Defending Helfrich's "Circumstances" Comment

Not to add fuel to the ridiculous media frenzy/controversy regarding Coach Helfrich’s comments about Colt Lyerla’s absence from yesterday’s game, but having been in Media Room yesterday, I just can’t help but respond. In case you missed the story, Coach Helfrich was asked after the game about Colt Lyerla’s absence from yesterday’s game against Tennessee. He simply responded, “circumstances”. When pressed to be more specific, he responded, “Circumstances is very specific, it’s one word,” That simple response prompted Oregonian Sport’s Writer, Jason Quick to talk to Colt Lyerla  who reported being upset about the comments and feeling hurt by his coach. What resulted was, in my opinion, an appalling article entitled, Oregon Insider: ‘Circumstances’ of Colt Lyerla absence results in a loss for Mark Helfrich. Obviously, Jason Quick and Oregonian have the right to publish articles they see fit, but I was disappointed in their unfair stab at Mark Helfrich.

First and foremost, only Colt Lyerla and the University know the full scope of the situation. Perhaps Lyerla was simply sick, perhaps there’s more to the story. Perhaps it’s not our business. Second of all, I speak from experience when saying that anyone in the media, who’s spent a good amount of time around Coach Helfrich, knows the goofy, yet consistent tone he takes when asked a question he doesn’t feel he’s permitted to answer. We can analyze his responses all we want, but after listening to his comments directly yesterday, there is no doubt in my mind, he was in no way trying to “throw Lyerla under the bus”, as Lyerla indicated.

As mentioned, when Coach Helfrich was asked why Lyerla hadn’t played, he simply responded “circumstances”. When pressed more for details, he stuck to his original comment and made it clear he didn’t plan to elaborate. The accompanying smirk, in my opinion, was simply Helfrich’s attempt to “kindly” let the interviewer know he didn’t intend to give another answer. I’m obviously new to the media world, but it’s not hard to figure out Oregon doesn’t talk about injury or illness. All this assuming it was simply illness.

Should Oregon be so hush hush about a player being simply ill? Does it lead to speculation at times? Sure, but oh well. That’s the protocol that’s in place and Coach Helfrich was simply following it. It’s disappointing the Oregonian chose to both, pick a side and drag Coach Helfrich through the media ringer without having complete information.

My final opinion, for what it’s worth, is this: I have had many opportunities to interact with Coach Helfrich and to watch his interactions with others at length. I can honestly say he’s been nothing but gracious to media, fans, and yes, his players. Perhaps some stuff should just be left in the locker room.


17 Comments on Defending Helfrich's "Circumstances" Comment

  1. Nice take, Nichole. I agree and am glad to see someone step up and make logical, sensible points as you have here.

    • Thank you so much Dan! I just couldn’t keep quiet on this one 🙂 Coach Helf didn’t deserve that smack in the face!

  2. Pretty much sums it up. Honestly, I was very disappointed that Colt even bit on the question. He should have known better. Keep the program stuff under the roof colt. Helf did not throw him under the bus and to insinuate that is to be into gotcha gossip instead of journalism

  3. Great article Nichole. Glad to have someone level-headed in the room when Helf made his comment. Sometimes – wait – most of the time, I think the media is into making news and not just reporting it. Keep up the great blog and GO DUCKS! WTD!

    • Thank You! Yeah I guess everyone has their own take, I just don’t see why they made that assumption. He answered the same way as he always does with those sort of things.

  4. Here is my response I just posted on Bleacher Report. Dang, I missed a typo before realizing it…don’t cha’ hate that?

    I think trying to be cute with the media is unwise.

    To Helfrich I would just say stop playing cute with the media. You, the media, and Colt (or the next player) all come out looking bad in the end. Is it too much to just say something like “Our strict policy is that we don’t…yada yada yada”? The media won’t like it, but it’s better than jabbing at them with statements made like, “Circumstances is very specific, it’s one word,”. Any man I know would take that as an insult. The fact is it’s not specific. LOL. So, coach, why not take a few moments and a wonderful opportunity before stating policy to state the great attributes of the player in question? You missed an opportunity to reinforce why he’s a great Duck player and why opponents should be worried when another person fills his spot and does so well. You had the opportunity to talk up TWO players to the media at that moment. Who knows, they might have forgotten what the original question was by then!!! The depth chart may be the best in the country. Put some fear into the on-lookers while you have the stage. Take these opportunities to not just win the day, but to win the MOMENT. You don’t get many opportunities to take a pass (media question), pick it off (response) and scamper 100 yards for a TD. — Submitted by a fellow Coos Bay, Oregon born native and with all respect.

    • He was simply asked why Colt didn’t play, something he clearly didn’t feel he could talk about. It was the reporter who didn’t take a hint, and kept prodding, causing Helfrich to give a smirk and reiterate his original answer. In my opinion, he tries very hard not to be a jerk to the media. He tries to be consistent, protective, yet cordial. I think in this case, the reporter mis-read the remark and tried to make a story out of it- I suppose it worked since we’re all here talking about it. I just think it’s unfortunate he painted Coach Helfrich in a undeserved bad light.

      • I suspect my main point was lost in the lengthy verbiage. Sorry. Helfrich would do well to answer using a complete sentence, rather than a cute one word response. One complete sentence would do. If pressed, then repeat the previous response, smile, and point to another reporter with their hand raised. The 2nd minor point is use that opportunity to boast about the players or the team. Helfrich didn’t do anything “wrong” but the response wasn’t professional. For someone who is paid such a high salary, we should expect more. Instead, everyone is justifying his response. It’s okay to be a Helfrich or Ducks fan and still ask for more from the leader. How much effort does that take to respond well to a very simple question, especially a question that everyone should see coming? Hardly any. Be strong and courageous, and do the work. “Win the Moment” and you will “Win the Day”.

