Are you FINALLY Ready to Give Rob Mullens His Due?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 43 Comments

It seems obvious now that Athletic Director Rob Mullens has done a tremendous job at Oregon, but a few years ago this site was in a veritable melt-down as many wanted to see him gone. “He doesn’t know how to hire good people” and “he is just a bean-counter” are the type of phrases written in emails to me and repeated in comments on this site. Some famous FishDuck writers gave their thoughts right here three and a half years ago, and many of the statements in that article and this one were not pretty.

Those of us who are of GreyBeard age view this time as a Golden Era of Oregon Athletics. Never have we as fans experienced a year of a conference championship in football, sweet sixteen finishes for both genders of basketball, an indoor track national championship, a volleyball team finishing 14th in the nation, and both softball and baseball teams achieving National Seeds in their respective NCAA tournaments–in a rebuilding year. It is stunning, it is rare, and I am grateful.

It was not long ago when Mullens was being fried in the media for creating a contract with too big a buyout for Mark Helfrich, and then refried for too small a buyout for Willie Taggart. It seemed he could not get it right, and we fans were indignant.

Melissa Macatee

Oregon’s budget destiny is tied to the talents of Rob Mullens and Mario Cristobal.

Yet I would remind people how hard it is to hire and retain good coaches, as you just don’t know how it will turn out. You do your best homework, listen to the pitch and make your best selection with crossed fingers. I point to the example in the late 1970’s when Oregon State had three finalists for their head football coaching job who were Terry Donahue (who went on to UCLA to win a boatload of games and bowls) Rich Brooks, and the Offensive Coordinator for National Champion USC (under John Robinson) Craig Fertig. It seemed like a great choice for the Beavers at the time…

Imagine if they hired Rich Brooks?

All the rebuilding would have taken place in Corvallis? Beaver Brooks would have brought in Mike Bellotti to update their offense, and Beaver Bellotti would have ushered Chip Kelly to Oregon State. All our history could have been theirs?

All due to the decision of one Athletic Director, as we fans have no say in the decision and just have to live with the results. The blame or credit of every hire gets placed entirely on the Athletic Director, and oftentimes–it is a crapshoot. Who knows which coach will get it done? Hiring coaches is very, very hard…

This incredible facility can also be partially credited to Rob Mullens?

Yet Mullens’s hiring record is amazing. Recent hires of Coach Lombardi (Softball), Coach Waz (Baseball), and Coach Abel (Soccer) appear to be working well already, and the Ducks are in a position that we fans can only dream of. And yet we fans had nothing to do with it; the results come from one man.

He has also been a superb ambassador of Oregon as President of the CFP Committee, and he has fostered a great relationship with Oregon’s most important booster. I, Mr. FishDuck admit to writing and speaking ill of Rob Mullens years ago, but he has proved me completely wrong, and I am thankful for his success on our behalf.

I, for one, am ready to give Rob Mullens his due. How about you?

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Screenshot from ESPN Video

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AD Mullens is also a class act. My son is attending Grand Canyon University as a Sports Management/Marketing major. His freshman year he had an assignment to interview anybody who works in the sports world in a management or marketing capacity. Having grown up a lifelong duck my son thought, “What about AD Mullens?”

He sent him an email asking if he could interview him and Mr. Mullens emailed back promptly saying he’d love to do so. They chatted on the phone for about 15 minutes as my son asked his questions and that was that. Pretty stinking awesome for Mullens to take time out of his day to help a student from a different university with a homework assignment.


I like RM! We all make mistakes…most of us anyway. MH could handle the Ferrari he was given keys to drive since he was only use to Yugos. WT was a used car salesman of the highest order! “The car looks and runs great! There’s no need for your mechanic to check it over…”


That was meant to say *couldn’t handle*

Brian Libby

It’s really something to think of how much has changed and happened since Mullens was hired in July 2010. At that point, the Ducks had never played for a national championship in football and had still won only a single marquee January bowl game over 90-plus years. There was no Marcus Mariota.

