  I more than admired coach Kelly – as many of you know – and he is revered by most Oregon fans, although not with the respect that many of us have that study his version of the Spread Offense.  “C’mon,” I told the former anchor, “everybody knows that Chip disdains the press, and most fans enjoy how he does NOT kowtow to them.  But HATES?  The ‘H’ word, really?”

Gary Breedlove Photography

Chip Kelly

This former sportscaster (a familiar face if you saw him) did not hold back; the bitterness strained in his face as well as his words.  “I have interviewed hundreds of high school and college coaches of all sports, Charles.  I have never made a coach mad by asking a routine question and then getting ridiculed by this coach in front of others.  Never, until Chip Kelly.”

He continued: “He [Chip] does not suffer fools, and guess what category we sportscasters are in with coach Kelly?  It is beyond impatience or a lack of tolerance with the press–he has alienated and angered the press in Oregon.”  He went on to say that it went beyond our borders…that a certain major sports network cannot STAND to work with him, although everything looked great on camera.”

“OK…” I said,  “So he ticked off some sportswriters–so what?”  He leaned forward and told me that I don’t understand how it is hurting Oregon in the public eye.  “Isn’t it interesting that in EVERY Oregon football game telecast there is a run-down of our alleged recruiting violations?  The major outcry and evisceration of Oregon by the Portland press when the Willie Lyles stuff hit?”  He leaned forward, looked me in the eyes and said, “It was payback, Charles.”  “These guys who control the sports press could now exact their revenge on the man who treated them so poorly.”  I protested as some of the  things I heard them say as I drove to appointments in Portland were an absolute terrible smearing of Chip and the program.  He smiled as he told me that, “…it doesn’t matter Charles.  They are always going to get the last word, even if it is bad.  The coach loses this every time, and if you deny sportswriters access?  They will dream things up to write about, so Chip’s actions were hurting the university and the team.”

Coach Mike Bellotti

He admitted that, “…we were spoiled by Mike Bellotti.  He was the perfect gentleman, and knew what we needed.  He would stand in front of a camera and give us a perfect sound bite over and over.  He would hear the same stupid question for the fourteenth time and then he would take a breath, smile, and politely answer it.  He would stay late and answer our questions, and that was part of the problem with the fallout concerning coach Kelly.  It was such a dramatic difference that once the damage was done…the fracture with the media was irreparable.”

It seemed to me that at the end of Chip’s time at Oregon, that his relationship was improving with the media; although you could still sense some hostility below the surface.  Even knowing all this did not diminish my admiration for what he put on the football field, as we are all flawed in some ways, and this was Chip’s Achilles heel.  He was for Oregon, and still is, a very special football coach, but not a good example of how to deal with the press.  Nobody is perfect.

Coach Mark Helfrich

Coach Mark Helfrich has already shown with his recent hiring of the new assistant coaches and his rapid recruiting campaign at the end of January, that he is doing things differently, and in brilliant fashion.  Coach Helfrich is operating a step ahead of what we as fans would expect, such as now being  proactive with the Oregon media.  We were invited to a “meet & greet” with Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich yesterday for the expressed purpose of simply getting acquainted with him, we were told.  No photographers, no interviews or notes allowed….just a sincere interest by Helfrich in getting to know the members of the press; of which FishDuck.com is now a part of.  When I learned of this upcoming meeting, I was moved at what an amazing gesture by coach Helfrich and how this will go a long way in rebuilding some bridges which will help the team, the university, and the fans.

That was…until the meeting.  Coach Helfrich spent about ten minutes explaining that there would NOT be any open practices, not even part of one or two sessions, and of course, no injury reports from practice or games.  For those of us trying to cover Oregon practices for the spring and fall, it’s the same-old, same-old.  The one difference is that although Chip disdained the press and locked us out, Helfrich is sympathetic and understanding of our position…and locking us out.  There was greater respect given to the media, as he listened for an hour to the complaints and compromises offered by the press to no avail.  It did not matter what the Pac-12 team forty miles to the north did with their open practices.  They are not Oregon.

Gary Breedlove Photography

Coach Helfrich

It’s too bad; spring is when football gossip is at its best.  Who is trying a new position?  A redshirt freshman picked up twenty pounds of muscular weight!  Somebody showed up gassed and out of shape, and so on.  Spring practices is when the “Fish Reports” originated, as I enjoyed detailing my observations of players, and the readers gobbled it up.  Those fun days are over now, even with a new coach at the helm, but the football analysis and stories at FishDuck.com will continue as we will relish learning more about our beloved Ducks from so many of our nearly forty writers.

Regardless of the coach….some things will remain a secret at Oregon.

Print Friendly
Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Bornduck

    Fish, I love your work. But what was the name of the sportscaster? Or did he decide to keep his name “closed.”

