After a 4-8 season where the Ducks won just 2 games out of nine in Pac-12 play, Oregon has decided that Mark Helfrich will not return in 2017, and the program will instead head in a new direction.
The move marks the first time in nearly four decades that the program has fired a head coach.
In the school's release, Helf broke things down:
"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."
Steve Berkowitz, the USA Coaches Salary Database wizard, provided some insight into Helf's buyout numbers, and some of those Oregon assistants, many of whom are the longest tenured coaches in the country at one program.
Oregon's season started off well, going 2-0 against UC Davis and Virginia to open the season, but then the Ducks dropped the next five games in a row to Nebraska, Colorado, Washington State, Washington, and Cal. From there, they couldn't manage to get back on track, and after beating a struggling Arizona State team, they lost four of their last five games of the season, including Saturday's Civil War match up with Oregon State, 34-24.
Helfrich's head coaching career got of to a fast start at Oregon, where he led the Ducks to a the Alamo Bowl in his first year, followed by an appearance in the national title game in 2014 where they lost to. In Helf's third season, the Ducks took a minor step back to 9-4 before struggling to the 4-8 finish this season.
Oregon's staff has some of the most tenured coaches in the country on it, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the Ducks move forward. At least three Oregon assistants have spent three decades or more on the staff, led by running backs coach Gary Campbell (33 seasons), while assistant head coach / offensive line coach / run game coordinator Steve Greatwood and strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe just a few seasons behind at 31 seasons each. Linebackers coach Don Pellum has been with the program 27 seasons, while special teams coordinator Tom Osborne (15 seasons), and secondary coach John Neal (13 seasons) have enjoyed runs at Oregon that assistant coaches rarely experience in terms of length.
In coaching circles, Oregon will be looked at as a top-tier job that will attract some elite level coaches. Few programs have built the brand that Oregon has nationally.
With Texas and LSU now filled (see a full list of NFL and college head coaching openings here), Oregon is one of the top open jobs in the country featuring perhaps the nation's top football facility and what many believe are the best uniforms in the country too - if you're into that sort of thing.
Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.