An Oregon Unknown: No Duck Coach Better Than Mark Helfrich — EVER

The name tag at the Oregon Coaches Clinic simply said, “Charles Fischer,” and the staff kind of smirked at me as I picked up the intro packet before the first speaker began.  I was surprised at the brevity of my ID considering that all the other attendees had their name, and the high school they coached at, written on their name tags.

You see, every spring Oregon football opens things up for high school coaches to come in and listen to Ducks position coaches, as well as coaches from all over the country, who were invited to present the components that make their programs successful.  I’ve been attending for the past three years and have always just used the title “Consultant” to the South Charleston High Panthers of Charleston, West Virginia.

The leader at SCHS, head coach Donnie Mays (is that a great southern name, or what?), has contributed football analysis articles for in the past, and he also told me to go ahead and use his high school as my base when signing up for these programs.  Obviously, the internal staff at UO was onto what I was doing, and had no issue; the result has been some gems of information that can help all us Duck fans appreciate better the wonder that is University of Oregon football.

Derrick Malone crushing any hope Texas may have had at last year's Alamo Bowl.

Courtesy Valero Alamo Bowl

Derrick Malone crushing any hope Texas may have had at last year’s Alamo Bowl.

Have I learned some secrets of Oregon’s success?  No, because most of what they cover is technical football instruction, and not necessarily applicable to Oregon.  In fact, Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost explained that some details of how Oregon does the No-Huddle is simply not going to be shared, but the basics of how they carry out their attack can be.

I’ve never violated disclosing anything important, and I do NOT attend Oregon’s closed football practice that is open to the visiting high school coaches.  Media is not allowed and I follow the policy. is Media credentialed, we have two writers in the Press Box at Autzen and two photographers on Rich Brooks field, we must play by the rules (but it’s tempting to stray just a bit).

The UO brass know I’m not there for sound-bites, but to study Ducks football and pass along what I’ve learned to other fans so we can enjoy the game that much more. is the only site to truly analyze Oregon’s offense and defense for the fans, and we are into our third year of doing so.  Their smirks were justified.

Team meeting room at the Oregon Football Performance Center

Steve Francis

Team meeting room at the Oregon Football Performance Center

In the introduction of Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich by running backs coach Gary Campbell, it was revealed that NO first year head coach in the history of college football had won more games in his inaugural year.  Let that sink in … isn’t that amazing?

Now I know the disclaimers, that few coaches in the past had 13-game seasons, and there were a number of coaches who had tied Helfrich’s 11 wins in their first year; but the fact remains that NO first year head coach has won more games than Helfrich.

No other football program in the Pac-12 had more wins than Oregon last year.  Ask the other eleven Pac-12 conference members if they would have traded with Helfrich and taken our 11 wins?

This whole discussion and turmoil concerning fans “accepting Mark” after Chip Kelly won their hearts, has new relevance with these facts coming to the surface.  I recently wrote of the internal battle many Duck fans experience when considering Helfrich, and this newly revealed element has not eliminated that confusion.  So here it is — We Gotta Get Over Chip.

Celebrating Victory over Texas at last year's Alamo Bowl

Courtesy D.C. Photography

Celebrating victory over Texas in the 2013 Alamo Bowl.

Want more amazing news about Oregon’s football success?  In the seven years since Kelly showed up in 2007 as Offensive Coordinator – we are the WINNINGEST college football program in the United States.  Yep, even over Alabama during that time period!

I realize we achieve this distinction by selecting a specific and recent 7-year period, but the comparison is valid nonetheless.  (Husky fans like to declare that Oregon fans insist upon football “beginning” in 1994.  It did not, but the fact that we have done well since then — and they have sucked – is irrefutable and accurate.)

I am amazed and stunned at the simple notion that Oregon could be the nation’s best football program during ANY time period!  I was at the “Toilet Bowl” of 1983, a 0-0 tie that epitomized the futility of a football program.  The only thing I loved about that team was the uniforms – I am a noted fuddy-duddy, after all.

