As we hit the one-year mark in the hiring of new Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, I couldn’t help but correlate it to the Ducks’ hiring of new head coach Dan Lanning. While there is still a long way to go in determining the overall success of these hires, there is certainly one thing that both have inspired for Oregon fans…
In both situations, the status quo was no longer going to cut it. In the case of former Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, the trail of futility he left behind was well documented and nobody questioned his dismissal, while with Mario Cristobal it is not nearly as cut and dry. Cristobal was a great recruiter and won a lot of games at Oregon, including the 2019 Rose Bowl, but Cristobal came with a limited ceiling. His reluctance to implement a high-powered offense meant that, while regularly competing for Pac-12 championships, Oregon was never going to win a National Championship under his watch.
Both these new leaders have proven to be unifiers. Kliavkoff has worked hard at restoring the broken relationships between Pac-12 headquarters and college campuses, abandoned the money pit lease in San Francisco, and has been described as a likable, engaging person who listens to those around him. Lanning has proven to be a personable player’s coach, who has adopted Oregon’s past by reaching out to former players and coaches and most importantly respects Oregon’s identity as a high-powered, high-flying offense.
Thank goodness, no more pistol plunges on third-and-one!
What makes these hires unique is that the employers did not go the conventional route. Neither of these men were on the radar when the search for their openings began. Instead of going after a top-tier college athletic director or president, the Pac-12 went after Kliavkoff, a man with a string of successes in the entertainment industry. While with Lanning, instead of going for a successful head coach with ties to the west coast (an irrational “must-have” when hiring in the Pac-12), Oregon chased after Lanning, a young SEC coordinator with no head coaching experience and no ties to the west.
In both searches, instead of following the “what we’ve always done” routine, Oregon and the Pac-12 hired who they believed to be the best person for the job, without pigeonholing themselves into considering only those who checked certain – and often unnecessary – boxes. Sure, there might be a short learning curve when stepping into new territory, but a good leader will figure out the lay of the land quickly. This is an easy trade-off for the long-term as opposed to a subpar hire (Justin Wilcox) who gets the nod simply because he knows “the lay of the land.”
There is a long way to go and much to be done in ultimately knowing the success of these two hires. As they say, time will tell. But, early returns are showing that, so far, both hires have been home runs.
Top photo credit: Gary Breedlove
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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