The Oregon football program has ascended to the top of the college football world. The Ducks have reached the national title game twice in five years, won four other bowl games, and haven’t finished outside the Top 10 in that same five-year stretch. The Ducks are now elite, and it’s very hard to argue against that fact.
But how did Oregon achieve that status? Rich Brooks took over the program in 1978, and after 11 seasons of no bowl appearances, the Ducks finally reached the post-season again in 1989. By January 1995, Oregon was playing in its first Rose Bowl since 1957. They lost that game, but it was the first step in the right direction.Mike Bellotti took over the team in 1995, and during his 14-year tenure, the Ducks went to 12 bowl games — winning seven. But the real rise to greatness began two years before Bellotti retired. It all started in 2007.
The 2007 season was the true beginning of what we see today as Duck fans, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Dennis Dixon‘s senior year, the climb to No. 2 in the BCS rankings, the Heisman that Dixon was going to win, and College Gameday came to Eugene twice and showed the nation just how passionate we are about our football. But then Dixon suffered the knee injury, and what could have been was no more. That wasn’t the end for the Ducks, however; it was the beginning.
Here are a few fun facts: 2007 was Chip Kelly‘s first year as offensive coordinator. 2007 was the last time Oregon didn’t finish the season with 10 wins (they finished 9-4). 2007 was the start of eight consecutive seasons of finishing the year ranked in the final AP poll. In fact, 2007 was the last year the Ducks finished the season outside the Top 11 in the final AP poll (they finished 23rd in 2007). Since 2007, our beloved green and yellow has only lost three bowl games — the Rose Bowl in 2009, and the national title games in 2010 and last year in 2014. Finally, Oregon has a record of 89-18 since 2007. Let’s just take that in for a moment, folks. That’s incredible!
If Bellotti built up the Oregon program, and Kelly took it to new heights, what’s the next chapter for Mark Helfrich? Well, the obvious answer is winning the program’s first national championship. The continuity of the coaching staff, talent on the roster and potential of the recruits coming in, combined with the offensive scheme, are all great signs that Helfrich will take the Ducks to the next, next level. The dominance we have seen since 2007 is likely to continue moving forward, and we will win a national title sooner rather than later. This coming year without Marcus Mariota will show us a lot about the Oregon program as it moves forward, but I believe we will be pleasantly surprised.
The older Duck fans, the wise greybeards, have waited for this greatness for far too long. I honestly don’t anticipate it ending any time soon. I may be a homer, born and raised in Eugene and an Oregon alumnus as of last year, but I think it will be difficult for the Ducks to finish with fewer than eight or nine wins for the foreseeable future. Oregon football is here to stay!
Top Photo by John Giustina