Chip Kelly Has Lost Control of His Athletic Director!!

UPDATE: Confirmed: Mike Bellotti resigns as AD and takes gig as ESPN college football analyst, will debut with Auburn spring game april 17 on ESPNU.

Ok, maybe not.

But when was the last time the Oregon Athletic Department held a press conference to share good news? It sure feels like it’s been a while. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

Duck Sports News reported a rumor on Twitter early this morning that Athletic Director Mike Bellotti would be leaving Oregon to take a cushy gig at ESPN as a college football analyst.

At first, I thought it was just more rumors – as this isn’t the first time this rumor has been passed out.

But moments later, the Athletic Department released this statement:

University of Oregon Athletics Director Mike Bellotti will make an important announcement about leadership at the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Yikes. That pretty much all but confirms that Bellotti will be one and done in his new position.

Did Bellotti get fed up with all the headaches? Is he getting the coaching itch again?

I have to respect him for stepping down last season to let Chip Kelly take over. Even if Bellotti wasn’t quite ready, he knew it was best for the football program.

If he’s really done with coaching, becoming a talking head on TV is the closest thing to retirement for the former coach, except a six figure salary is included.

On the other hand, if he wanted to jump back into coaching, I’m sure several top programs would be interested in his services.

It may seem that Bellotti is bailing at an important time in Oregon athletics, but if he really doesn’t want to be here, it’s better he leave sooner rather than later.

Phil Knight and Co. can handle things for the time being – or maybe further.

I heard another rumor on Twitter that Tony Dungy might be interested in the AD gig. I don’t really see it happening, but I’d be 100% behind it.

I’ve also heard Ernie Kent’s name mentioned as well. We’ll find out more at Bellotti’s presser at 11:30, but for now it’s fun to throw names around.

Who would you want?

A Bittersweet, yet Necessary Going-Away for Ernie Kent

As one of the staunchest leaders of the Fire Ernie Kent Bandwagon this past year, even I was touched by the sincerity of his heartfelt speech Tuesday afternoon at his going-away press conference.

Photo credit to benzduck from AddictedToQuack

It’s clear: the man has a deeper passion for the University of Oregon and its basketball program than most people have for anything.

It’s bittersweet. For the program to continue to be successful and build on what Kent built, the man who loves it most would have to leave. And be fired, no less.

Watching Kent wear his heart on his sleeve was so moving and poignant that it almost seemed like a subtle guilt trip. His emotion was palpable.

Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that Ernie couldn’t avoid two separate five-game losing streaks in conference play this season, a 14-game streak last season and, most importantly, leaving more empty seats in Mac Court than in my Psychology 201 class the day after a midterm.

Ernie Kent said it himself: “You may find a better basketball coach. You won’t find anybody that has the passion and love that I have for UO.”

Yes, yes and yes.

After the press conference, I was listening to John Canzano interview former-Duck great Freddie Jones on his radio show, the Bald Faced Truth.

Canzano was peppering Jones with subtly negative questions, just waiting for him to slip and say something bad about his former coach’s inability to develop players.

After seamlessly shrugging off the first few attempts, Freddie fell into the BFT’s trap, when he asked the Slam Dunk Champ why he improved so much between his junior and senior season.

The response?

“I didn’t want to work for a living.”

Not Kent’s coaching, not his tutelage, but instead, it was the sudden realization that if he didn’t personally step his game up, his awe-inspiring athleticism would go all for naught.

This was the case far too often during Kent’s tenure in Eugene (for every Freddie Jones, there’s a Joevan Catron and aTajuan Porter), and the main reason why the perpetual fire Ernie rumors finally climaxed this season, forcing Mike Bellotti to appease the masses.

Yet, Kent’s speech was so compelling today that it was akin to the Men in Black flash memory eraser gadget.

People got sucked back in, as if they forgot they were ready to throw him to the wolves just a few days before.

Understandable, considering all the things Ernie Kent has done for this University, things much bigger than just basketball. Sometimes it can be easy to forget the real person when the wins are such a big deal.

But ultimately, for better or the worse, major college sports is big business, and it was time to part ways with our coach of 13 years. Especially with a new 13,000 seat Phil Knight shrine on the way.

One of my Twitter followers tweeted me today, saying, “Kent should have been a politician.”

