It’s no secret that coaching a major college football team is never a sure means of employment. Every year, the coaching carousel gets revved up, and a host of coaches get shown the door or kick it down themselves on their way to a better job. Coaching changes are as common as uniform changes for the fashion-forward Oregon Ducks football team. Ironically, the team that always has a new look on the field has stuck with the same look on the sidelines longer than anybody.
Since 2009, the Oregon coaching staff has remained completely intact and they are the only major program who can make that claim. Head coach Chip Kelly, now entering his sixth season with the program, is actually one of the newcomers to Eugene. Three of his assistant coaches, who were hired on when Kelly moved into the head coach position, are entering their fourth season as Ducks. Other than that, the staff is filled out with long-timers. The six other coaches have all been at Oregon at least 10 years, with four coaches putting in at least 20 years. One coach, running backs coach Gary Campbell, is entering his 30th season on the staff.
To truly appreciate the impressive feat that this is, it helps to look at the constant turnover elsewhere. According to the Wall Street Journal, 28 major-college teams out of a possible 124 have changed head coaches since last season. Since 2009, when Kelly became head coach of Oregon, 69 teams have changed head coaches. That’s a turnover rate of nearly 56%.
When we expand our view and look at assistant coaches, the turnover is even worse. Often, the assistants are the first scapegoats of a struggling program and the first to get Jon interviews when a program succeeds. Of the head coaches that have coached their teams for four years or more, practically all of them changed assistants in 2011 or 2012. In fact, six schools who hired new head coaches this offseason are bringing in entirely new staffs with no prior experience at the school. Oregon will see two of them in conference play when they take on Washington State and Arizona State.
Part of the reason Oregon has enjoyed such long term stability in their coaching ranks is that they haven’t had a need to make many changes. Since 2009, when Kelly took over for Mike Bellotti, who resigned to become the Athletic Director, the Ducks are an impressive 34-6. The other reason: loyalty. When a team has the kind of success Oregon has, there will always be other schools sniffing around the staff trying to bring whatever is working at one school to another. Football, after all, is a game built on stealing what works. But the Ducks have maintained the majority of their staff for more than a decade at least because of the unique environment in Eugene, coupled with the unmatchable assets of being a Nike showroom and testing facility. So while the Ducks may not be able to stick with a single look on the field, they have a consistent look where it matters most: on the sidelines.
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