Hel­frich out at Ore­gon

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Anne M. Peter­son

Ore­gon has fired coach Mark Hel­frich af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing 4-8 sea­son, and just two years af­ter get­ting the Ducks within a vic­tory of the pro­gram’s first na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Hel­frich was head coach of the Ducks for four sea­sons, lead­ing the team to the first Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off cham­pi­onship game af­ter the 2014 sea­son. But Ore­gon fal­tered this year with a five-game los­ing streak, and fin­ished at the bot­tom of the Pac-12 North with just two con­fer­ence wins.

Af­ter tak­ing over when Chip Kelly left in 2013, Hel­frich went 37-16 . He had an $11.6 mil­lion buy­out on his con­tract with the Ducks.

Hel­frich met with athletic di­rec­tor Rob Mul­lens on Tues­day night and was told was being dis­missed. Hel­frich is­sued a state­ment say­ing he was hon­ored to have served at Ore­gon.

“It is with re­spect and dis­ap­point­ment that we re­ceive this de­ci­sion,” Hel­frich said. “Plain and sim­ple — we didn’t win enough games this sea­son.”

Ducks started this sea­son ranked No. 24 in the pre­sea­son AP Top 25, but lost 35-32 at Ne­braska in the third week of the sea­son, start­ing the team’s long­est los­ing streak since 1996.

The Ducks had a brief re­vival with a 30-28 vic­tory over then-No. 11 Utah in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, but they ended the sea­son with a 34-24 loss to ri­val Ore­gon State in the 120th Civil War game this past Satur­day. The loss snapped an eight-game Ore­gon win­ning streak in the se­ries.

Af­ter­ward, Hel­frich was asked about job se­cu­rity.

“No­body’s job is safe in col­lege foot­ball,” he said. “That’s just the na­ture of the beast.”

Fan dis­con­tent­ment with Hel­frich grew as the sea­son dragged on and wins were scarce. Some ques­tioned the wis­dom of new as­sis­tant Brady Hoke’s new de­fen­sive scheme, or the re­liance on grad­u­ate trans­fers at quar­ter­back for the past two sea­sons rather than long-term player de­vel­op­ment.

“Didn’t win enough games. I mean, that’s blunt. But that’s the fact. We have to own that part of it. And own the so­lu­tion,” Hel­frich said fol­low­ing the loss to the Beavers.

What­ever the rea­son, Ore­gon’s slide was a re­minder of how hard it is to get good. And stay good.

When Hel­frich was pro­moted into the job at the start of 2013, he had the daunt­ing task of re­plac­ing Kelly, who or­ches­trated Ore­gon’s hy­per­drive spread­op­tion of­fense and led the Ducks to their first na­tional cham­pi­onship game ap­pear­ance in 2010. An af­fa­ble na­tive Ore­go­nian, Hel­frich had served as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor un­der Kelly and re­cruited future Heis­man Tro­phy winner Mar­cus Mar­i­ota.

Hel­frich went 24-4 in his first two sea­sons, in­clud­ing a loss to Ohio State in the first Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off cham­pi­onship. But last year he was chal­lenged with re­plac­ing Mar­i­ota. He lured grad­u­ate trans­fer Ver­non Adams from East­ern Washington, but Adams strug­gled with in­jury.

The cracks were show­ing in that 9-4 sea­son, the first with fewer than 10 wins since 2007. Losses to Michi­gan State, then at home to Utah and Washington State pushed Ore­gon out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009.

The ul­ti­mate em­bar­rass­ment came in the Alamo Bowl, when the Ducks sur­ren­dered a 31-0 lead and TCU staged the biggest come­back in bowl his­tory to win 47-41 in triple over­time.

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