It can be stated simply: The University of Oregon is currently home to the strongest college sports program in the United States.
Measured by performance, the best college athletic program today, right now, is the good ol’ green-and-yellow-and-black-and-white-and-liquid-metal Oregon Ducks.
To paraphrase one of our idols, Charles Dickens: These are the best of times, ever, for University of Oregon sports. It is the age of wisdom. It is the epoch of belief. It is the season of Light.
For your consideration:
Football team under Chip Kelly has been the Pac 10-12 conference football champions three years running, including two Rose Bowls and one National Championship game. Predicted by one national sage to play and beat LSU in this years BCS Championship.
Baseball team currently ranked No. 1 in RPI and almost certain to host a regional (and if they win that, a super-regional, and if they win that, a trip to Omaha) in only their 4th year of infancy/resurrection under George Horton.
Oregon Women’s Softball team under Mike White is heading to its third straight Super Regional in the NCAA playoffs.
Men’s Golf under Casey Martin is, in two weeks, going to its fourth NCAA Championships in six years. The women’s golf team under Ria Scott went to Regionals, missed the Championships by one stroke and finished No. 21 in the country.
The Women’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team under Felicia Mulkey recently won their 2nd consecutive National Championship.
Women’s Cross Country track team finished 5th in 2011 NCAA Championships.
Women’s Volleyball under Jim Moore made it to the first round of the NCAA playoffs.
Woman’s Lacrosse under Jen Larsen-Beck won the program’s first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament and then lost in overtime in a play-in game for the NCAA tournament.
Oregon Men’ s Basketball under Dana Altman has won the CBI and gone to the NIT in his first two years as coach, after most of existing team left.
Men’s Tennis under Nils Schyllander had their best season since 1994-95, and were ranked as high as No. 38.
And let us take a moment to acknowledge the dominant, enduring legacy of the Oregon Track teams, including Cross Country. If they ever carve a Mt. Rushmore for Track coaches Vin Lanana will surely be one of the faces etched in stone. He is Zeus on the mountain top.
Hayward Field is and apparently always will be the holiest of shrines for the sport. I suppose the good people of Texas A&M and maybe Arkansas,Tennessee, Florida State, UCLA and LSU and a precious few others may sit at the table with us but let’s all admit that Hayward Field is sacred ground.
I couldn’t find the exact quote on the internet, but there was an article during the 2009 US Olympic Team trials that said something to the effect of “Like many others, when Track and Field wants to get back to its fundamental spiritual roots it goes to church.”
For fans and athletes of the sport, Hayward Field is a pilgrimage.
So we conclude: Top-to-bottom, when it comes to the roster of coaches, the facilities (the money and resources poured into U of O athletic facilities in the last half-dozen years is a whole ‘nother column), and most important, the tangible, measurable results, everybody else better Duck.
Jon Hirsch is a College Sports writer for The Sports Blitz. He can be contacted at JHirsch@TheSportsBlitz.com.