Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Oregon A Mid-Major?

Among die-hard Oregon fans the topic of who should coach the basketball team is a hotly contested one. It seems half the group thinks the current regime is just the one for Oregon because even sporadic success is better than what it used to be. The other half realizes Oregon may have never been this good before but it's obvious the team needs to consistently win. I am obviously on the side that says the current coach doesn't have what it takes to make Oregon a consistent winner. Because of that one sentence many people may not continue reading but if you do you will be enlightened, I promise.

One of my good friends is a University of the Pacific alum so we went down to Stockton and watched them play a couple of weeks ago. It was my first non-Oregon college game in a long time. Needless to say, watching both teams run actual plays and appear as though they had an actual offensive game plan was not something I had grown accustomed to seeing. I then checked out the banners on the wall of the gym. The banners show that UOP has been a pretty good team over the last 10 to 15 years. A few NCAA berths, a year or two when the national media takes notice and some appearances in postseason tournaments that mean nothing. When all is said and done UOP is a pretty good mid-major program.

It was then that I realized in its current state Oregon is a mid-major. In the last ten years the team has made folks east of the Rockies take notice in two of those years. The current coach has made fans think he is a miracle worker for earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. There are even some fans that think NIT appearances are a big deal. As I took the 'Oregon is a mid-major' theory further it really seemed to fit. Many times a mid-major team makes noise because the roster is dominated by upperclassmen that have spent quite a few years playing together. Does that sound familiar?

On the flip side, when a mid-major has a young team they usually have no chance of competing for a league title because someone else in the league is senior dominated. The end result of not competing for the league title with a young roster is something an Oregon fan is all too familiar with. However, these days many BCS teams are young so my brain tells me the reason Oregon's success is dramatically cyclical is a direct result of having one of the two worst coaches in the Pac-10. Thankfully for Ernie Kent the jury is still out on Johnny Dawkins. Though having a winning record with a team that did not have the Lopez twins shouldn't be overlooked.

In the coming days Pat Kilkenny is going to make one final decision before stepping down as athletic director. To a lot of people his decision will be about who should coach the basketball team. In my eyes his decision is deeper than that: At this time it is clear Oregon basketball is a mid-major program. Is that acceptable?

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