I wouldn’t put it past him, especially here in Oregon. But first, like Ernie said himself, “I will coach again … I have a lot of coaching left in me.”

Although I may not be sad by the fact that Kent is leaving, on behalf of all Oregon fans, I can safely say, we wish him the best wherever he goes.

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Today is Judgement Day for Masoli, Oregon Football

It’s now been over a month since that infamous night at SAE, and only just now are we starting to get some clarity. And not in a good way.

Jeremiah Masoli and Garrett Embry have officially been charged with second degree burglary (a felony in Oregon) and are due to appear in court later today. Also, rumors have been swirling that Masoli’s locker has already been cleaned out – although later refuted by Canzano, saying Chip Kelly told him personally.

The Eugene Police Department and the athletic department did such a good job keeping things under raps in the past few weeks that I figured when Embry was booted off the team (apparently, for the second time) a couple weeks ago that that would be the end of it. There was no hard evidence that Masoli had stolen anything, while Embry at least admitted to having possession of the projector (although the thought of a frat kid chasing down a D1 wide receiving is still baffling).

In fact, the EPD even went so far as to say Masoli wasn’t even a suspect in the case. A little weird, but I went along with it.

Now today, we learned that police found the quarterback’s fingerprints on the “stolen property”.

This is what I found shocking.

When did they find this out? I can’t believe it was just this week. I would assume, the longer you wait, the harder it is to find fingerprints. Maybe they were waiting to disclose this until Masoli was officially charged, but then why would they be so adamant in saying he wasn’t even a suspect?

Factor in his previous legal troubles and the rumor that he might have lied to Chip Kelly about the incident, and things could get real ugly, real fast.

This whole case has been very weird. And has paid an emotional toll on Duck fans.

Oregon has been the butt of numerous jokes and criticisms all over the interwebs, including sites such as Deadspin, SportsbyBrooks (gag) and The Big Lead.

That said, commenter #21 (not an Oregon fan) from The Big Lead nailed the grieving process we’re going through perfectly.

wildcat1144 Says:

March 11th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

It’s been fascinating to listen to duck fans call into the Portland based sports shows. It’s like they’ve been going through the 5 stages of grief and loss over the past few months.

Denial – Whoa, like these guys were even involved. It’s just a rumor. The Oregonian and radio shows are just blowing this up. No big deal.

Anger – It’s the Frat’s fault for not letting Masoli in the party and for reporting it, she probably was attacking James and he was just defending himself, it’s Canzano’s fault because he hates the University of Oregon.

Bargaining – Hey if “we” want to win a Rose Bowl and play for a championship then we have to be willing to have guys with questionable character on the team. Hey these are just college kids and all college kids do stuff like this.

Depression – What happened to our Pac 10 championship team? Chip can’t watch all 90 guys on the team. This may hurt us in 2010 but we’ll still beat Oregon State.

Acceptance – Masoli was 1-dimensional anyways…Darron Thomas is going to be a star so we might as well play him now. James wouldn’t have broke out with Blunt getting suspended so I’m sure we’ll have another running back to replace James.

Obviously, his “Acceptance” paragraph is sarcasm, but unfortunately spot on. I too, have noticed that Oregon fans have been saying “oh, Darron Thomas is better than Masoli anyway”. Talk about talking yourself into something. That’s just flat out not true.

With Masoli and James, Oregon is a top 5 team (Vegas at one point gave Oregon the best odds at winning the 2011 title) and anything less than a Rose Bowl win would be a disappointment.

Masoli is a bona fide Heisman contender this season. Darron Thomas is merely the sexy backup who came in for him in the Boise State game and almost led the Ducks to a fantastic comeback (and also this awesome play), but still, big difference.

While clearly talented, Thomas doesn’t come close to replacing Masoli’s stone cold demeanor, confidence, leadership, experience, and feel for Chip’s complex offense. I don’t know how many guys treat a 4th and 5 the same way they treat a 1st and 10, but Masoli’s one of them (evidence, evidence, and more evidence).

Sure, Oregon returns 19 starters, but that’s meaningless without its star quarterback. Masoli makes this offense go.

If Masoli is found guilty, then of course he needs to pay the consequences, but for the love of Juju, I’m praying Masoli will be barking signals come September.