The men’s and women’s basketball team still played in Mac Court — a great old place that nevertheless didn’t really help with recruiting — and neither had been to the Final Four since the men won it in 1939. There was no Sabrina Ionescu yet. The track team competed in the most historic track and field venue in America, but one that looked like high school bleachers.

Since then, not only has Hayward been totally rebuilt but both the men’s and women’s teams have pairs of national championships. Which is to say nothing of the national championships that have come in other sports like golf, or the return of Oregon’s baseball program, which kicked off just as Mullens arrived.

I’m not saying he deserves the credit for all that stuff — it’s the players and coaches, etc. But it seems safe to say that no other athletic director in Oregon history has presided over so much success.


I repeat, quote my first sentence,

“I want to add that Mullens came into an Athletic Department set up for success.”

You illuminate my point extremely well.

Brian Libby

I hear you, Haywarduck. You’re basically arguing for the chicken over the egg, or the egg over the chicken. Or to put it another way, you are absolutely right that Mullens was set up for success. But being set up for success doesn’t guarantee success. Has he not performed well?


Agree, and I stated he has done a good job, and is very capable. I do think it is important to differentiate between a guy who was set up to continue success, and a guy who cleaned up a mess. Two very different jobs, but both important.

The huge credit Mullens should get it is letting PK build those structures. As many know not knowing how to deal with the ultra powerful PK can cause you to lose your job and make you look like a fool. Bill Moos ended up having both happen.

The track program was in bad shape with no national championships and Phil wanted it fixed. Moos wouldn’t fix it, end of his tenure, and Moos was a very capable guy too. PK got his new coach, we started to win again, and we got a new arena!

Jon Joseph

Great + informative take, Thank you.


Another reminder…Mullins was under considerable pressure from a majority of Duck football players…those who signed a petition calling for the hiring of MC when the Snake left for browner pastures. Yes, in finality it was Mullins’ decision. But he had a lot of help from our boys in the trenches.

While I agree Leavitt wouldn’t have produced the same results on the recruiting trail, I would love to see him get another chance.

It could easily be argued Leavitt had a bigger impact on the program before the hiring of Cristobal.

I love Cristobal, and we have benefitted from our hiring of him, but Leavitt helped us a great deal. I will always be grateful for what Leavitt brought to our program and wish him only the best.

Jon Joseph

But was Leavitt who never moved to Eugene truly all in?


I agree with some of the venerable writers on this thread, Rob Mullins has earned my respect as well. Oregon has had nine A.D.’s since 1976.

John Caine hired Brooks as HC in 77, and Rich started to not only right the ship, but to put UO on the right course. When Rich served as AD from 92-94, he continued on that heading.

Bill Moos did a lot for this university between 95 and 07, mainly clearing the pathway for Bellotti to add Nike and Phil Knight to the mix. Moos was replaced by Pat Kilkenny for a couple years when MK Arena and PL Park were built. Bellotti also served as AD for a year, and left for the broadcast booth.

While Rob made a couple of hiring blunders early on, he’s been batting close to 1000 since. As Charles mentioned in the article, we are experiencing unprecedented athletic success with most of the Ducks’ teams.

What a time to be a Duck fan!


I want to add that Mullens came into an Athletic Department set up for success. The criticism of him was just as he blew a few situations, a bean counter as he was hired to be, he shouldn’t have missed. He is now growing into the position and we are all benefiting.

Brooks on the other hand came into a hot mess. The level of respect I have for what Brooks did, far exceeds my admiration for Mullens.

What we have with our football program, now, can be traced back to what Brooks built. What we have now in our Athletic Department is the work of many, and I am happy it is in the capable hands of Rob Mullens.


