Are Ducks’ Fans Expectations Too High?
With an underwhelming tradition—zero National Championship trophies, two Rose Bowl victories and ten conference titles in the last century—the Oregon Ducks don’t appear as a team whose expectations should be that of ‘BCS or bust.’
So why now, is this the overwhelming mantra of Ducks fans everywhere? Look no further than the giant sign hanging above the Ducks’ practice facility.
“Tradition never changes. Champions do,” it reads.
Coach Chip Kelly, and for that matter the entire Oregon Athletic Department, have gotten to where they are—three straight BCS bowl games and conference titles—by constant change, staying ahead of the curve, if you will. Their jerseys, their personnel, their facilities etc.
However, amidst this change, one thing has remained constant in their meteoric rise to college football’s elite—their coaching staff, headed by Kelly.
Kelly’s and his staff have remained completely intact for the past four years, a feat that is unmatched nationally by any other FBS program. It is this consistency, amongst change, that has Duck fans clamoring for the program’s first national championship.
And as long as front man Chip Kelly is captaining the ship, they should expect nothing less. In January, Kelly opted to come back to Eugene in the 11th hour after flirting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, citing “unfinished business.”
With Kelly’s squad being listed in the top-5 of most preseason ranking, Ducks fans will again be looking for that elusive national championship, especially following their first Rose Bowl victory in over 90 years. Don’t forget, this is despite losing arguably their greatest backfield of all-time, in Darron Thomas and LaMichael James.
‘BCS or bust’ is not a new concept for Duck fans though, not after coming within inches, literally, of going 13-0 and beating Auburn for the ‘Natty’ in the 2010 season. I was there when Casey Matthews stripped Cam Newton. When Jeff Maehl caught that two-point conversion. And inevitably, when Michael Dyer rolled over Eddie Pleasant in what proved to be the game-winning play for the Auburn Tigers. Coming so close to the pinnacle of college football will leave you with an insatiable thirst.
Ducks fans are thirsty. And the only thing that will quench their thirst is to raise that crystal ball in January. Don’t get me wrong; a Rose Bowl title is great. Heck, it’s better than great. But it is justification for wanting more. It is a step towards that ultimate goal that is being a national champion.
Ask any Ducks fan who watched Alejandro Maldanado miss that 37-yard kick to lose to USC last season. Or who watched Dennis Dixon tear his knee against Arizona. Heartbreak. Again, the Ducks knocked on the door of being national champions, this time not as close, but still on the doorstep.
As the Ducks continue to evolve in their quest to break tradition and become champions, one crucial element remains constant. Coach Chip Kelly. And as long as Kelly is around, the expectations are not going anywhere.
Time to finish the aforementioned business, Coach.