The University of Oregon has become one of the most relevant college football programs in the nation. They have flirted with obtaining elite status in the past decade. They have uniforms that are mesmerizing and blinding. The brand new football complex is other-worldly, as it is a wondrous new athletic structure. But where Oregon has stood above and beyond in the college football realm is their decision decisions to promote from within, and not reaching out into the nether worlds of a college coaching search.
Since Rich Brooks moved on in 1994, they have promoted Mike Bellotti, then Chip Kelly, and finally Mark Helfrich. It shows an unyielding loyalty to those within the program, and it also has kept the “Oregon Way” in-house.
Some cracks are starting to form, however, with Mark Helfrich. His teams without Marcus Mariota playing quarterback are now at only 12 wins against 10 losses. One expected a slight regression during the 2015 season., but this is now is looking more like a freefall during a tumultuous 2016. Oregon is 3-6 overall and 1-5 in league play following a 45-20 loss this past Saturday against USC. The defense is the main issue as to this free fall, and it has clearly not been repaired with the arrival of former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. In the five Pac-12 losses, the Ducks have allowed an astounding 259 points, which averages out to 51.8 per game, and 3,141 yards, averaging out to an unreal 628.2 per game. With their remaining games against Stanford, Utah, and rival Oregon State, a 3-9 season is not at all out of the question.
The question now being raised is what will Oregon do if the season completely craters. One of the hot rumors is that Helfrich’s seat is starting to get hot. I believe that the rumor has merit. The time has come for Oregon, at least in this case, to remove itself from the “Oregon Way” and go outside, hire, and ultimately, pay for a new coach. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Oregon – backed most notably by Nike magnate and billionaire Phil Knight – is ready and willing to spend. The possibility that the next coach could break the bank is endless. The next coach will have an endless supply of resources, as well as now knowing that he can recruit his way.
Here are some of the names that are being thrown out there if the Oregon position were to open after this season:
Tom Herman, Houston
Just because his team lost a couple of games this season, it doesn’t mean that he forgot how to coach. He is still one of the top, if not the top, names out there, and he would have to be considered. Herman has plenty of connections to both the west and midwest regarding recruiting and roots, and Oregon presents itself as a very strong option. If one can see what he is doing with Houston, one could only imagine what he could do with Oregon’s resources.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Mullen just might make the most sense for Oregon. He has done amazing work with the Bulldogs, and the upset of Texas A&M on Saturday is yet another example of the work he’s done in Starkville. He maybe an offensive guru, and, but he has also had a knack for hiring solid defensive assistants, something of which Oregon would look for when looking for a head coach. Also, if you take a very close look at his current staff, there are PAC-12 roots already laid. Current defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon played at Oregon and was an assistant at USC and Washington, while quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson played and coached at Utah.
Bryan Harsin, Boise State
Now, if Oregon ultimately doesn’t opt to break the bank, and keep the salary to within the “Oregon Way,” do not be surprised if Harsin becomes an intriguing choice. Harsin’s predecessor at BSU, Chris Petersen, now coach of the Washington Huskies, was said to be interested in the Oregon job when it opened both times during his tenure there. Harsin is presently 29-7 at Boise, and could have them play in a New Year’s Day bowl as part of the Group of Five. The idea of the pupil (Harsin) and mentor (Petersen) squaring off in the PAC-12 is most certainly an intriguing one.