Hours of potentially lost sleep, rising blood pressures, and psychiatrists bills for thousands of Oregon fans are at stake.

Like Canzano, I Won’t Cry Any Tears Over Mac Court

The always popular John Canzano wrote a column yesterday bidding farewell to Mac Court.

Don't worry, The Pit may be gone, but The Pit Crew will be back again in full force next season, just in an arena that has urinals where you don't have to be touching hips with the guy you're peeing next to.

As usual, it caused a bit of controversy. Minutes after it was posted to the interwebs, several of my friends gushed to me about what an idiot he was and how he had no respect for The Pit’s history.

No, Canzano didn’t reminisce about the famous “Tall Firs” and their run to the first ever NCAA tournament title in 1939 or Oregon’s upset over No. 1 UCLA in 2007, or any other memory that had been made there in the past 84 years.

Instead, Mr. BFT called Mac Court something no Oregon Duck fans wanted to hear: a dump. Even going as far as to say: “Mac Court is cramped. It’s outdated. It’s become a cumbersome place to watch a game, and I’m not sure many will really miss it.”

But you know what? He’s right. Well, at least for me.

Calm down, calm down. Let me explain myself.

I’m only a sophomore at the University of Oregon, and the first game I ever attended at Mac Court was against St. Mary’s last season. Fittingly, it was a loss.

During my entire tenure here in Eugene, the Ducks record is 23-38 overall and 9-27 in the Pac-10.

I’ve had nothing to be excited about. Honestly, my greatest memory from The Pit was when we beat Stanford for our first conference win (in late February, my apologies Robbie G) and stormed the court in pity celebration.

(The same kind of celebration like when a pitcher walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches and then receives a mocking cheer when he finally throws a strike. Not the good kind of celebration.)

I was never in The Pit to see Luke, Luke and Freddie or Aaron Brooks. I have no special connection to this stadium.

If I didn’t know any better, based on my two years of experience alone, I would have guessed Mac Court was just a tiny, cramped, usually empty arena, with a home team that usually loses, and which also curiously happens to be located across the street from a cemetery.

Now, l realize this is a selfish opinion, but that’s why I have a blog.

For Oregon to reach the next level in the national basketball landscape, the new stadium is a must. Players are tired of cramped showers, dilapidated locker rooms and vacant seats. Top recruits in 2010 don’t care about history; they care about state of the art, and cool.

Mac Court is not cool. Mac Court is historical. There’s a reason why most inner city kids don’t want the History Channel: it’s just not cool.

New memories will be made in Matthew Knight Arena. A new hope.

As Canzano says: “Hope that Oregon can become relevant. Hope that the new building will hold more great memories than the old one. Hope that there will be thrills, and memories, and that someday 100 years from now when Matthew Knight Arena is outdated and crumbling that someone will ask, “How could they tear down this wonderful place?!?”

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No Surprise Here: Ducks Waste No Time in Firing Ernie Kent

Most everyone knew Ernie Kent would be fired following this season. Unfortunately, it had to happen during the second half of the final Pac-10 game at historic Mac Court. At least they got the win though, right?

This was a move that had to happen. The program was basically stuck in neutral, waiting for its talented young players to blossom once they became seniors. Problem is, in college basketball these days, you can’t only win once every four years. (He only had four seasons where his teams finished conference play over .500).

With a brand new, state of the art $200 million stadium due to be unveiled at the start of 2011 Pac-10 season, Oregon needed a change. If Ernie couldn’t sell out the shoebox that is Mac Court, then, well, there would be a lot of empty seats at expansive (and expensive) Matt Court.

Although it certainly wasn’t a smooth ending, Kent should be greatly appreciated for his 13-years as the Ducks head coach, as the program has grown leaps and bounds under his leadership. (Although I could make the argument that the growth was almost completely connected to Nike’s sudden “interest” in the program).

According to KVAL’s initial report, athletic director Mike Bellotti fired Kent on Feb. 22, after home losses to Stanford and California. The TV station says the firing will take effect, when the Ducks wrap up the 2009-10 season, presumably after their “play-in” game to the Pac-10 tournament. KEZI reports Kent was fired earlier last week. KMTR says talks between Bellotti and Kent will continue through the Pac-10 tournament.

