Columns & Blogs

Proud alumnus happy to be at the top of rankings

I never imagined I would see my Oregon Ducks at the top of an AP poll, but there they were last week, in full unabashed glory, wearing some of the ugliest uniforms I've ever seen in a brutal 60-13 nationally-televised beatdown of UCLA.

But hey, when you're winning, nothing bothers you. That's also what scares me a little bit. More on that later.

There were only a handful of winning seasons for the Webfoots between 1960 and 1990, but for the people who have stood by the program for so long, it was a mighty proud day.

When I first arrived in Eugene as a freshman in 1987, the U of O had posted just four winning seasons since 1963. Rich Brooks, now the beloved head coach at Kentucky, was the coach then and he was starting to turn things around with a lanky red-headed quarterback named Bill Musgrave.

That first season I was there, they beat the Washington Huskies 29-22 in one of the most exciting games I'd ever seen. The Ducks hadn't beaten UW in six years and had lost 13 of their last 15 to the Huskies since 1971, so this was a big deal. The next week, UO beat USC, a team that featured future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau.

The Ducks didn't go to a bowl that year, but I remember that being a turning point. They finished with a winning record that included impressive wins over Colorado, Washington State and Oregon State. The next year UO got off to a hot start at 6-1 before Musgrave broke his collarbone and the green and gold lost their last five games.

In 1989, Oregon finished 8-4 behind Musgrave and was invited to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. — the Ducks' first bowl game since 1963. In that game, UO beat Tulsa 27-24, and the community went crazy.

So I told you that story to tell you this: Since I started attending Oregon in 1987, the Ducks are 185-100 (a .649 winning percentage) overall, 114-77 in the Pac-10 (.596) and have had just three losing seasons in 23 years. And it looks like they've got a pretty good shot at a winner this year, too.

What's more, UO has been to 17 bowl games since 1989. Granted, the Ducks have only won seven of them, but I think they've finally arrived as a big-time football program. More bowl wins will come.

Now, I am a little apprehensive about the No. 1 ranking in the AP, USA Today and Harris polls. And on Sunday, the BCS rankings will surely put Oregon atop the country after Oklahoma lost to Missouri tonight. And by the way, props to Boise State, which should move up to No. 2 for the first time in their history.

You never know how long the honeymoon will last, but for now, it's sure nice being at the top. It's always nice to be part of a winning program.

And I can't help but wonder what would have happened to the Ducks if I had attended school somewhere else like WSU? Could my mere presence on campus have that kind of effect on the success of the football program? I'm not saying I could have predicted UO football's meteoric rise over the last 2 1/2 decades, but hey, you can't argue with results.

I'm just saying....