    • Seriously. Thero? Listen very carefully: NO ONE CARES what a dumb azz reporter thinks! In fact, they did it to them selves like they always do. The O for some reason has it in for the Ducks, to their detriment. Again: NO ONE CARES what the media thinks.

      And Nichole: You didn’t mention that coach used the same verbage for all injured players. THAT shoulda been a clue to the dumb azz reporters!!

      Finally, Jason Quick should be ashamed for talking to Colt Lyerla and working to create all this. He hurt the kid, and made himself look like an azz. Way to go Jason!

      • Thanks for you input Chris. You are right, I didn’t mention that Helfrich used the same word when talking about the other players. During that press conference, he only talked about about Colt, so that’s what I referred to. I did end up hearing he reported on the others with other one on one interviews earlier and later in the day.

  5. You are correct in what you are saying. Chip Kelly started the practice of not revealing information about illnesses or injuries to the media. Seems anyone with an ounce of common sense could have figured out that Mark Helfrich is continuing that same practice, just from his answer of “circumstances.” Maybe the guy from the Oregonian is a Beaver fan and just wanted to stir something up in Eugene. Hopefully Colt and the Coach can talk this out and work through it sooner rather than later for the good of the team.

  6. Nichole,

    Since you were at the media discussion…
    Was anything said or asked about the other players not attending the game Saturday? JQ says, “When Helfrich said “circumstances,” then stuck with it when prodded for elaboration, human nature sent people’s minds wandering to some pretty dark places. I know. I was one of them. ”

    Not being able to attend the game I had to watch it from my living room and The broadcasters not only said mark says “circumstances” but also said 6 players last week had the stomach flu missing out on practice. Is it possible CBS follows the Oregon Ducks more closely than the Oregonian?
    If Mark had said Colt missed too many practices wouldn’t that sent JQ mind into the same dark place?

    Lastly I ask, does this sound like responsible journalism… “I tweeted that it was obvious Lyerla didn’t have the flu, like the television broadcast said.” Hmm obviously JQ owes Colt an apology not Mark. Especially since the media “guffawed (yes I had to look this word up) at the coach’s attempt to be cute” Seems JQ was the only one who’s mind was in the gutter!

    • Hi Zane,
      You Know I don’t think he talked about anyone else being out, but it’s my understanding he used the same term, “circumstances” when asked about Eric Dungy and a couple others. I know the Oregonian does follow the ducks, likely a little more closely than CBS, but their spin on things is interesting sometimes in my opinion. My take on Helfrich’s remark on Lyerla and the way he said it was just to “politely” tell the reporter in this case that his attempt to get more information wasn’t going to work…he gives the same exact smirk when anything comes up that he can’t answer. But, hey what do I know 🙂

  7. Nichole, I am curious if you are someday wanting to work for a major media outlet as a sportswriter. If you are, I suggest removing this post. This post is concise, to the point, and well written. From what I have seen in The Oregonian, Yahoo Sports, and other “well respected” publications, they would never stand for this sort of thing.

    As a reader though, I loved it….

    Great read

    • that’s funny Trevor 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      I guess it’s a good I’m just a “blogger” and I don’t have an interview with one of those big outlets huh? I just speak the truth…In my defense though..I did write a little more controversial post about chip kelly awhile back 🙂

  8. Tracie Marcum // September 17, 2013 at 1:44 am // Reply

    Sorry Trevor! She’s a gridirongirl through and through and regardless of what the “mainstream” media wants, we here at gridirongirl speak the truth and from the heart. 🙂 Thanks for your feedback!

  9. I am so sick of hearing that Helf was using hippa as a reason for not saying Colt was sick. I was at the game and they made a very loud announcement that Lyerla wasnt playing due to illness. The college made that announcement to over 60000 fans, and Tennesee guests as well were there and heard it. So how can the school now say that Helf was protecting Lyerlas privacy?? Thats BS …Also when asked if Lyerla would play at the Cal game he became even more snide and said” I dont know”. Why didnt he say that he hoped Lyerla would play or he hoped Lyerla would get well so he could be there and help the team? I dont know>??? What the heck did that mean… all the while laughing and being very smug about Lyerla. Following up each question about Colt with high praise about Mundt. He looked like a little kid in a candy store that just found a new lollypop and was throwing his old candy away… It wasnt just his demeaning words; he was basically behaving like he could care less if he ever saw Colt again. It was so obvious. This amazing athlete and best tight end in the nation had over 40 offers from other schools…and he has been under utilized since he got to UO. Chip hardly used him. And at the Niccolls game Colt was wide open by he redzone countless times and wasnt givin the ball just like last year. Countless people have asked and blogged and commented that they cant understand why Colt wasnt getting the ball. People love Colt and come from miles away just to watch him play as they did in high school. I know from an inside source that Colt has been treated badly by the coaches since his sophmore year. I thought it would change when Chip Kelly left, but no, it hasnt… The real truth will come out soon enough why his is all happening and its not because Colt did anything wrong at all. And when it comes out and the truth is known I hope all the people who run this awesome player thru the ringer will choke on their words..I know they will for a fact…and then the college will have to fess up…and it wont be fun.It wont be laughable like it was when Helfridge was taiking about Lyerla.

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