By Sam Finley

What’s been going on with University of Oregon sports over the past few months? Here are some thoughts.

First up, football. Normally, if the Ducks lost to Washington and Oregon State during a football season, their year would be considered a massive dud. But those painful defeats from two regional rivals should not stain an otherwise outstanding beginning to Dan Lanning’s head coaching career at UO.

After all, anytime your team finishes with an overall record of 10–3, it’s nothing to sneeze at. Also, let’s remember how the 2022 season began, with that lopsided loss against eventual national champion (again) Georgia. Did anybody think the Ducks would win more than, say, eight games at that time? How about that they would be close to being in contention for the College Football Playoff in November? Didn’t think so.

Yet Coach Lanning found a way to redirect his guys to learn from a poor opening game and play vastly better as they went along. Had it not been for a late-season ankle injury for quarterback Bo Nix (which greatly hampered his mobility), Oregon likely would have prevailed against the Huskies and Beavers and gotten a playoff berth. We’ll never know. 

That said, getting nine regular season wins followed by a victory over North Carolina in the Holiday Bowl should (again) not be frowned upon. There are several programs out there struggling to win six games every year. They would love to have Oregon’s problems from this past season.

Furthermore, as solid as Lanning’s tenure was in year one, the future is even brighter. The 2023 recruiting class has been rated the 10th best nationally. That means this program will have even more talent going forward and even more chances at double-digit winning seasons. Nothing is definitive until the games are played, but UO football could be flying higher than ever when it’s all said and done. 

Moving from the gridiron to the hardwood, let’s have a brief discussion about the concerns some Duck fans are voicing about the Oregon men’s basketball team. (Not necessarily a majority of fans, but a decent enough number to be noticed). For some reason, some people believe that head coach Dana Altman isn’t getting enough wins as of late, and maybe it’s time for a change.

Here’s the proper response to those well-meaning fans: Who would you get to replace Altman? This man has left his previous two employers (Kansas State and Creighton) vastly better than he found them. 

For that matter, let’s remember that Altman has had UO playing in some form of postseason play every year since he came to Eugene in 2010. That includes three appearances in the Sweet 16, two Elite Eights, and one entry into the NCAA Final Four. Respectfully, that’s the résumé of a coach more than worthy of College Basketball Hall of Fame consideration. Oregon fans should feel blessed to have him in the Willamette Valley.

One more thing to ponder based on the previous two thoughts: Winning any type of college sporting event is hard, regardless of talent. There will be years that a team will overachieve with less talent and underachieve with more. That’s true when such teams are coached by relatively new head coaches like Lanning or seasoned vets like Altman.  But it’s also what makes watching sports simultaneously frustrating and fun. 

From the desk of this writer, these two UO programs (and many others such as women’s basketball, softball, baseball, track, etc.) are in very solid hands. So, while there will always be ups and downs, the best for Oregon athletics is yet to come.