What if Kenny Wheaton had guessed wrong on that sunny October afternoon in 1994?
How different would things be at Oregon if #20 hadn’t had the chance to cut back to greatness?
Considering the circumstances, things could have been very, very different at Oregon…
Huskies Come From Behind To Nip Pesky Ducks, 27-24
10/23/94 (AP) - The Washington Huskies are still top dog in the Pac-10.
Dave Janoski scored on a short touchdown pass from Damon Huard with under a minute left to play, and ninth-ranked Washington survived a valiant effort by Oregon to win its fifth consecutive game, 27-24, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
Oregon, which couldn’t generate any offense against the Huskies for most of the game, was able to hold Napoleon Kaufman, the nation’s leading rusher, to 101 yards on 23 carries. But Washington used a balanced attack led by QB Damon Huard to outgain the Ducks 452-150. The Huskies defense harassed Duck QB Danny O’Neil all afternoon, forcing two interceptions.
Oregon had taken the lead on Dwayne Jones’ 12 yard touchdown run, capping a 98 yard drive. But the Huskies had excellent field position near midfield after an excessive celebration penalty moved the Oregon kickoff back to the 25 yard line, and Huard executed the two-minute drill perfectly.
On the ultimate play, Oregon redshirt freshman cornerback Kenny Wheaton admitted in post-game interviews that he’d made a huge mistake.
“I jumped the out pattern,” Wheaton said, “but Janoski ran a slant instead. Nobody was there to pick him up.” Janoski was wide open in the end zone for the short TD reception.
Oregon senior QB Danny O’Neil is now 0-17 in games where his team has trailed in the second half of games.
Oregon falls to 4-4 (2-2 in the Pac-10), and needs to win three of its next four games to be bowl eligible, as one of its wins was against Division 1AA Portland State. UW is 6-1 (3-1) and on probation.
Brooks Calls Bullshit; Fires Brooks, Resigns As AD
11/20/94 (AP) - Not even a win over Oregon’s greatest rival could save the job of its head coach.
At a press conference today, Rich Brooks, Oregon’s athletic director, announced that the 1994 season would be the last for Coach Rich Brooks. Brooks then announced his resignation as athletic director. “I was waiting for the athletic director’s call to let me know I was canned, but the line was always busy,” he said. “I bugged them for years to get us a second line. In the end, the facilities wound up killing us, just like I always said they would.”
Coach Brooks said that he didn’t want to quit, but that he was being forced out by the athletic director. “This is bullshit,” said Coach Brooks. “The administration has never shown any real interest in having a competitive football program… I think we’ve done a good job holding this place together.. We’ve been to three bowl games in six years, you know.. That should count for something. The last three coaches didn’t get to one bowl game.”
Later, Athletic Director Rich Brooks took issue with the comments of his coach. “If Rich Brooks thinks he’s bigger than this university he needs to understand that it’s not all about Rich Brooks. Frankly, he’s a very average coach and I’m sick of his bullshit,” AD Brooks said.
Coach Brooks leaves Oregon with a record of 88-111-4 over 18 seasons and a bowl record of 1-3. Oregon was in Rose Bowl contention until a tough home loss to Washington, the first of three straight home defeats. The announced crowd of 24,350 for the 34-10 loss to Arizona State at Autzen was the lowest turnout for a conference home game in ten years, and led to increasing pressure from boosters.
Wins on the road against Stanford and rival Oregon State evened the Oregon record at 6-6; however, an appeal for bowl eligibility with the NCAA was turned down earlier today, thwarting a proposed berth in the Copper Bowl against BYU. Oklahoma (6-6) announced today it had accepted the Copper Bowl bid.
UO President Dave Frohnmayer said it was unlikely that any of the current coaching staff would be retained, but that he expected most of them to show up for work anyway, “because what else are they going to do?”
Nublitz Named AD; Vows to Put Football In Its Proper Place
1/15/1995 (AP) - Oregon president David Frohnmayer announced that School of Biology professor Herman Nublitz had agreed “in principle” to serve as acting athletic director for the school while its search for a head coach continues.
“Professor Nublitz brings a healthy perspective to athletics at Oregon,” Frohnmayer said. “He understands that the purpose of a university is to educate its students and bring knowledge to the community through research, and sometimes we lose sight of that when we focus on athletics.”
Nublitz, in an interview, said that one of his first goals would be to require all donors to the Duck Athletic Fund to make an equivalent or greater donation to a non-athletic college department or lose their right to purchase preferred seating. He also announced plans to cut available parking at Autzen Stadium by 50% by converting “seldom-used” parking into wetland remediation zones. “We want to make Oregon a home for real ducks.”
