Oregon has some of the most dedicated fans in the country. For 17 years and 0 national titles, 54,000+ Duck fans have faithfully packed every home game to capacity. Until Saturday.
For the first time in a 110-game sell-out streak, the crowd at Autzen Stadium came up short.
From The Oregonian:
In the Ducks’ season-opener against UC Davis, 53,817 fans filed through the turnstiles of Autzen Stadium. A large crowd, sure, but for the first time in 17 years, it wasn’t a capacity crowd.
Oregon lists a sellout at 54,000 fans, however Autzen has filled larger than that in the past. Last year’s season-opener against Eastern Washington saw 58,128 fans inside of Autzen.
While it’s true that they were only a couple hundred fans short of making it, this seemingly small dip in attendance represents a significant drop in fan enthusiasm and what I think is the beginning of a long, frigid winter for the Ducks.
There is potentially no more rabidly image-conscious team in college football than UO. I mean, they change their uniforms literally almost every game for Duck’s sake. And yet the really funny thing about Oregon is that they always end up falling below the embarrassingly high standards they set for themselves.
As the alma mater of Nike founder Phil Knight, the Ducks have access to more money and athletic technology than any school in the country. Do a cursory Google search of the University of Oregon. You’re going to be met with a long list of insane investments like the Casanova Center, a state-of-the-art 102,000 sq ft locker room, the Jaqua Academic Center, a $40 million glass cube with Italian leather couches and athlete-only hot tubs, and the Marcus Mariota Center, a facility-expansion so advanced and opulent even its Heisman Trophy-winning namesake called it “pretty ridiculous”. All this adds up to the condition that sports writers in Oregon have long spelled out: “If money can win national championships, then UO should be Bama by now. Or at least Ohio State.”
They are not. Instead, Oregon is the perfect example of a rich, gutless tryhard. No matter how much money they spend and top-quality recruits they snag, something just doesn’t work over in Eugene. Chip Kelly tried for the Natty, Mariota tried for the Natty. It didn’t happen. Helfrich and his new, untested coaching staff is sure as heck not going to get it.
I think Oregon’s bandwagon fans are starting to take notice of this. Many people are calling for the Oregon donors (like Phil) to jump off the “Helfrich train to nowhere.” The NCAA polls have reacted to the program cooldown as well, ranking Oregon below Washington despite the Ducks having a 12-game winning streak over the Huskies. Not much program confidence.
It’s an old joke in Oregon that if you’re wearing an OSU Beavers jersey, you probably went to the school. If you’re wearing a Ducks jersey, you probably went to Walmart. I think UO is going to have to take a long, hard look at itself this season and figure out how it’s going to buckle down and produce the kind of quality play and strategies that it takes to compete on the national level in the coming years. Maybe stop wasting money on stupid stuff like an LED football field.
Food for thought..
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[via The Oregonian]