Reportedly, a 36-year-old Rich Brooks was told there was no way he could win at Oregon, when he accepted a $32,000 per year, four-year contract to become head coach in 1977.richbrooks

There were no natural advantages at the counterculture oriented, liberal arts university located in a college town tucked away in a sparsely populated, rainy slice of America’s cul-de-sac, the Pacific Northwest. Brooks predecessor was 9-24 in three years.

The negative recruiters, who were steering studs to USC, UCLA and Washington, said that star high school recruits could not work on their game year around in Eugene; they would never win a championship; never play in a bowl game; never be seen on television; never play in a game that mattered …

And for the most part they were correct. Ground zero was the absolutely awful 0-0 “Toilet Bowl” tie against Oregon State in 1983. Thankfully, the game will go down in NCAA history as the last scoreless tie ever played.

Hmmm…the Ducks played in the last scoreless game and the first college football playoff game, dominating Florida State 59-20 and winning the Rose Bowl as well. What a difference three decades can make?

And according to USA Today, ESECPN and others, all the credit goes to Nike founder/super $19.9 billion alumnus Phil Knight.

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As we celebrate the legendary contributions of Phil and Penny Knight in terms of Oregon’s brand and facilities, let’s not forget the achievements of an Oregon State grad, Rich Brooks.

No Swooshes on the Uniforms

There is a reason the turf at Autzen Stadium is called, “Rich Brooks Field.”

During the course of his 18-year stint as Oregon’s head coach, the Ducks went 91-109-4 … not a record that would prompt anyone to write home to mumsy. Many alums were calling for Brooks scalp, when one year of mediocrity followed another in the early 1990s.

Oregon played in a relatively small (41,000 capacity at the time) noisy stadium, Spartan facilities, rarely on television, and had trouble competing against the USCs, UCLAs and most of all, the Washingtons of the conference.

And yet Rich Brooks hired the core group of coaches that started the Golden Era of Oregon football: Mike Bellotti, offensive coordinator; Nick Aliotti, defensive coordinator; Don Pellum, linebackers: Gary Campbell, running backs; Steve Greatwood, offensive line; and Jim Radcliffe, strength and conditioning.

In turn, they found gems in the rough … Danny O’Neil, Ricky Whittle, Cristin McLemore, Jeremy Asher, Rich Ruhl … and a redshirt freshman defensive back by the name of Kenny Wheaton as in, “Kenny Wheaton is going to score. Kenny Wheaton is going to score” that propelled the Oregon Ducks to their first Rose Bowl in 37 years in 1994.

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The Oregon Ducks with traditional uniforms that mimicked the look of the Green Bay Packers with no swooshes to be found gave #No. 2 Penn State holly heck that day before falling 38-20. Even in defeat, it finally become cool to root for Oregon.

Goodbye Rich; Enter Phil

After winning national coach of the year awards, Rich Brooks was a hot commodity. He was hired by the St. Louis Rams for a contract far in excess of his $32,000 starting salary at Oregon.

What followed was the heralded conversation between “Uncle Phil” and Brooks’ successor, Mike Bellotti. What did Oregon need to compete? An indoor practice facility. The rest is history. Knight wrote the $10 million check that allows Oregon athletes to work on their game year round.

Since that time, Knight invested more than $300 million to the Oregon Athletic Department including $70 million for the football performance center, $60 million for the renovation and expansion of Autzen Stadium; $60 million for an academic center and $100 million for the basketball arena (e.g., the Matthew Knight Arena).

The Ducks in turn have revolutionized football, particularly under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich as head coaches, and Scott Frost as offensive coordinator. Wearing the cool Nike uniform du jour, the Ducks run their spread offense at a warp-speed tempo and put up ridiculous amounts of points.

They still don’t out-recruit USC or UCLA, but they find their “guys” to fit into the system, and Almost DailyBrett knows the coolness factor helps attract the attention of studs that would never have considered the little school from the little state in the Pacific Northwest.

The bricks of the Berlin Wall of negative recruiting … lousy weather, subpar facilities, no bowls, no championships, no Heismans, no television … have all fallen by the wayside.

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To be fair, we need to reflect on the guy that got it started, Rich Brooks. He will never be accused of being warm and fuzzy, and maybe that contributed to those who called for his firing in 1993-1994. He turned the Ducks around. It took a patient 18 years, but his perseverance was rewarded. He ushered in the Golden Era of Oregon Football.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Brooks

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/pac12/2014/12/29/oregon-nike-phil-knight-college-football-playoff/21013009/

http://www.forbes.com/profile/phil-knight/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/rooting-for-oregon-before-it-was-cool/

 

 

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