Although he led Oregon to the College Football Playoff just two years ago, Mark Helfrich presided over the worst Ducks season in 25 years this fall. And it’s cost him his job.
Oregon fired Helfrich on Tuesday night following a meeting between Helfrich and athletic director Rob Mullens, CSNNW.com’s Aaron Fentress reports. The university does not have a replacement lined up, which should trigger widespread interest among coaching candidates since the Ducks have been one of Division I’s most successful programs over the past two decades.
But their 2016 work offered scant resemblance to the powerful teams Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Helfrich offered in the past. This 4-8 campaign marked Oregon’s first sub-.500 season since 2004 — the last time a Ducks slate did not conclude with a bowl game or a College Football Playoff berth.
Helfrich went to California to recruit on Sunday and returned on Monday, and during the meeting with Mullens the coach had to sell the AD on a plan to turn this around. Despite the Ducks following up their playoff effort with a 9-4 mark in 2015, the meeting ended up sealing Helfrich’s fate. Three years remain on Helfrich’s contract, and he’s in line to collect a massive $11.6 million buyout, per Fentress.
“It is a great honor to have served as the head football coach at the University of Oregon,” Helfrich said. “It is with respect and disappointment that we receive this decision. Plain and simple — we didn’t win enough games this season.”
Hired to succeed Kelly in 2013 after Kelly accepted the Eagles’ offer, the former Oregon offensive coordinator guided the Ducks to a 37-16 record in his four seasons in Eugene. It ended with a loss to Oregon State and a last-place divisional finish at 2-7, only bettering Arizona in the conference overall.