For much of the 1900’s the Oregon Ducks were… not so good at football. For example, in the 1920’s saw the Ducks go winless four times in ten years. Other times, they were excellent, like in 1948, when they went undefeated in the regular season (7-0), only to do the exact opposite only two seasons later. The program also (sadly) has no national championships.
All of that started to change with Rich Brooks in the late 70’s. The early Brooks teams were still not good, but they started to be more consistent. This led the athletic department to retain the coach for nearly two decades. During that time Oregon won only a single bowl game, and amassed an underwhelming record of 91-109. But his leadership not only stabilized the program, particularly in the 1990’s, but brought something to Eugene that had never been there before: talent.
Mike Bellotti was the culmination of two decades of trying to get the program off the ground. Combined with the explosion of University of Oregon Alumnus Phil Knight’s company (you may have heard of it), and thus renewed investment in the athletic department, Bellotti was able to take the program to the precipice of greatness in 2003. Overall Bellotti was able to turn around the program and make them a mainstay in the top 25, and he even got the Ducks their first “New Years Six” bowl win since 1916.
You all know the story of the last decade and a half of Oregon football: two National Championship berths, a Heisman Trophy winner, multiple Rose Bowl victories, and almost non-stop winning seasons (almost). Given the depths to which the program had fallen, just how high have the Ducks risen? And how high can they go?
Well, for starters, as far as winning percentage goes, Oregon currently ranks 39th nationally at 57.5%. While that may not seem impressive, they were once much, much lower. In the last few weeks the Ducks even passed Stanford, and are now only a fraction of a percent behind Pittsburgh for 38th. The journey to 60% has been underway for a long time, and it should be attainable in the next few years.
Oregon is currently tied for 49th in conference championships. Considering that in 2000 they only had five conference titles, the program has only been looking up. With a Pac-12 championship in 2023, Oregon would move into a tie for 43rd all time. While the Ducks are unlikely to ever enter into the top 3 all time as a program (the top 3 all have at least 44 conference championships), there is no shame in moving up the list year after year.
The Ducks currently sit 33rd all time in wins, which won’t change this year unless Missouri loses every game left this year and Oregon goes undefeated (Oregon has 697 wins, Missouri has 707) but it is attainable for them to move up in the next couple of seasons. More interestingly, the Ducks should be over 700 wins all time prior to the end of the 2023 season.
Overall, Oregon has a chance to move up a lot of lists in the next year or two, and there is always the chance that they become the 43rd team to ever win a National Championship. Given all the ground the program gave up during the decades of mediocrity that our beloved team suffered through, it is comforting to think that in only three short decades they have become, at the very worst, respectable.
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Top Photo By: Nancy Paiva
Ryan Robertson is a defense contractor for the United States Marine Corps. A lifelong Duck fan from Grants Pass, he joined the Army out of high school. After four years as an Intelligence Analyst he decided it was time to further his education and pay more attention to his Ducks. One of Ryan’s first memories is of watching the Ducks, led by Joey Harrington, beating up on the Utah Utes in 2001. His grandfather ran track at Oregon in the ‘50s. He loves the Ducks, and has a passionate interest in reading every scrap of analysis centered around the football team.
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