When University of Oregon head football coach Mark Helfrich was fired Tuesday night after four seasons, it didn’t come as a surprise to Duck football fans in Douglas County.
Helfrich, 43, compiled a 37-16 record with the Ducks after succeeding Chip Kelly following the 2012 season. Helfrich, a graduate of Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, guided the Ducks to the national title game in 2014 with Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota at quarterback.
The Ducks finished 4-8 this season, culminating with a 34-24 loss to arch-rival Oregon State Saturday in the Civil War in Corvallis. UO finished last in the North Division of the Pac-12 at 2-7.
“It was time,” said Rob Cross of Sutherlin. “I feel (Mark) Helfrich was riding Chip Kelly’s coattails, and that’s what led them to the national championship (game). He was using Chip’s recruits and players, I felt that from day one. You could tell their play was declining on the field.
“I never saw the fire from the players (under Helfrich) like they had under Kelly,” Cross added. “(Helfrich) seemed like a really nice guy, but it didn’t seem like they were progressing that much. They need a new start and need to bring in a different mentality.”
“The way it was handled, I wasn’t surprised,” said Josh Bidwell of Eugene, a Douglas High School graduate who was an All-America punter for the Ducks and currently serves as a UO football team chaplain. “I’m bummed for Mark and Megan (his wife) and their family. It wasn’t the result of somebody who didn’t care because Mark was passionate about Oregon football.
“He had great success except for one year,” Bidwell said. “I was hoping he’d get a chance to climb out of it, but this season was a disaster by Oregon’s new standards. It’s the first time I’ve seen the business of college football handled at Oregon.”
Rich Ruhl of Eugene, a Roseburg High graduate who was a linebacker for the Ducks, believed Helfrich had to win the last two games this season in order to have a chance to keep his job. Oregon upset then-No. 11 Utah on the road, but fell to the Beavers in the season finale.
“I’m not surprised they let him go. There needed to be a change,” Ruhl said. “It’s pretty sad. They had a decent year last year (9-4), but this year was pretty bad. I think Mark is a good guy, but there was a lack of discipline with the players on and off the field.”
Anthony Wilson of Idleyld Park agreed.
“I’m fine with it (decision),” Wilson said. “I like Helfrich. I think he’s a good coach, a local guy. But after a season like this, you make a change. With an elite program you make a change.
“I feel the program didn’t prepare for another quarterback (after Mariota), and that comes down to recruiting. They had so many injuries and the team was so young (this season), but they’ve got a quarterback (Justin Herbert) and future to look forward to.”
Jim Moyer of Roseburg saw this coming as well.
"I'm not surprised," he said. "I can't say I'm happy, but I can't say I'm disappointed. I wasn't a Helfrich diehard fan, but time will tell whether this was a good decision. I'm most concerned about losing our recruits."