EUGENE, Ore. – University of Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens said the program will search “far and wide” for the team’s next head coach.
The team earlier Tuesday night announced the firing of head coach Mark Helfrich, who went 37-16 in four seasons at the helm of the Ducks program. His buyout was more than $11 million.
“He’s a quality person and handled it with class and professionalism,” Mullens said of his Tuesday meeting with Helfrich. “No one wanted Mark to be more successful than me but we were on a poor trajectory.”
The Ducks are coming off a 4-8 season, their first losing since 2004. The year ended with the Ducks first loss since 2007 to in-state rival Oregon State. Mullens said he wanted some time to mull over his decision in the days following the Civil War loss.
“I wanted to get some distance away from the emotion of the game,” he said.
In the end, Mullen said he came to his decision Tuesday. He said there were multiple factors, on and off the field, which led to his decision.
"It's never one thing, right?" Mullens said. "Everyone wants to pinpoint to one thing that changes, but clearly over the last couple years, and particularly this year, we weren't as competitive as we needed to be."
Mullens said Tuesday night was the first step in the transition process. He said he hadn’t reached out to any potential coaches yet.
“I’m confident we’re going to have a lot of interest,” he said. “We’re going to look far and wide. Our pool will be broad and diverse. This is the first time something like this has happened in our program in decades.”
The last time the Ducks fired football a coach was in 1976. They hired Rich Brooks, who was the team’s coach until 1994. Mullens is hoping to have the same type of success with finding Helfrich’s replacement.
“If you have success as a head coach, that’s one parameter. That doesn’t mean we’re not open to coordinators or others,” Mullens said. “We want somebody who embraces student-athlete experience, who understands the high expectations at the University of Oregon, who understands our community and really wants to be here.”
The Ducks have been reported to be interested in a handful of coaches, including Florida head coach Jim McElwain, Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck, and former Ducks offensive coordinator and University of Central Florida head coach Scott Frost.
ESPN offers this short list: Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, North Carolina's Larry Fedora, South Florida's Willie Taggart, Boise State's Bryan Harsin, West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck, Central Florida's Scott Frost (a former Oregon offensive coordinator) and Florida's Jim McElwain.
Mullens didn't give any hint on who the team plans to reach out to or when he expects a new coach to be hired.
“We don’t have an ideal date,” he said. “It’s about getting it right.”