Mullens clearly has grown into the job, to the point that Oregon has to be concerned about somebody poaching him. The unfortunate mishandling of the Helfrich situation, and the shocking early exit of Willie Taggert, are blemishes but his overall performance has been exemplary.

An interesting side note, Rich Brooks, coaching at Kentucky at the time, apparently enthusiastically endorsed Mullens, who was an assistant athletic director at Kentucky, for the Oregon AD position. Another contribution by Brooks.

Mullens has made some excellent hires, of course……Kelly Graves, Mark Wasikowski, Mario Cristobal…..all are homeruns. But I wasn’t thrilled at all with his allowing softball coach Mike White to leave for Texas, rather than meet his modest salary increase demand, which reportedly was less than what Texas was offering. But his hiring of Melyissa Lombardi has turned out to be a great choice.

But what may turn out to be the best hire of all is Pat Kilkenny’s wooing of Dana Altman and convincing him to leave Creighton after something like 17 years. That was a grand slam walk off in the bottom of the ninth.

Duck Phan Phil

A major come-from-behind victory with a Altman, who was far from our first choice. We shot for some big names and were repeatedly spurned before PK nabbed Altman.


I remember him commenting about that, something like, “Look at my wife and look at me….I wasn’t her first choice, either.”

I think the Ducks were after Tom Izzo and Tubby Smith, both of whom declined.

Great point.

However, if Mullens had been offered the job at A+M or UGA, I don’t think his agent would hesitate to use the offer as leverage for a bigger salary in Eugene?


Yes Mr Rob has earned my respect and yes I will admit I was there asking for someone better for his job a few years back. I really want to have faith he keeps the upward trajectory and there’s no where to go for Oregon in all sports to go but up. Honestly I still expect Rob or whoever talks to who about exspansion and I want Autzan to seat 70 Thousand and I know it would be full every home game.

So if Rob can accomplish that, then to me he is the Cats pajama’s and whatever the heck that means I don’t have a clue but it sounded good Aye. After the Two Face loss I was wanting Robs head. Thank goodness we dodged a bullit and maybe we should thank Rob for not making Slicks buyout more. I loved it even more that FSU git him over payed him and then fired him as their loss.

Man we dodged a huge one when they took that lying Dog off our patio. FSU as far as I’m concerned got what they deserved and hopefully more because after the Winston crap that he basically was above the law and I guess some Colleges want to win at all costs and thats on them because there really is an asterisk when it comes to their championship because of Winston. So yes Double thanks Rob.


AD Rob Mullens has earned my respect. I view him as one of the top athletic directors in the NCAA. I was formerly a critic due to Mullen’s handling of coaches Helfrich and Taggart. Just like it is a longways from Morgantown, West “By God” Virginia to Eugene, Rob Mullens has come a long way in leading Oregon sports since those dark days.

Athletic directors have a tough job beholden to many stakeholders. The NCAA wants compliance. Donors want championships and Return on Investment. Students want access and inclusion. Season ticket holders want competitive teams, coaches they can relate to and winning programs. The university president wants balanced budgets, rules compliance, image building for the UO, and few complaints from the myriad of stakeholders. Oh, and increasing revenue.

University of Oregon sports are in good hands under AD Mullens. These are glory days, but the near future is even brighter for Ducks sports.

To Rob Mullens, Dilly Dilly!


Beavs probably would have fired Brooks well before the 17 years it took to take the team to the Rose Bowl….


That is the OSU way Annie!

But not so fast my feathered friends……………….remember the Dee Andros and Ralph Miller eras when Beavis pretty much owned us in football and basketball.


If i didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. ; )


I think in the 17-year time frame from 1977-1994 the Beavs had 6 head coaches:







J Duck

Mullens didn’t start it, Phil Knight and the football facilities, Bellotti and the Fiesta Bowl, Ernie Kent…taking the Brooks foundation and going to another level, that came first. The highest levels of success in T&F came right before Mullens, Volleyball’s championship game appearance as well.

