Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich may be sitting on a burning seat with a golden Nike logo embroidered on it, but it sure looks as though he is safe from being the next on the chopping block for at least a couple more days. Helfrich will be the only Oregon representative at a end-of-the-year news conference today, with the intent of meeting with Oregon representatives later this week to discuss the future.
This does not necessarily mean Helfrich is guaranteed to be safe to return to Oregon as head coach in 2017, because a lack of public showing of support from Athletics Director Rob Mullens comes off a bit ominous, but Helfrich having a plan to meet with Mullens and others this week could simply be routine and business as usual or just a way of putting off a coaching change until Oregon has all of its ducks in a row.
Oregon is coming off a brutal loss against in-state rival Oregon State, putting a fitting end to a dismal season that saw the Ducks go just 4-8. Rumors have been swirling around for weeks that changes could be inevitable at Oregon, with Nike founder Phil Knight reportedly willing to write whatever check necessary to hire the best available coach (a report that has been scrutinized by those close to the Oregon program since making the rounds). Two years ago, Oregon was playing for the national championship with the Heisman Trophy winner (Marcus Mariota). Last year the Ducks suffered a mind-blowing loss in the Alamo Bowl against TCU. And then, this year happened.The program is trending in the wrong direction under Helfrich right now. The only question is whether or not Oregon will wait another year to see if he is capable of turning things around or the time to hire a new coach is now.
The program is trending in the wrong direction under Helfrich right now. The only question is whether or not Oregon will wait another year to see if he is capable of turning things around or the time to hire a new coach is now. Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck and UCF coach (and former Oregon assistant) Scott Frost have been mentioned in the rumor mill as potential possibilities for the Ducks should a change be imminent.
Former Oregon athletics director Pat Kilkenny is not particularly happy with the current state of the Oregon Ducks program, but he is more upset with what he calls “irresponsible journalism” about the Oregon football program. Kilkenny took specific aim at ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, who recently reported via Twitter Nike CEO Phil Knight is willing to pay $10 million for a new head coach in Eugene.
“Things get said in the media that are out and out fabrications,” Kilkenny said when referring to reporting about the Oregon program. “That just creates real problems and makes Mark Helfrich’s job that’s already difficult, more difficult. It’s not fair to Phil and Penny Knight.”
Kilkenny did not hold back any punches about Rovell, but Kilkenny was more on the air to defend the entire program.
“It’s not just winning games. It’s about making sure your leadership is someone that’s a great role model. That’s something we have in spades.”
It is no secret that things have not gone well, and that has led to the idea that head coach Mark Helfrich is under fire. With Knight clearly devoted to the Oregon program, it makes sense he would be willing to pay big bucks to help the program win. Kilkenny admitted and explained Knight’s role in supporting the entire athletics department, including the head football coach.
“I am sure he’s tossing and turning at night,” Kilkenny said. “The optics and the expectations are so darn high.”
Hat sticker to Duck Territory for the transcribed quotes.
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is accustomed to seeing things done quickly, but he was taken off guard by the rapid pace the NCAA voted to ban satellite camp practices last week.
“It’s just a different situation, obviously,” Helfrich said, according to The Oregonian. “We’re in a place where we’d like to be able to go out and visit guys or have an opportunity to pay for it. It’s a rule. We’ll play the rules as they come. But that was surprising to have it come out Friday and then to have it happen that quickly.”
The Pac-12 was one of the four power conferences to vote in favor of the ban, with the Big Ten being the lone dissenting vote among the power conferences. Stanford head coach David Shaw suggested satellite camps never really affected the Stanford program due to academic standards, but Washington State head coach Mike Leach went off in criticizing the ban. Helfrich joined his counterpart at Wazzu with frowning on the decision, although he seemed to be ready to move on.
Helfrich would have a nice advantage from being allowed to work satellite camps, because he would have the opportunity to bring the Oregon (and Nike) brand with him to parts of the country that may not have a large number of recruits able to make a trip to Oregon during the recruiting process. The satellite camp ban is effective immediately.
Helfrich also shared his reaction to the deregulation of electronic messaging with recruits. He was not one to support the idea.
“If I am Johnny Blue Chip, I am not liking that very much. I am getting a new phone,” Helfrich suggested. “All those (coaches) will have the automated machines texting Johnny Blue Chip a thousand times a day, literally.”
The college football career of Oregon running back Thomas Tyner has come to an unceremonious end. Oregon has announced Tyner has taken a medical retirement from football, a year after missing the entire 2015 season due to a shoulder injury.
“We thank Thomas and wish him well,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said. “We will continue to support his efforts to graduate from the University of Oregon.”
Tyner was a five-star recruit for Oregon in the Class of 2013. The Beaverton, Oregon native was the top-rated recruit in that recruiting class, which also included offensive lineman Evan Voeller and four-star athletes Tyrell Robinson and Tyree Robinson.
“Thank you for all the support over the years,” Tyner said in a brief statement posted on his Twitter account Friday. “Couldn’t have been more blessed to have been party of such a great community, I have the [utmost] respect for the staff and my teammates. Now it’s time to get in the books and finish up in school. Much love to you all and Go Ducks!”
Tyner rushed for 711 yards and nine touchdowns in his freshman season and 573 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore before a midseason injury put him on the sideline for five games. He returned for Oregon’s College Football Playoff run and rushed for 124 yards against Florida State in the Rose Bowl semifinal game before rushing for 62 yards against Ohio State in the national championship game at the end of the 2014 season. Tyner missed the entire 2015 season, which led to Royce Freeman taking on the leading rusher role for the Ducks.
It would have been fun to watch Oregon run with Tyner and freeman, but alas sometimes health concerns have an unfortunate knack for taking a talented player out of the game, and that just stinks.
After one year away from the game, Brady Hoke is back. Hoke was named the defensive coordinator at Oregon on Saturday, filling a void left open by some internal coaching staff shuffling by Mark Helfrich following the bowl season. This marks Hoke’s return to the Pac-12. He had previously been an assistant at Oregon State from 1989 through 1994.
“We are extremely excited to welcome Coach Hoke to the Oregon family,” Helfrich said. “He’s passionate, knowledgeable and tough, and has an outstanding track record of success from a defensive standpoint.”
Hoke will be tasked with turning around one of the nation’s worst defenses, which should make for a good situation for the former Michigan head coach. After his job in Ann Arbor went up in flames as a head coach in 2014, a reduced role on a coaching staff should allow for Hoke to focus on what his strengths are. Hoke has always been recognized as a defensive-minded coach, and now without the labors that come with being a head coach, Hoke should be able to experience a revitalized coaching career.
Oregon ranked 117th in total defense in 2015, and that was put on display in a second-half meltdown against TCU in the Alamo Bowl this bowl season. Oregon blew a 31-point lead in the second half and lost to the Horned Frogs, playing with a backup quarterback. Days after the meltdown, Helfrich downgraded defensive coordinator Don Pellum to linebackers coach, opening up a spot on his staff at the coordinator position.