Rob Mullens: “Pass” or “No Pass” as Athletic Director?

Notalot Editorials

To “pass” is to complete something successfully and move on. Or, one can “get a pass” meaning one didn’t fully complete the agreed requirements, but can move on, anyway, exempted from the agreed requirements. images-pass-shareicon-net

“No pass,” on the other hand, typically means one is not qualified to move on and results in a penalty or fine. In its strictest form a no-pass disallows the party from continuing forward. A failure to win enough games and improve the football program, in the recent case of Head Coach Mark Helfrich, led to his dismissal – a “no pass.”

Rob Mullens

Rob Mullens

But wait! We sometimes ask if what’s good for the goose is good for the gander? What, if anything, should happen now with Rob Mullens? Should he come through the rise and implosion of the Ducks Football dynasty and be given a free pass? Or should he face consequences for his role in the events and situation?

Mullens should be counseled by his superiors, and share the responsibility for the decline of the program including loss of revenue, prestige and brand value and in the future held on a short leash. You can cry “Bollocks,” or at the least think the premise of consequences is ridiculous. Please consider the following, and come to your own conclusions.

The hiring process and selection of Helfrich four years ago, was the travesty that led to the present situation. The football program was at its apex. There were clearly candidates with better resumes, more experience and better odds to lead Oregon in its greatness. Helfrich was unproven at the level he was called to. Mullens was responsible for the search process and hire. One demerit given.

school-punishment_318-59360-freepikThen there was the contract extension, pay raise and guarantee two years ago. Sure, Helfrich was a new name on the rise and he could possibly have become a hot commodity. But Helfrich had his dream job and was already being paid far more than he expected or needed. He didn’t deserve or earn the new contract that Mullens initiated and later signed.

The perception by Mullens that Helfrich was going to be “poached” was misguided and expensive for the University. I’m not sure if Mullens should receive one demerit for the pay raise, or if two demerits for the extension and guarantee are warranted, but I say 2 demerits. (Or, maybe 3)

Helfrich never gained control of the team and they wilted under pressure (by play, by series and when the going got tough). Giving the benefit of the doubt to Helfrich, Mullens should have seen that he was over his head before the program crashed, and taken a leader’s action. The press and fans were not allowed to watch the team practice, but Mullens had access. Why did it take so gosh darn long to see that the “trajectory” was downward? Another demerit earned.

Do you see the point? Helfrich had the first-level accountability. But the AD cannot escape his role in aiding and abetting the chaos. And as he begins the comprehensive process to find the next Head Coach, Mullen’s record should be noted with the shortcomings in performance spelled out clearly.

Rob Mosely article sending Coach Helfrich on his way

Rob Mosely article sending Coach Helfrich on his way

While one can point out the overall excellence of the Ducks athletic programs, and credit Mullens for it, that does not excuse running into to the ground the bell cow of the athletic programs, Ducks Football. There are no happy stakeholders with the state of the football program: alumni, sponsors, donors, fans, students, media, et. al. How could the Athletic Director allow the program to fall so far and into ruins?

Finally, the press release issued by the University of Oregon through Rob Mosely, Editor of was juvenile and reprehensible. Coach Helfrich tried his best, was over-matched, and is an honorable guy. Kicking him when he’s down and embarrassing those close to him was an abomination by a great and storied University. (President and AD).

See the response on November 30, 2016 by Sean Keeley from :

Athletics programs and pro teams hiring in-house reporters to write stories are part of the new normal for sports fans, so it’s not an unheard-of setup. Where it gets tricky, however, is the way someone in that position covers breaking news and big changes like a coach firing, and how the perceived angle from which they’re coming from can conflict with the general dissemination of factual news.

Rob Moseley .... Editor of Oregon's Pravda?

Rob Moseley …. Editor of Oregon’s Pravda?

The post read like a normal head coach firing announcement, complete with quotes and appreciation from both sides. That is, until you got to the backend of the story. Then, things suddenly shifted from “providing information” to “throwing Helfrich under the bus.”

Calling out Helfrich’s shortcomings and harping on the mistakes made during his tenure hardly seemed like the kind of tone you’d want your athletic department’s website in the initial announcement, especially considering the piece begins with a humble, appreciative quote from Helfrich himself.

I love my Ducks, but am now licking my wounds and confused by the senseless drama, dilemmas and demonstrated lack of leadership. If any program is not reaching its objectives, then adjust that course. If that doesn’t work change course before any long-term damage results. And, in all actions be truthful and fair while holding others up along the way.

I remember the dismal Ducks Football teams of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Don’t let an Athletic Director take us to that place again.

Brent Pennington
Greenville, South Carolina

Top photo credit:

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