    • fishduck

      He dumped this info on me and did not want his name disclosed unless it was necessary. (In case he wanted to get back into the business again)

      It is not relevant “who” it is…only that I am honest in reporting what I have. (And I am)

      • DonealDuck

        Don’t you love the way the ‘press’ can attack a man who puts himself out there for other people to assail if that is what they choose to do, but hide behind their ‘unnamed sources’ cop-out shroud themselves?

        • DonealDuck

          “Open your practices…. open your team or business up to us”…. all while not being ‘open’ with their own business. Doesn’t that sound hypocritical to you?

          • DonealDuck

            The real news here is that our sportscasters should feel the need to slant the news to revenge for their own personal issues, instead of reporting the news fairly. Seems to me the sportscasters who feel this way are the ones not ‘doing their job’ in the manner it should be done.

          • fishduck

            I knew there would be backlash and your thoughts are not a surprise. Why would the identity of the source be so important? It was a year and a half ago….so YOU can attack him? Wouldn’t that be hypocritical?

            At the time…this was ground-breaking news; now it is barely a yawn because what I wrote does not surprise anyone at all. Chip was a brilliant coach, but had his flaws and we all know that. It comes down to….are you a Chip Kelly fan who defends him no matter what? Or an Oregon fan who wants to be certain that the actions of a man are not hurting the school in some way?

            I can worship his play-calling and detest his treatment of the press; as I wrote–no one is perfect. BTW…I did not have any sour treatment by him as we had no contact.

          • DonealDuck

            As you said, Fish… it was a year and a half ago… so why are you just writing it now, after the man is gone and can no longer defend himself?

            I never once mentioned attacking anyone, so you capitalizing ‘YOU’ as if I would do such a thing, without you knowing me at all, is silly. You act as if I am attacking you personally, but all I am doing is offering another way to look at it than the piece you wrote. I am sorry you are so thin-skinned today.

            Everyone has flaws, and we all both laughed and cringed at Chip, as has been the case with all of us sometimes in our lives.

            No one said ‘you’, Fish. But you quoted ‘unnamed sources’ who told of ‘revenge’ against our / your beloved University of Oregon because of their own personal feelings. If you really love our Oregon Ducks, THAT should be your news story, that members of the press are so thin-skinned and spiteful that they would stoop so low as to seek revenge against an entire school because of the perceived lack of media ‘charm’ of one man.

            Too afraid to write the story about the group you are now a member of?….

          • Oh Snap

            Boom

          • fishduck

            Oh brother……

          • SeanG

            Here to respond on my friend’s behalf. Charles reported as a
            professional journalist should: a source who requested to be unnamed remained unnamed. On your logic, I guess Woodward & Bernstein were ineffective journalists, too.

            And in regard to your position that Charles should have reported in more depth about the members of the media who “so thin-skinned and spiteful that they would stoop so low as to seek revenge against an entire school,” how can Charles name names? He got these quotes from a source who prefers to be unnamed, who is talking about the motives and philosophies of OTHER media people who are themselves unnamed. Charles had no names, no documents, no interviews, no substantive evidence regarding media sources as a whole exacting revenge on Chip Kelly. That, my friend, is classic “bar exam” hearsay.

            Picture the alternative: Charles has a conversation with a trusted source, who talks about other members of the media with the understanding that his reports will remain anonymous, and not dredge up others’ names who are not there to confirm or deny the reports. Then, Charles publishes all of it: names and all. What happens to Charles’s credibility? FishDuck’s credibility? The anonymous sportscaster’s credibility among his peers? Toilet drain.

            Charles: I applaud this article. It was great insight into the post-Kelly era, and was professionally done in light of the senstivities of the subject matter. If other writers want to publish innuendo, rumor, unfounded accusations, and hearsay, I hear Twitter and message boards are a good place to do that. Not a professional sports blog.

            Keep up the good work, Mr. Fishduck.

          • hokieduck

            I agree that Charles reported his unnamed source correctly. The cowardice for not being willing to put a name to his information, rests solely with the source. He threw his fellow journalists under the bus, frankly. As I said above, that should be the takeaway from divulging that information.

            But none of this is news (other than the unsupported allegation made about ESPN which I question) to anyone who watched and read about the Ducks over the past few years. The story, again, is that a member of the fourth estate admitted on the record (though cloaked in anonymity) that the media sought and gained vengeance against a football coach by battering a team of college kids and the University they play for.

            Classy.

  • Mitch Platt’s body double

    It was pretty obvious that the entire Oregonian crew disliked Kelly.

