“He can’t mean me!” I know that many of you were thinking that when you saw the title … but this applies to everyone, including Mr. FishDuck, as the events of the last year and a half got me thinking about this. How loyal would we be if one decision made 42 years ago, which was completely out of the hands of Oregon fans and athletic administration, changed everything we now know about Oregon Football, a scenario that is very plausible? Humor me as you contemplate it as well …
We all went through a horrible transition in 2016 as the season wore on, and it was pretty bad for this writer. You know I was quite the apologist for Coach Mark Helfrich and, in the end, could not put my bias for the Oregon offense ahead of poor leadership and defensive play. It was a very painful time where we questioned our loyalty as Oregon fans while feuding with fellow fans over the Ducks’ future.
Our internal tug of war continued with the hiring of Taggart, the great things he brought to the Ducks and his subsequent betrayal (which turned out for the best, we believe). It continued with the hiring of Coach Mario Cristobal and the loss of many recruits, and we wrestled with whether “we would swallow the Cristobal Kool-Aid.” Enough time and events have occurred to allay most of our fears, although we all are in “wait” mode for the final judgment on the coaching hire. So far, so good.
This article was not supposed to be about Oregon fan loyalty, but a different topic that I’ll cover in the future. While I was doing research, I stumbled on something that blew me away and began this thoughtful exercise that I hope you will join me in. We go back to December of 1975, 42 years ago, when Oregon State had three finalists for their head coaching job in Craig Fertig, Terry Donahue and Rich Brooks.
As many will remember, Terry Donahue went on to a terrific career as head coach at UCLA, we certainly feel warmly toward Coach Brooks, and Kentucky fans are grateful for his skills as well. Oregon State Athletic Director Dee Andros hired former USC Offensive Coordinator Craig Fertig (and later two other unremarkable losing coaches in Joe Avezzano and Dave Kraigthorpe) and spurned former OSU player Rich Brooks, who was hired by Oregon a little over a year later.
What if that one decision—to hire Brooks had been made by OSU? How would things be different? Coach Brooks would have given his all for his Alma Mater, and the Beavers would have been patient with him, just as Oregon was. Later in the 80s, you would see Brooks wanting to expand his passing attack and bring Mike Bellotti to Corvallis, who would later bring Chip Kelly to the orange and black to complete the conversion to the Spread Offense.
Oh, it gets worse. Remember that Phil Knight did not contribute his resources to Oregon until after the first Rose Bowl season in over 30 years (1995). No surprise, as winners work with winners, and the Ducks had to do it themselves without him first. Without Brooks and Bellotti? It does not happen. No Mo Indoor Practice Facility, no expanded Cas Center, no additions to Autzen and no Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
No multi-uniform combinations from NIKE and no national brand.
Charles—my head is going to explode!
It is the Ducks who would have been the struggling little brother, who would hate their rival more than they love their own team and who would cling to any victory in any minor sport to soothe the pain of decisions made by a former coach and Athletic Director so many years prior.
The most incredible part? This alternate dimension or reality was entirely controlled by Oregon State; it was their decision, and Oregon (and their fans) had no say in it! One decision by the Beavers controlled the next 42 years of athletic destiny at both schools …
I’ve always admired Beaver fans, as they support their school no matter what. Regardless of how bad the Beavs are, thousands show up for games and support their school. That is the definition of loyalty. Would Oregon fans do that?
Can you say “27 thousand?” That is what we would see at Autzen for games, and sometimes worse. What kind of fan would you be? As loyal as the Beaver fans?
This scenario is entirely plausible, as the decision was in the hands of Oregon State. When you consider it all, it kinda makes our fussing over being in the top 15 in recruiting versus the top ten unbelievably silly. Ruminate on the problems we have now versus what the Beavers are up against, as it could have been us … easily.
“Oh how this might be a time to ponder our loyalty to our Beloved Ducks, and to count our blessings?”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Top Photo by Kevin Cline