Since it is the cusp of a new season and bloggers, pundits and fans are indulging in rampant, ecstatic speculation about their favorite college teams, it seemed appropriate that this column indulge in a little speculation, as well.
Suppose Oregon, in this 2013 campaign, ends up with a dream season, running undefeated through the gauntlet of patsies (talking about you, Nicholls State), gimmies, trap-games and elite-level competition and wins the National Championship. Confetti will fall, the band will play, players and coaches will celebrate, cry and utter adorable catch-phrases (we took it one game at a time) and Eugene will explode into a fiery, tie-dyed, patchouli-scented miasma of ecstasy. But then what?
How far, realistically, can this run be taken? Can the Ducks continue this remarkable success? Can Oregon become a true dynasty? With all the glitzy new facilities, consecutive BCS bowl appearances and high-profile, NFL-bound players, it would seem that success is all but assured for the immediate future.
However . . .
Teams such as Nebraska, Miami and even Colorado can attest to how quickly fortunes change. Once dominant programs, the former pair have only recently re-ascended to a higher level of play, while the poor Buffs have continued to sink to historic lows.
There is no guarantee that Oregon can continue their elite-level success. The vicissitudes of fate can be capricious and cruel. The wheel of fortune turns for every program. Despite the amazing facilities, despite the cash flowing into the program like a river, despite the four- or five-star players committing to the University, the bottom could drop out, either this year or next.
Just ask USC. After Pete Carroll left, few thought the program would lose much momentum when Lane Kiffin was hired. Yet USC is nowhere near as strong as they were when they were contending for National Championships under Carroll. Great players are all still there, USC is still USC, and yet, something is missing. Not all of the blame can be laid at the feet of Kiffin, either. When Reggie Bush, Mark Sanchez and crew were dominating the Pac-10 and the nation, they had that something — they possessed a rare assemblage of talent, coaching and good fortune that brought them to the height of the football world. Then it was gone. And while USC is still experiencing a certain level of success, it is nowhere near where it was in that era.
So how does a program stay on top? How can the U of O continue to build on their successes and establish not four or five years of elite-level success, but decades? How does Oregon become what Alabama already is?
Fortunately, the program is in great hands, and they are already taking the necessary steps to accomplish that gargantuan task: Build great facilities. Hire the best and brightest to run the ship. Recruit the four- and five-star studs to populate the roster, and remember the hidden gems that can be found in less-likely places. But more than that, Oregon needs to remember its mantra: Win the Day. Win the hour. Win the minute. Remain focused on the little things. Continue to pay attention to details. Make the ‘Oregon Way’ so deeply ingrained that every coach, player and fan knows what that is without having to speak it.
All of that is already taken care of. There is only one thing left to add before this season begins:
Hope. Hope and pray that destiny favors the Ducks and will continue to shine that winning light upon them — because someday, that light will not shine as brightly as it is right now.
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