Monday, October 3, 2016

October 03, 2016
With the third straight defeat on Saturday night, the low din of dissatisfaction rose to the level of uproar. A program just two years removed from a national championship appearance appears headed to the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference. Based on their play over the course of the first five games this season, that is not an improbable destination.

To be fair - it appears that Oregon State is even lower on the rung. But that might be it. There are no other 'easily' winnable games on the schedule, and there is the potential for some very seriously disconcerting losses. Not the least of which is on tap for this weekend.

Washington comes to Eugene as prohibitive favorites to end a rivalry long 12-game losing streak. The Ducks opened as 8 1/2 point underdogs - at home - to the resurgent Huskies. The point of this mention is to show how swiftly the tides of change have swept over the Willamette Valley.

Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.-Emily Dickinson

And so it is that Oregon waddles into Autzen this weekend looking for that faintest glimmer of hope; hope for a season not quite lost. But many fans, in blood lust fashion, want more than effort; they want results and change. This post really is not meant to point out the obvious to the oblivious. The 2016 Duck football team is not a good team. They are tattered and frayed at the edges, barely hanging on. 

No, this post is about the possibilities that their calls could be heeded. The famed Stoic philosopher Seneca once said that "It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness." Duck fans believed they had travelled through the woods of bleakness into that height of greatness, and to see it crash down like the Walls of Jericho, is a difficult pill to swallow.

Nonetheless, despite the belief that no one else knows that the walls are crumbling, the Athletic Department is very aware of everything that is wrong with the program at the moment.


Last season, the Ducks suffered one of their more humiliating defeats at home to Utah. That game changed many things, but could also be the ultimate demise of the program. Following that game, sources have told me that the decision to demote Pellum had already been made; in fact, some sources indicated that he was essentially demoted that night and that the rest of the season was a collaborative effort by the defensive staff.

This was a departmental decision which head coach Mark Helfrich obliged and one of which he was in favor. So, yes, the athletic department knew there were problems and had begun the process of change. But it also became clear that Helfrich was coaching for his job going forward.

While it is true that, in some sense, every coach is 'coaching for his job' every season, there is an added pressure when the administration begins forcing a head coach's hand regarding staff composition. Some coaches respond very well - as Helfrich did last season with the team closing on a six-game regular season winning streak.

Helfrich had been on a form of notice that results were not matching expectations, and it had less to do with wins and losses than it did with the actual product being put on the field.


What is not as well known, in numbers, is the financial hit that the athletic department has taken over the course of the last two seasons (2015, 2016). Everyone knows that the consecutive sellout streak ended this season. Though it seems insignificant, there is more to it than the few thousand people who did not show up for a game against UC-Davis.

What I have been told is that football season ticket sales have decreased by almost twenty percent (20%) over the last two years. Boosters are not happy as they see a clear correlation between the product being offered and the sagging sales. It is well documented that the on-field product has declined significantly during the post Marcus Mariota years. Vernon Adams brought some excitement, but it was overshadowed by so many other issues - and those have come to a head this season. An offense that is under-performing and a defense that is simply awful has fans and the administration disenchanted.



The lost season ticket sales alone account for anywhere from $4 million to $5 million per season. Those numbers, in and of themselves, make a buyout expensive, but it can be absorbed should the athletic department administration find a coach who can re-energize the fan base and get ticket sales back up to 2014 levels. 

If you add in the lost concessions revenue, that $11.05 million buyout gets even smaller. 

Yes, there are a number of boosters already lining up to gather pledges for the buyout should it become necessary. I am not predicting that a firing and buyout will be necessary this season, but should the ship continue to sink, do not be surprised, and do not think that the buyout will be an issue. The boosters have far too much invested to watch what has been built fade into the night nothing more than a fizzled daydream.


This is another concern of the athletic department administration. There is much fan lament over the uniforms and how little they matter to winning football teams. While the general consensus is that they are designed and marketed to attract top recruits, that is only a part of the story.

Like any business, growth requires adapting to changing demographics. With the advent of the Pac-12 Network and more night games, travel has become difficult for those living outside of Eugene. The Oregon fan base is aging and the administration is branding themselves not just to recruits - but to fans. They desperately need a new core of energetic fans, with disposable income, to come to games, to buy jerseys, season tickets, concessions, parking. All of these things are reasons for the concerted effort to attract younger fans.

For those that are there, look around, go to the middle of the stands and look, the demographics of the fans are critical to the continued growth of the program. 

This is a serious concern for the administration.


Today I am only talking about what the athletic department knows, what they are doing, and the reality that a change at the top of the football program is not as far out of reach as some might imagine. Boosters are restless; some very pointedly telling Athletic Director Rob Mullens that the product is not good. 

The buyout, though large, is not something which will hold back the athletic department should they deem a change is necessary.

I do not expect it to come prior to the end of the season, but would not be shocked if that decision has already been made, but not announced. Texas made a leak on their decision regarding Charlie Strong hoping it would pique the interest of a particular hot commodity coach not far away - but that is hogwash (not going to swear here). Tom Herman has an agent - one who can be contacted at any point to gauge interest - so there is no reason to publicly hang a coach out to dry. Lame duck coaches rarely provide value to the university.

If the decision has been made already (which none of my sources indicate has happened yet), it seems doubtful it will be leaked or announced. The Pellum decision was known in late September last year, and no one outside of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex knew about it until January of this year.

Coaching Candidates should a change be made? I will cover that later this week in another post.

All for now.

Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.
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Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.
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Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.
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Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.
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Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.
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Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.
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