  • ruffian

    assuming what the sportscaster said is true, and the “guys who control the sports press” crapped in the pool to get their “revenge”, Chip and Coach Helfrich are right to keep them out of the water. i bet if ‘the press’ consisted of FishDuck ALL practices would be open. 8^)

  • I don’t see how Chip’s dealings with the Media has had an impact on Oregon’s popularity around the country? I’m not saying you’re posting something that isn’t true Fish, but I don’t see this “negative impact” at all. If this outside sports network was trying to “get back” at Oregon, they wouldn’t have Oregon games on every week. And IMO the reason the recruiting stuff is still brought up is because it’s unresolved, and nothing more. I don’t think anyone is disputing that Chip can be a Dick. However, last time I checked, he wasn’t the only football coach who has ever been a dick and difficult to deal with. I do think that people in the media like to focus on the negative things that Chip did, all the while looking past all the great things he did.

    I do know that an sportswriter from Oregon tried to put out a hit piece on Chip that was utterly and totally false. Furthermore, the “info” that this person supposedly had had nothing to do with Chip’s coaching or his ability to run a program. The article’s sole purpose would have been to take a huge shot at Chip’s personal life, which is really no ones business. It was total bullsh!t and the writer decided to not publish it at the last minute. Just saying this stuff goes both ways IMO

  • Harv

    hardly breaking news,,,

  • Undergrounded

    I think most of us Duck fans love what our Oregon Ducks do differently from other programs. The way we practice and prepare for our opponents, our unconventional two point conversions, and our innovative and exciting “Blur” offense, etc. We appreciate and relish that our Ducks do things differently then other Schools, so why when we close our practices should we say “Well, other Schools don’t close practices”? I trust that if the coaching staff feels it best for the team (or for themselves personally) to have the practices closed, it is their prerogative, they have given us everything we want (wins, exciting play, BCS bowl appearances) other than that.

    Like his personality or not, I think Chip Kelly instilled a mentality in Oregon Football that could translate to Oregon fans as well. “Win The Day” has been the Mantra for our Football team. As fans we sometimes try to project a National Championship before we have finished our schedule, as many had done last year before the Stanford game, or the previous year before the USC game. If we worry more as fans about the game at hand, and not project into the future, maybe it will take some of the sting out of those losses.

    That being said, if a member of the media interviewed me after being informed that I was not welcome to Oregon practices, I would echo the coaches and say “As Oregon fans we don’t worry about what we cannot control. Next question”.

  • phxduck

    Bellotti was a magician with the press. When he attended the O club of Portland and there were no press in the room (they were banned after something was reported that was only for those in attendance), he could, though not very often, be caustic with a questioner. But overall, he was very cordial. Had no problem talking to anybody in line getting lunch. Ah those were the days.

  • baldfoot

    Good write, Charles. You’ve addressed something that has clearly been bugging a lot of people a lot of the time. I got tired of watching Chip interviews because the questions so often lacked any depth of understanding of what goes on with a big, highly competitive football program ad because he is really tilted toward a degree of arrogance that gets to me (like it obviously has gotten to some/many sportswriters. Bad mix that: unenlightened questions and condescending answers. And I DO like the way he handled the problem-children; he may have saved Blount’s life/livelihood, got LMJ through what had to be a tough situation for a very young man at the time, likely saved Alonso, and who knows who else by keeping things in perspective with the people who count: the student athletes. I think Chip understood that and it looks like Helfrich even more. Go Ducks. Go Charles.

  • JC

    Obviously sports reporters would like access to more content. As a fan; so long as we’re winning BCS games in January, I’ll be happy to skip which 19 year old kid is out of shape in April. Maybe the team really does have fewer distractions with closed practices, maybe they are actually better for it. Maybe not…. but if it aint broke…

  • Sports righter

    Your comments do not come at a shock and I really don’t know why you held out till now; I have followed Oregon for many decades and the Oregonian in particular soured its relationship in 1993-1994 season with its attempt to get rid of Rich Brooks. I heard complaints about Mike Belloiti and how he shouldn’t be the Coach at Oregon from the Oregonian far too many times as well…when Newspapers want to control things that is when our state, our school’s and our lives are in trouble.

    I have missed taking the time to observe a practice and watch some kids develop, but I did enjoy going to 3 of 4 BCS games and the great overall improvement of the program on and off the field!!

    I wish the Program could discriminate who in the press (beyond ESPN and Contracted TV media) and allow a few of you in, but then the negativity of the oregonian would rear it’s ugly head again.

    Sorry you and so many others catch the results of a John Canzano or Ken Goe relationship with the University of Oregon!

  • Sports righter
  • DuckAluckADingDong

    Quack.

  • Who cares what the media thinks? They’re dinosaurs. I spend half of my time going around correcting misinformation they put out there to the casual fan that doesn’t know any better.

    The sports media in Portland is lazy and inept and Chip held them accountable for it. They need to wake the hell up and realize that the problem is with them and not the subject they are “covering”.

    I haven’t read a newspaper or listened to sports radio in about a decade now. And I’m considered the most informed Ducks fan among my group of friends and family. I’m even the guy people check with at games for info on players.

    Point is, if you’re reading the mainstream media you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Stick to websites like Fishduck and other reliable message boards, i.e. NOT OregonLive.