Bellotti's greatness overshadowed by Pete Carroll
Oregon football's prearranged succession plan -- assistant coach Chip Kelly taking over for head coach Mike Bellotti, who would then move into the athletic director's seat -- was announced on a quiet Friday in the midst of NCAA basketball madness.
It was typical Bellotti, who wasn't one to make noise about himself. Bellotti's tenure at Oregon, however, was truly remarkable. He was the dean of Pac-10 coaches, with 14 years of service, and leaves with a record of 116-55.
Bellotti was as consistent as the Eugene winter rain and would have had even greater success had he not spent much of the last decade in the shadow of USC's Pete Carroll.
Interestingly, Bellotti turned down the job at USC in 2001 that eventually went to Carroll, who transformed the Trojans into a national powerhouse, often at Oregon's expense.
Bellotti, though, was a consistent winner at Oregon. In a world where coaches get hired and fired by the hour, Bellotti held steady at a program that has not fired a coach in decades. Bellotti, an assistant on Rich Brooks' staff, took over the Ducks in 1995 when Brooks cashed in a Rose Bowl berth for a chance to coach in the NFL. Brooks had been at Oregon since 1977.
Bellotti never led Oregon to the Rose Bowl, but he did lead the Ducks to a BCS victory, in the Fiesta Bowl, in 2001.
Two teams stand out to me: That 2001 team, led by quarterback Joey Harrington, which finished 11-1 and No. 2 in both polls but was denied a trip to the national title game in the Rose Bowl because the Ducks finished No. 4 in the BCS standings.
More heartbreaking, though, was Oregon's 2007 team, which had a legitimate shot to win the national title until star quarterback Dennis Dixon tore knee ligaments against Arizona State on Nov. 3. He tried to play the following game at Arizona with a knee brace, but his left knee collapsed on a cut in the first half and he was finished for the year.
Oregon lost that Thursday night at Arizona, and the team's national title hopes were done. The solemn look on Bellotti's face as he sat on the team bus headed out of Tucson underscored the disappointment.
If Bellotti is as competent an AD as he was a coach, Oregon athletics is in good hands.
-- Chris Dufresne
Photo: Oregon's Mike Bellotti holds the championship trophy following the Ducks' 42-31 victory over Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. Credit: Kirby Lee / US PRESSWIRE