But the concept that Oregon football could be superior to all others in a given time period is simply unfathomable to me.  The fact that this is recent history makes it all the more incredulous for me. [Ed. note: we are allowing Charles to ‘stretch’ his vocabulary, as it were.]

Victory comes at a heavy price!

Courtesy D.C. Photograhy

Victory comes at a heavy price!

The lesson and take-away for this all?  We are living in unparalleled times for Oregon sports.  I cannot imagine leaving Eugene, as I enjoy seeing ALL the winning that takes place.

First we have a football program that is the country’s WINNINGEST over the last seven years, and the success continues with Men’s Basketball making return trips to the NCAA Tournament, and now I attend baseball games and relish what Coach Horton does at PK Park.

Both the men’s and women’s track teams are currently ranked No. 1 nationally, as is women’s softball.  These are unheard of times for UO sports!  Soak it all in and enjoy the excellence at Autzen Stadium, Matthew Knight Arena, Hayward Field, PK Park and Howe Field.  It is so special and unique to be around during this era, especially for those who truly appreciate their Beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer “FishDuck”
Eugene, Oregon

 Top photo by Kevin Cline

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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...

  • Famous Duck

    Dear Charles,

    That was/is beautiful. Just what I needed for breakfast. Probably Dano ‘Daffy Duck’ Dunn thinks he needs most of the credit (stretching FishDuck’s vocabulary, indeed.)

    Words of encouragement are what Chip used to help turn us around.
    FishDuck has always used the vocabulary of encouragement, accepting the Master’s lessons and applying them in The Oregon Way.

    God bless including all it’s ’emplyees’ (sic) and editors, coaches and loyal fans.

    Three years. What a wonderful ride.

    Famous Duck

    • FishDuck

      I *Heart* Famous Duck!

      Actually Dano DID do some terrific editing, as did Clint Wright. I am not a great writer, but these Editors often make me look much better than I am, and they DONATE their time!

      Go to the “About Us” tab at the top and look at the pictures of all the new volunteers along with us “Greybeards.” So many love our beloved Ducks….


  • Matthew Slaughter

    I was a former Oregonian who happily cheered on the Ducks in 1994, but didn’t officially join the Duck family until 1997 (I remember falling to my knees as an errant field goal attempt kept us from beating #3 UCLA that year) when I came to the Knight Law School. The year after I graduated I followed Joey Heisman, er, Harrington and the original MM, Maurice Morris, as they finished the season ranked #2 nationally, even though they didn’t get the deserved trip to the NCG. I now obsessively cheer for my Ducks, as does my nephew (I’ve taught him well). It was so much easier when the Ducks were bad. Our fortunes did not rise and fall with our team’s on-field performance, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll be going crazy this fall. Let’s hope our team is scoring and defending like crazy too!

  • RoaringTiger

    Excited for the next season!

  • hokieduck

    You are unutterably correct, Charles. Problem is … I just don’t know how to quit him.

  • hooverli

    I accept Mark Helfrich, but I cannot get over Chip Kelly, and you yourself perfectly explain why:

    “In the seven years since Kelly showed up in 2007 as Offensive Coordinator – we are the WINNINGEST college football program in the United States. Yep, even over Alabama during that time period!”

    Chip’s fingerprints are still all over the program—offense, defense, type and character of recruited athletes, practices and practice time, blaring music, score-score-and-score-some-more mentality, spring Game, salute to the vets, mantras, innovations, Rose Bowl, NCG, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Pac-10 and Pac-12 champion, and got the Ducks to be considered as perennial contenders for a national championship.

    That being said, I accept Mark, but cannot get over Chip. At least not until Mark wins a NCG, or changes the entire playbook/culture of the program and has as much success as Chip did. I also give Mike Bellotti the nod ahead of Mark just for his foresight on changing to a spread offense, and hiring Chip.

    Go Ducks!