Canzano: Ex-Oregon Ducks greats wrote letter to AD Rob Mullens in front of football hire – OregonLive

2014 — DUCKS 47, BEAVERS 19 — Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) makes a dramatic leap over Oregon State Beavers safety Justin Strong (39) as the Ducks face the Beavers at Reser Stadium during the Civil War.Bruce Ely/The Oregonian
The search for the next football coach at the University of Oregon was briefly interrupted early last week when athletic director Rob Mullens received a letter.
It was signed by 14 former Ducks.
Included were: Joey Harrington, Marcus Mariota, Justin Herbert and Akili Smith.
Oregon hired Dan Lanning on Saturday to be the next football coach. Before that, Mullens extended an offer to Cal coach Justin Wilcox on Friday and was turned down. What nobody could have known was that the former UO players were mobilizing behind the scenes out of concern about the program losing its connection with the past.
“This feeling comes not from wins and losses, but rather, the idea that in the attempt to chase a national championship, we are losing what made us great in the first place,” the players wrote in the letter. “This is not a Blue Blood program. Our success was built on the continuity and hard work of the players and coaches in the 30 years prior to 2016 and we, as players, feel we are dangerously close to losing our identity.”
The letter never mentioned Wilcox by name, but two players who signed it confirmed that he was the candidate they wanted to see get an interview.
“This letter is not an attempt to harp on the loss of the coaching tradition and the connection it brought between generations of players and families both in Eugene and the larger Oregon Duck community. That ship has sailed,” the letter said. “But rather, this letter is to suggest that after two attempts to find a coach outside the ‘Oregon Box’ we believe it may be time again to look within the Oregon family.”
Wilcox played his college ball at Oregon. He attended Junction City High. He hasn’t publicly talked about why he turned down the job. Lanning will be introduced as the Ducks coach on Monday.
When Mario Cristobal left for Miami I wrote about how inspiring it was to see former players organizing and publicly lobbying for his return. I wondered if Oregon’s alumni might do the same. On Sunday, one player told me, “We were getting the boys back together. Everyone was coming back. Justin turned it down. I’m sure he had his reasons.”
Mullens must have taken it to heart. He interviewed Wilcox and former coach Chip Kelly. He offered the job first to the kid who grew up tailgating at Autzen Stadium in a family that has Hall of Fame connections. That it didn’t work out will disappoint some in the fan base. Others appear excited about the new direction.
If I’m Lanning, I pay attention to this.
He has an opportunity to invite those 14 players in for a sit down and let them feel heard. Oregon can’t unwind his hire and force Wilcox to take the job. But a crash-course in Ducks’ history might be best delivered by the likes of Harrington, Mariota, Herbert, Smith, Royce Freeman, Tyrell Crosby, Devon Allen, Hroniss Grasu, Jordan Kent, George Wrighster, Justin Peelle, Wes Mallard, Reuben Droughns and Dino Philyaw.
Lanning was born in Kansas City. Everyone has roots. He’ll understand the connection to home, but what he really needs to understand on his first day on the job is that there’s an obvious fissure in the Oregon fan base. It could use a repair.
The full letter:
14 former Oregon Ducks players wrote a letter to AD Rob Mullens.

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