He also inherited the Chip Kelly success, and indeed walked in to an early quagmire of having to hire a head coach for football in the wake of the CK era. When you look at the overall success of all Duck sports in the Mullens era…Men’s golf won a natty, tennis is rising, and a couple

Rose Bowl victories, a final 4 for MBB and WBB…and baseball and softball…he inherited some of that but made the hires for a lot of it too. Add in the political wrangling of Hayward, keeping Uncle Phil on board, the disaster of Larry Loser…gotta wonder if Mullens ever went to Schill and said “vote this guy out”.

I think Mullens gets calls from search agencies representing big name schools. We are lucky to have him.

Jon Joseph

Mea Culpa, Rob!

But, with 1 minor caveat. As long as you get it right, right? Sometimes you get it right for the wrong reason. Would Cristobal have been on Rob’s radar for the job as football HC if Willie hadn’t brought Mario west?

Rob, back to back, hired a football head coach with no P5 HC experience and with an overall losing record at the G5 level. He rolled box cars with Slick Willie, but so far it looks likes he is coming out 7/11 with Mario.

All coaching hires are important. Ultimately, AD’s at P5 schools will be judged on their football and basketball HC hires. Hopefully, Rob will not be required to hire a new football and/or basketball coach for many the season.


Jon, you of course meant Mullen rolled snake eyes with the Slickster.

Jon Joseph

Touche and spot on!


Great points and how you can look at it differently. Also in the last 10 or so years I’ve read or heard from people hiring others is their interview is what made them pull the strings for that individuals hire. Rob definitely got it right with Mario over our over paid old DC. That would have been a total miss.

We did as far as I’m concerned luck out with this hire. The happiness will only go as far as Mario lets his team do what we should expect them to do. This is Mario’s coming out year if you ask me. No do overs, just let Moorehead teach this talented offensive group, right. I mean Gray Beards when have we ever looked at our rosters even in Chips years were we ever this deep on offense?

Also just explain if you ever thought we’d ever be thinking if one of our True freshman would be part of the equation? I mean if you aren’t excited about these possibilities next fall then you need to do something else. This is it and I’ve said this will be the team that will finally beat OS. I still believe if Brown is the guy then we should be able to beat everybody on our schedule. It really needs to happen.

Jon Joseph

I am excited. But when it comes to the Buckeyes, my excitement is tempered by 0-10.

In 2021 the Ducks, along with Miami, do make it into Bud Elliott’s Blue Chip Ratio. The Ducks stand at 56% 4/5 star guys on the roster. (UW at 49% drops out.)

Ohio State? 79% of the roster is 4/5 star guys. Bama is 1 at 84%; UGA 2 at 80%.

This ratio has been infallible since the modern era of recruiting rankings. No team has won a title without being a member of the Blue Chip Ratio club. The closest call? Clemson in 2016 with a roster that came in at 52%.

So yeah, there is a chance to win in Columbus (not helped by a ‘9AM’ kickoff.) However, if Brown leads the team to a victory it will be the first time he will have defeated a top 25 team.

I am going to enjoy the journey. Realistically, I think the Ducks will have a great chance in 2023, when Ohio St/UGA are not on the regular season schedule.

Great reply, thank you.


He was due criticism at the time, and praise now.

I would also say the Oregon way is to give support, and demand performance while sprinkling that with patience. If Oregon State, at the time, had hired Brooks or Donohue they may have fired both of them.

Mullens has grown into his position, much like many of our great coaches. It isn’t often we get a Chip Kelly or a Dana Altman who just win out of the gate. Most of the time we get a Brooks or Mullens, good at what they do, but it takes time to build into greatness.

Brooks deserved scorn for the recruiting violations under his leadership, but showed promise. Mullens deserved criticism for the Helfrich contract, but also showed great leadership at the time. Both deserved the knocks by fans, but also time to work it out, and that is what happened, the Oregon way.