While Duck Fans Cheer, Haters Pray for Oregon’s (Imminent) Collapse

UOarch247_1

No Mark Twain quotes here. No rehashing of the great author’s famous statement about his death being overstated. Yet, as Duck fans, many of us can relate to that phrase. Every year Oregon’s detractors predict that the end is nigh, that surely this year the Ducks will face some sort of collapse and fall flat on their feathered faces. This year, the football gods will strike them down and Oregon will revert to mediocrity. 

The irony is that few, if any, of those haters pay enough attention to Oregon history to really pinpoint a time when that era of mediocrity existed. In their collective minds, they have some vague notion that this golden era of Oregon futility occurred sometime before Chip Kelly arrived. So, Mike Belloti then?

Maybe if any of those Alabama, Washington or USC fans cared to pay attention, they would find that during the Mike Belloti era, Oregon suffered exactly one non-winning season — in 2004, when they were one game below .500. So really, one has to go all the way back to the early Rich Brooks era to find an example that really resembles anything less than success.

Sure, during the Belloti era, there were years when the team was good but not great, but there were also many years when the Ducks were outstanding, culminating in the 2001 season when they had an 11-1 record, finished 2nd in the national polls but were passed over in favor of a vastly overrated Nebraska team for the National Championship game against Miami.

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John Giustina

Mike Belloti — Hall of Fame coach.

The simple fact is, it is unlikely Oregon is going to fall flat anytime soon. There will be down years for sure, but Oregon has the pieces in place to have sustained success in the same way that Alabama has. Success tends to breed success, but it also requires dedication to improving on those achievements, and that is exactly what Oregon has done so well.

Instead of sitting on their laurels, the program, from top to bottom, has focused on continued improvement, whether it is in the personnel, facilities upgrades or public outreach, Oregon is an organization on a mission to show they are elite, and not just for the next few years, but for decades to come.

The most frustrating thing for Oregon’s rabid hate-base is that from external appearances, the Ducks just shouldn’t be equipped to have these sustained runs of success. Small state – population-wise – with a tiny athlete pool to draw from (at least in comparison to states such as California, Texas and Florida).

Eugene is more town than city, the weather is often cold and gray. Autzen Stadium, while raucous, is also tiny compared to many other stadia, and on and on, ad nauseum. Oregon just shouldn’t be able to do what it does on the field, year in and year out – should it?

Yet, Rome was once a small state, weak, pushed around by its bigger, more powerful neighbors such as the Etruscans to the north. Most readers will be quite familiar with Rome, while not being as familiar with the Etruscans, so it is easy to deduce how that relationship ended. Rome strove to be something more, to be something great, and continually invested in its improvement on every level, from the military to the its governmental administration. As they aspired for greatness their state grew, and continued to grow until they came to dominate the entire Mediterranean. It was only when Rome grew complacent that the empire began to crumble.

Despite not winning the National Championship (yet), Oregon has achieved some level of greatness. The nation has watched the program take on the established powers and hold its own. High school players, who in years past would have scoffed at playing for the Ducks, now routinely list Oregon as one of their top considerations. The perception of Oregon has changed.

And with that paradigm shift has come the haters. In some ways that is the truest sign of Oregon’s arrival on the national stage — the level of animosity the team now generates. Twenty years ago, when Rich Brooks took the Ducks to the Rose Bowl, not many fans outside of Corvallis or Seattle really cared enough to hate Oregon. But now the Ducks have gained almost as many new detractors as new fans.

Oregon's ascension has given it access to players like DAT

David Pyles

Oregon’s ascension has given it access to players such as De’Anthony Thomas.

Unfortunately for the college football fanatics who aren’t fans of the Duck’s warp-speed assault on the status-quo, it doesn’t appear that Oregon is going back to underdog status anytime soon. Not with Marcus Mariota and company poised to make another run at a National Championship. Even with injuries, defections, graduation and the typical chaos of an off-season, Oregon looks strong yet again.

In the years to come, Oregon may take a step back, maybe even two steps back, but barring a devastating collapse of some kind, they should remain competitive, hungry and successful.

So keep on hating haters, keep on squealing about how Oregon is a gimmick school, keep on whining about conspiracies, uniforms and sugar-daddy Phil Knight being the only reason the Ducks stay competitive. This run isn’t over yet, and may not be for many years to come.

 

Top photo of Rich Brooks by John Giustina

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Don Gilman

Don Gilman

Don Gilman is a second-year communications major at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. In addition to writing for FishDuck.com, he has been published in the Roseburg News-Review Newspaper, the UCC Mainstream Newspaper, Bucketlist Publications and is the featured author in the June, 2013 edition of eHorror magazine (under a pseudonym.) In 2013 Don received two awards from the Oregon Newspaper Association's annual statewide college competition: Third place for Best Feature Story and second place for Best Spot Photography.

  • Billy the Claw

    Brooks took us to the rose bowl 20 years ago, not 30.

    • tramadon

      Oops. Your’e right.Just a silly oversight on my part.

      • tramadon

        Fixed now, by the way

  • hoboduck

    Could not agree more. Nice job here.
    Go Ducks WTD

  • Trevor Westerdahl

    Let’s face it, most haters believe Oregon is achieving success because it has been buying its way there via Phil Knight. As a major Duck fan, I have to admit, Phil’s efforts HAVE transformed the Ducks into something much better. There is truth in what they say. Anyone want to pretend the facilities don’t help? The uniforms don’t help?

    Then again, isn’t that why certain people deserve statues erected in their image? Individuals DO have potential to fundamentally transform and with absolute certainty Phil has helped transform Oregon.

    I say to the haters: grow up, the Ducks aren’t going away and let’s not pretend their aren’t people or circumstances that can be attributed to the success of other teams. As mentioned in the article, its hard to overcome any school sitting with a great market AND a deep pool of local talent available. I could easily argue how SEC schools have their own ways to adjust the system in their favor… for example, the fewer games played and the in-everyone’s-face manipulation of the schedule such that they face a couple tough teams and cake walks for the rest and still get adjustments like their schedule is tougher.

    No add-in how the system is designed/rigged to reward successful schools in larger markets with an established winning history and its easy to understand how tough it is for any other team to break-out. There is no equivalent to the draft in college ball where losing teams can get talent. Players still choose their school and most seek schools with established winning records. I am not suggesting their should be a draft by the way, but I would suggest that the money received for success (I.e. bowl games) just entrenches the winners even more and something probably could be done to help smaller market schools.

    I can’t wait for this year to transpire. This year really is a defining year. It’s sort of a must-have year for the Ducks to keep up recruiting. If they fizzle, it will be tough going forward. If they excel, they should be setup for a decade or more.