Very early Sunday morning, reports emerged that Oregon was close to pulling the trigger on dismissing Mark Helfrich. Not long after, it was confirmed that Helfrich would be meeting with his boss to discuss his future with the Ducks.
Late Tuesday night, the trigger was officially pulled.
According to a release, athletic director Rob Mullens “announced a change in leadership in the football program Tuesday, ending the four-year tenure” of Helfrich as the head coach of the Ducks. Despite the nuanced language, Helfrich becomes the first football coach fired by the Ducks since the 1976 season.
Helfrich, the first Oregon native to become the head coach of the football Ducks since 1942, had spent the last eight seasons at UO, the first four as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly.
“We want to thank Mark for his eight years with the University of Oregon and appreciate his efforts on behalf of Oregon football,” Mullens said in a statement. “We wish Mark and his family the best.”
Helfrich took over for Kelly when the latter left for an NFL job following the 2012 season. In his first two seasons, Helfrich won 24 games, including a 13-win 2014 season that ended with a loss to Ohio State in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy that season as well.
After that, the Ducks went 9-4 in 2015 and 4-8 in a 2016 season that became the coach’s undoing.
“It is a great honor to have served as the head football coach at the University of Oregon,” Helfrich said. “It is with respect and disappointment that we receive this decision. Plain and simple — we didn’t win enough games this season.
“Thank you first to my wife, Megan, and our family, the fans, the campus community, the board, our donors and administration. To our coaches, staff and their families, it is impossible to communicate my gratitude for the environment we got to work in every single day.
“Finally, to the players — thank you, and I love you. The future is bright for this young, talented team, and we will be supporting them and their new leadership.”
As for potential replacements, keep an eye on Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen. UCF’s Scott Frost, a former Ducks assistant under both Kelly and Helfrich, could also be an option, although the football program may look to break out of “familiarity” in its next head football coaching hire.