CORVALLIS — This feels like the end for Mark Helfrich.
Oregon lost the Civil War 34-24 to Oregon State at Reser Stadium on Saturday, as the Ducks finish with a 4-8 record this season.
Let that sink in — 4-8 record.
Just two years removed from a Pac-12 championship, Heisman winner and trip to the national championship game, Oregon finished with a losing record and saw its eight-year Civil War winning streak snapped by the Beavers.
“I’m proud of how they’ve handled this season,” Helfrich said about his players. “This season has been hard on those guys.”
The Helfrich era feels over.
All season long, Oregon fans have been frustrated by the performance on the field, and most of that anger has been directed at Helfrich.
The buck stops with him.
“That’s life,” Helfrich said. “When you take this job, or you have a job like this, that’s how it goes.”
The big question, of course, is what do athletic director Rob Mullens and donors Phil Knight and Pat Kilkenny think about Helfrich’s performance?
Do they have faith that he and his staff can turn the program back into a winner?
We’ll all find out very soon.
As for Helfrich, he clearly understands that the program is quickly moving in the wrong direction.
He also understands that in the world of college football, that usually means the head coach is gone.
“I don’t make that determination,” Helfrich said. “Nobody’s job is safe in college football. That’s the nature of the beast.”
When asked how he would evaluate his performance this season, he said the team “didn’t win enough games. That’s a fact, and we have to own that part of it.”
Oregon hasn’t fired a football coach in 40 years, but it seems likely that will happen in the next couple days.
So far, Helfrich said he has not had a conversation with Mullens about his future.
“I haven’t had any of those conversations,” Helfrich said.
If they do pull the trigger, where will the Ducks turn?
There have been conflicting reports about how much Oregon will want to spend, especially considering they still have to buy out the remainder of Helfrich’s contract should they make the switch.
But with how much is invested in the program, it’s likely that they will pay whatever it takes to bring in a high-caliber coach.
The one who comes to mind often among Ducks fans is Chip Kelly, who is having a miserable time with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL.
There is no doubt that he would be the right fit if he chose to return to Oregon. Plus, he would likely keep a few of the Ducks’ longtime assistants, such as running backs coach Gary Campbell and offensive line coach Steve Greatwood.
Oregon desperately needs a recruiter at head coach who can close the deal on top-level talent, something that Helfrich has been largely unable to do in his four years leading the program.
Kelly did that routinely in his four seasons with the Ducks, which included three Pac-12 championships, a Rose Bowl victory and a trip to the national championship game.
It’s tough right now for the Oregon fan base because they were so close to capturing college football’s ultimate prize.
Two losses in the national championship game in recent years has Ducks fans hungry to finally clear that hurdle. No doubt that has fueled much of the frustration with Helfrich.
Under his watch, the program has taken a huge step back.
And few people believe Helfrich can turn things around.
Expect a change.