In other news, Oregon OC Mike Bellotti was appointed head coach at Colorado last week. Former DC Nick Aliotti joined Rick Neuheisel’s staff at Ole Miss. The rest of the long-tenured assistants - Tom Osborne, Don Pellum, Joe Shaffeld, Neal Zoumboukos and Gary Campbell - were, according to Campbell, “just hanging out at the Cas Center waiting for someone to tell us what to do.”
Knox Hired as Oregon Coach; Vows to Follow In Footsteps of Brooks
3/15/1995 (AP) - “Ground Chuck” is coming to the Pac-10.
Acting athletic director Herman Nublitz announced today that Chuck Knox, the veteran NFL head coach fired by the Rams last month, had agreed to accept the vacant head coaching job at Oregon.
“We’re all very excited that a coach of such professional stature as Mr. Knox has agreed to join Oregon’s faculty and staff,” Nublitz said. Knox formerly coached the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills between two stints with the Rams. Although Knox, 62, has never been a head coach at the college level, Nublitz noted that “a lot of people have never been college head coaches, and it’s unfair to tar him with that brush.”
Details of the agreement were not released. An anonymous source within the athletic department said that Knox decided to take the job because “he’s an avid fly fisherman, he doesn’t need the money, and the Rams still owe him for one more year.”
Asked about the contract terms, Nublitz said Knox had requested a “‘pull-through with facilities,’ whatever that means.”
“Scoreboard, Baby!”, Bellotti Crows as Buffs Top Ducks In Honolulu
12/31/1998 (AP) - The Chuck Knox Era at Oregon came to a disappointing, if high-scoring, end today. The Ducks were unable to send Knox into retirement as a winner in the Aloha Bowl, losing to former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti’s Colorado Buffaloes 51-43.
Knox leaves Oregon with a record of 24-23, and was 1-2 in bowl games with the Ducks, including a Copper Bowl win over UTEP in 1997 and a loss to TCU in the Independence Bowl in 1995. He is the first Oregon coach to leave with a winning record since Len Casanova (68-59-6) in 1966.
Oregon last week named John Mackovic, veteran college and NFL coach, as head coach for the 1999 campaign. Oregon’s long-tenured assistants - Tom Osborne, Don Pellum, Joe Shaffeld, Neal Zoumboukos and Gary Campbell - were, according to Campbell, “just hanging out at the Cas Center waiting for someone to tell us what to do.”
Autzen Gets Knight Lights
Knight set to repair decrepit Autzen scoreboard12/10/2001 (AP) - UO Athletic Director Herman Nublitz announced that Phil Knight, president and CEO of Nike, had agreed to make a material donation to a campaign to repair the aging scoreboard at Autzen Stadium. The value of the donation, in the form of several thousand high-intensity light bulbs removed from displays at Nike Stores nationwide, was estimated in the tens of hundreds of dollars.
Knight, an Oregon alum who has previously funded capital projects for the Oregon library and law school, is not known to have donated significantly to Oregon athletics. Knight’s college sports attention, and a significant amount of money, has famously been focused on creating world-class football facilities at Oregon State University. The Corvallis school welcomed Knight into its donor base after Oregon’s faculty Senate voted several years ago to join the Worker’s Rights Consortium; the school subsequently cut all ties with Nike in protest of what it called “sweatshop conditions” at Nike assembly plants in southeast Asia. Since this decision, Knight had refused to make any significant contributions to Oregon until today’s announcement.
OSU’s fortunes in football have closely tracked the increase in donations from Knight. The Beavers, coming off their third straight Civil War victory, are 11-1 this season, successfully defended their Pac-10 championship, and are headed to the Fiesta Bowl against Colorado, coached by former Oregon assistant coach Mike Bellotti.
Embattled Oregon football coach John Mackovic said he would not resign following Oregon’s 4-8 season, its worst since 1991. “We’ve been to two bowl games in three years, and you don’t just give up with a record like that,” Mackovic said.
Mack Sacked; Ty In?
11/17/2002 (AP) - Oregon AD Nathan Nublitz announced today that John Mackovic had been fired as Oregon head football coach, effective immediately.
The Ducks are 2-9 this season, with the only wins coming against Idaho and Division 1AA Portland State.
“I never understood how important the Washington game was to some people in this city,” Nublitz said. “But last night I had for-sale signs planted in my own front yard. And I live in an apartment building. And someone put “Sack Mack” flyers under the windshield wiper of my Prius, which was the last straw.”
Oregon lost to the Huskies 42-14 at Autzen last Saturday, and has not beaten Washington since 1988.
Offensive coordinator Chris Petersen will act as head coach for the Ducks in the Civil War before leaving to join the staff of new Boise State coach Dan Hawkins, a move announced last week. Petersen had been rumored to be under consideration as Mackovic’s replacement, but at a news conference he said “frankly, I see Boise State as a better opportunity.”
Recently fired Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham is said to be a leading candidate for the Oregon coaching vacancy.
