Confusion. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Hope. Excitement.
No matter how you look at it, Oregon’s 2016 football season and resulting changes to the program have been emotional.
Sure, at the end of the day, it’s just football; but for most Oregon fans, it’s so much more than that.
It’s about reliving a decade (or decades) worth of memories week after week. It’s about filling up one of the loudest stadiums in the country and going nuts when “Kenny Wheaton’s gonna score,” even though you’ve seen the replay over and over again. It’s about hating the color orange, even if it looks good at you, and it’s about understanding what Husky Hate Week really means.
It’s also about knowing Oregon has never been a college football dynasty but also knowing it didn’t matter. Oregon had its own thing- the most tenured staff in college football that became an immediate group of fathers to young athletes.
For a variety of reasons we could debate for hours, the program hit a slump and change was quickly ushered in. Just like that, Oregon football as we know it was sent packing and a new era, for better or for worse, has begun.
For many, change was welcome and considered inevitable. For others (myself included), a sting still resonates amidst the excitement. In my camp, extending Helfrich and his staff some grace seemed like a gamble worth the risk. And, although Coach Taggart’s energy and talent has already ignited the program and its fans, watching his first press conference, metaphorically filling Helfrich’s shoes, invoked (at least for some of us) some mixed emotions- excitement for the future and sadness for all that will be left behind.
Again, for better or worse, we are saying goodbye to an era and no matter what side, or edge, of the coin you were on, the past week or so has been a bit emotional. In my world, that is OK. In my world, it’s called passion.
The dust is settling and it’s time to embrace the change. After all, Coach Taggart already seems to be steering the ship in a positive direction.
Within 24 hours after UO announced he had been hired, Taggart quickly got to work. After saying goodbye to his USF team, he hopped a plane to Eugene, met Oregon’s current players, took a tour of the facilities and held his first of many press conference as Oregon’s Head Coach.
From the moment Taggart took the podium, it was easy to see why Athletic Director, Rob Mullens and Co. were drawn to him. He’s charismatic, energetic and lights up a room. Beyond that, he brings an impressive resume, having been groomed by the Harbaugh’s, a legendary family of successful coaches, and turning two struggling programs at Western Kentucky and USF around in short time.
There was little doubt in the room that Taggart came here to hit the ground running, fueled by a personal goal to win a National Championship.
“I feel like we can win a National Championship here,” Taggart said.
To do that, Taggart said he expects to “build young men of character,” by focusing first on academics and instilling three simple principles: “Make no excuses; blame no one; and do something. “
Taggart also emphasized recruiting the “best of the best” across the country and making sure top athletes in the state do not get away. “We’ve got to be creative. . . .It all goes back to winning,” Taggart added.
Still, questions remain.
What will come of Oregon’s long-tenured assistants? What aspects of Oregon tradition will change? What mantras will be adopted? And, will Taggart be able to cash in on his highly touted recruiting skills? Time will tell, but Taggart has already given a glimpse at some of the answers.
When asked about putting together his staff, Taggart said he planned to first sit down with the current assistant coaches to see if they would be “the right fit.”
“For me personally, I want to make sure we hire a staff that’s going to capture the hearts and minds of our football players,” Taggart said. “They’ve got to be great mentors.”
When it comes to Oregon Football tradition, Taggart acknowledged he was still learning a lot. “I don’t know how we did things here yet,” he told a packed theater.
“I’m going to make sure we don’t necessarily get away from tradition but that we expound on it and become better.”
So far, Taggart is walking the talk as he has immediately jumped on the recruiting trail and held nothing back, targeting top recruits, at least two of which being 4-star recruits already committed to Alabama.
“Buckle up. . . it’s gonna be fun, we’re gonna get after it,” Taggart told a packed theater.
Dry any residual tears and check your seat belts, Ducks fans. A new era has begun and the Ferrari’s engine is warming up.