Uncle Phil has the answer for UO football

Phil Knight is the key to hiring Justin Wilcox

Cliff Pfenning
February 11, 2022

Dear Uncle Phil,

I know you’re not involved in the administration of the University of Oregon athletics program, but you’ve got to have a lot of influence there having provided so much money in the past for facilities upgrades such as the giant football practice facility, the complete overhaul of Hayward Field, and Matthew Knight Arena.

So, it figures you’ve got some ability to offer advice, really solid advice, on who the new football coach will be for the Ducks.

So, on that note - please advise the athletics hire-ups starting with AD Rob Mullens to hire Justin Wilcox away from the University of California.

Please hire Justin.

It’s not that Chip Kelly isn’t a good coach ... he certainly did a good job in Eugene during his four years in the head job (2009-’12), but he left for the greener pastures of the NFL, which turned the program over to his offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. He also did a good job with the program he inherited, but when it turned into his program after those two seasons, it went completely into the toilet.

After one season of Willie Taggart, who left for the greener pastures of Florida State, the Ducks have been fortunate to have a fabulous recruiter for the past four seasons in Mario Cristobal. But, he’s also leaving for the greener pastures of somewhere else: Miami, where he’s got solid history.

Wilcox is Oregon’s best shot at hiring a destination coach, someone who sees the greener pastures of coaching as Eugene. Were the Ducks to hire Wilcox, and he takes full advantage of all the assets he would have and has the program at the top of the college football world year after year, he would likely stay in Eugene regardless of which college or pro team came calling.

Kelly might also be that type of coach, but Wilcox has the family history with Oregon, having grown up just outside of Eugene, played at Autzen Stadium, where his dad and brother also played.

The coaching differences between Wilcox and Kelly couldn’t be more stark. Wilcox is a defense-minded coach, while Kelly focuses on offense.

Oregon fans had tons of fun with Kelly’s offensive tactics that led to opponents faking injuries to slow down the pace of games. It worked all the way to the 2010 national championship game, and 2014 national title game under Helfrich.

What a change, though, it would be for the Ducks to have a strong defense first. The offense? Oregon will never have a sub-par offense, no matter how much focus is on the defense.

The forgotten line: offense wins games, but defense wins championships, offers support for Wilcox.

With a standout quarterback in Ty Thompson in house, Wilcox would already have the base for a great offense, and his skill with defenses would keep the Ducks as a ranked team to start the season and beyond. All he would need to get to that championship level annually is some good assistance in recruiting. And, that’s where all the Uncle Phil support comes through, something Cristobal took advantage all the way to the sunny beaches of Miami.

Wilcox is the better option over Kelly to realize that Eugene has plenty of sun like Miami because it never rains at Autzen Stadium, and once he’s there, he’s not going to leave.

I believe in Oregon football, and I believe you, Uncle Phil, have the influence to make this happen. Please, make this happen.

Cliff Pfenning

Cliff Pfenning

Cliff is the publisher of Oregonsports.com, and has decades of experience in writing, photography, videography and graphic design. He's been a sportswriter in Oregon for more than three decades and has even taught sports broadcasting in Portland. He lives in North Portland in a house built in 1912 that has a backyard deck easily turned into a 'Top Golf' set-up for wiffle golf balls ... and cornhole.