In addition, Kent’s entire staff will be replaced, with the possible exception of assistant Kenny Payne.

This is where it gets interesting, at least in regards to Kent’s replacement.

Payne has long been friends with ‘World Wide Wes’, who is often called the most powerful man in basketball because of his influence behind the scenes. Payne’s friendship helped create a recruiting pipeline in Detroit, bringing in Malik Hairston and Tajuan Porter.

Yesterday, SI’s Seth Davis wrote a story that William Wesley has agreed to be an agent, representing NBA and college coaches for Creative Artists Agency. Its client list includes Lebron James and John Calipari, among just about every others big name in sports.

Wesley has a special gift for befriending star players, including Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. Both of those players coincidentally went on to play for his client.

I hope athletic director Mike Bellotti lets Payne stay on, and hire a client of CAA.

As for Oregon’s needs for its next basketball coach, the goal is clear: fill the seats. The Ducks couldn’t even fill The Pit tonight for its last conference game ever, and if you haven’t heard, the new stadium is a bit bigger.

Yes, the athletic department might be in the red right now, but the boosters won’t allow the basketball program to wallow in mediocrity. The Kent firing signifies this.

One donor in particularly might have an interest in Bellotti’s hiring process. (Here’s a hint who: he donated $100 million towards the new stadium).

If Phil Knight has already given that much, spending a few million more on a top coach is a must in order to make the most on his already weighty investment.

Although I don’t have a complete list of CAA coaching clients, I’m sure there are a few big names on there that could be attracted to Oregon for the right price.

Of course, filling the seats is not the only thing of interest. Winning is important as well, although it’d be nice to have a coach who can create interest in the program and sell tickets in and of himself.

My top quality: player development. That has been Kent’s biggest bugaboo. Kent would get talent, but very rarely would there be noticed improvement, thus, leading to his teams only being competitive when his star players were seniors (Luke, Luke and Fred; AB, Malik and Bryce).

Hopefully the new coach can teach Michael Dunigan what a “screen” is, and also run a half-court set that actually resembles a functional offense.

Is that too much to ask for?

(I will have another piece in the next day or two further discussing possible coaching replacements for Ernie Kent)

For now, here’s a quick list of possibilities: Mark Few, Steve Lavin (five sweet 16’s in 7 years at UCLA), Jeff Capel, Mark Turgeon, Tubby Smith, Terry Porter, Cameron Dollar and Randy Bennett.

A Half-Baked Suggestion for the WNBA

Here is a question I submitted to Bill Simmon’s mailbag, my first one ever, believe it or not.

If you are a staunch feminist, or just can’t take a joke, please don’t read any further. If you have a sense of humor, I would like your feedback.

In light of the Brittney Griner punch, I’ve noticed that womens sports only get national headlines when something bad happens. I bet you can’t tell me who won the 2008 WNBA title but you probably know which star got a DUI or which college soccer player got suspended for punching and pulling hair (this is a truly great video:  watch below). Let’s face it, the WNBA is never going to get popular for its monotonous lay-ups or boring set shots. So I say run with it. Bad publicity beats zero publicity.

My friend (@TheVermonster) I and were tweeting back and forth about “The Punch” and what it means for womens sports. He said they won’t be legitimized until they act feloniously like their male counterparts, emphasizing the WNBA’s need for gunplay. I jokingly countered, saying he shouldn’t leave out domestic violence, DUIs or multiple baby daddies in different states. He in turn said, are you trying to legitimize womens sports or them into Florida State grads?

This made me think, why can’t it be both? The WNBA should only allow players who attended FSU. Think about it, they would be hot, most likely alcoholic, and would provide plenty of headlines off the court. Who wouldn’t watch that?

But then I had a thought even the Sports Guy himself would be proud of: Why stop there, we could turn the WNBA into a reality show. How about The Real World: WNBA. Imagine the possibilities of this. Put six women in a house, five typical butch-ish women, and then one cute girl, just to all the other ones jealous, and let them fight it out for the alpha dog spot. Imagine the tension. Playing pick-up in the backyard, or at the bar when the cute one attracts all the attention. This could be as popular as Jersey Shore. I don’t know a single guy who watches the WNBA, but I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t watch this.

I’m going to hell for this post.