Nublitz: “Dome Autzen By 2007”
4/15/2004 (AP) - Oregon may have a dome in its future after all.
AD Herman Nublitz announced that fundraising efforts were underway for a capital improvements project at Autzen Stadium that would include covering the 38-year-old facility with a wooden dome, a concept first floated in 1985 but cancelled because of the economy.
“Our real estate values have increased to the point that we feel we can fund a great portion of the cost of the dome by simply mortgaging the school’s property holdings,” Nublitz said.
The dome is seen by many boosters as vital to the future viability of the Oregon program, which has fallen on hard times lately. The last new facilities project for athletics was the Casanova Center, completed in 1991.
Under new head coach Tyrone Willingham last season, Oregon surprised experts by getting to a bowl after going 2-10 in 2002, but lost in the Silicon Valley Classic to Fresno State to finish 6-7.
Autzen Stadium Engulfed In Flames; Mascot Missing
8/3/2008 (AP) - Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, an area fixture since 1967, was heavily damaged by fire overnight as faulty wiring in construction equipment ignited building materials being staged for construction of a giant dome over the facility.
The fire spread quickly through the giant pre-stressed laminated wood beam structure of the unfinished dome.
There were no confirmed injuries, but Puddles, the Oregon mascot, was last reported seen in the stadium practicing his comic routine of rolling over on the turf once for each point Oregon’s opponents score.
A search party has been organized.
The spectacular blaze drew crowds estimated at over 24,000, roughly equivalent to the average home football attendance since 2001. Onlookers described the conflagration, fully contained within the stadium’s concrete-and-dirt bowl, as “the world’s largest open pit barbecue.”
Oregon AD Herman Nublitz, interviewed as firefighters from Eugene and Springfield battled the blaze, sobbed that “it’s such a great loss.. All those trees that gave their lives for nothing.” He noted that the facility was “probably insured, I’ll have to check, I know we had to cut a lot of costs when the real estate market collapsed.”
Moos: OSU Has “Plenty Of Room For Ducks”
8/15/2008 - Look for the Ducks in Corvallis instead of Eugene this season.
Bill Moos, long-time AD at Oregon State University, said that the Ducks were welcome to play their home slate at OSU’s newly expanded Knight-Reser Stadium in 2008 while Autzen Stadium undergoes repairs following a devastating fire last week.
The defending national champion Beavers will be happy to share their 62,000 seat stadium and state-of-the-art facilities, Moos said, “although there are a couple of weekends where we both have games scheduled, so we’ll have to figure something out.. I guess they could use one of our indoor practice fields.”
Oregon is entering its sixth season under Ty Willingham, whose five-year record of 30-32 is the second-best at Oregon since Len Casanova retired in 1967. The Ducks have been to two bowl games in four years, defeating Maryland 21-14 in last season’s Emerald Bowl to finish 7-6.
Willingham Granted Tenure; First NCAA “Coach For Life”
12/3/2010 — Oregon has become the first school to appoint its head coach to a tenured position.
Tyrone Willingham, who recently coached the Ducks to their fourth bowl game in eight years with the team’s acceptance of a slot in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against Utah State, and new UO President Herman Nublitz announced the surprise decision at a joint news conference.
Nublitz told reporters that “finally, Oregon can take its place among the institutions which value education over athletics. Schools need no longer be held hostage to contracts by their head coaches, and coaches who do an adequate job of managing their programs can, like all professors, enjoy the security that is provided with tenure status.”
The tenure status means that Willingham cannot be terminated from his position for reasons other than high crimes and misdemeanors, or gross incompetence. Nublitz said Willingham had definitely showed his level of competence, and “that should be good enough.”
Willingham has a 51-49 record over his eight years as Oregon coach, but has never finished higher than sixth place in the conference. His teams have earned bowl bids in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010 largely on the strength of a soft non-conference schedule. This year Oregon played New Mexico, Tennessee and FCS Portland State, teams with just four FBS wins between them, but was just 3-6 in conference play.
Nublitz dismissed widespread media criticism of the decision to, in effect, make Willingham Oregon’s coach-for-life. “Look, since we downsized Autzen Stadium after the dome fire, we’re much closer to selling out every weekend. Our average attendance of 23,333 was 80% of capacity. That’s not bad, you know, and people in Eugene would rather be playing soccer, or hiking, or just about anything else on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
“Ty has the best record of any Oregon coach since Len Casanova, and has taken Oregon to more bowl games in his eight years than Cas did in 18 seasons. He’s earned his tenure.
“We’re just acknowledging reality here. A school’s got to know its limitations. It took a while, but we’ve learned not to expect much, and Coach Willingham is the perfect coach for us.”
Tickets for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, went on sale this afternoon. There were no lines at the ticket office at the Cas Center, and an employee told this reporter that the office “had one guy call this morning, but he was just asking if our refrigerator was running.”