The Oregon football program has quickly become one of the most recognizable faces in the world of college athletics.
The Ducks just polished off an 11-1 season and are headed to their fourth straight BCS bowl game.
They are led by Chip Kelly, who has revolutionized the way offenses are run with his up-tempo, spread attack. His redshirt freshman quarterback, Marcus Mariota, threw 30 touchdowns and rushed for 690 yards, just 28 yards short of Jeremiah Masoli's record for quarterbacks at Oregon.
So, there's really no other way to say it; the Ducks are among the nation's elite and the future is brighter than ever.
But there's a growing lethargy within the fanbase that is somewhat surprising given the current state of the program. It begs the question; are the majority of Oregon supporters fair-weather or bandwagon fans?
The standard for the Ducks went from trying to win the Civil War in the 80's, to making a bowl game in the 90's, to now winning the conference and playing for a national championship.
There's nothing wrong with high standards, especially when the team has talent that rivals some of the top programs in the country. But when a fourth BCS bowl invokes a "blah" attitude from fans, a problem begins to develop.
Not all Duck fans fall into this category.
But I've heard time and time again since the Nov. 24th loss to Stanford that this season has become a disappointment to many, and that despite playing in the premier matchup of bowl season (aside from the title game), a trip to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl just isn't cutting it.
Take, for example, ticket sales as of this morning. The Ducks still have 2,000 tickets left out of their initial allotment of 17,500, while Kansas State has sold more than 22,000, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.
I get that a fourth consecutive BCS game may not be as exciting as when the Ducks reached the Rose Bowl back in 2009 (their first BCS game after eight years). And it's important to note that Kansas State is playing in its first BCS game since 2004.
But, the moment a matchup like this fails to get fans excited is the moment that you start to question the depth of Duck fans' passion for their team.
Many current fans began to show interest in the team back in 2007 when Dennis Dixon grabbed college football by the horns and took it for a ride with his dazzling display of running and passing. Since then, Oregon has been relevant nationally and a mainstay in the Top 10.
Are fans prepared to support this team when, inevitably, they have a seven or eight win season?
A large number of fans watched during the 80's as three win seasons became the norm, and I doubt they'll find it very difficult to support the program during good times and bad.
But, an even greater number has only seen this team during its golden years. If fans are only mildly excited to be in a spot that more than 110 other teams would love to be in, what's going to happen if Oregon is playing in the Holiday Bowl? Or the Sun Bowl?
Obviously, with the talent that exists on the team, anything less than a BCS bowl next season would have to be considered a disappointment.
But, do fans care enough to be able to weather a decline?
The reason that teams like Michigan and Texas continue to have such great fan support amidst six and seven win seasons, aside from larger alumni bases, is that they both have a tradition of winning football that extends back into the mid-1900s or earlier.
Fans of those schools have lived through good football and bad football.
While the level of excitement is obviously higher after a 10 win season as opposed to a three win season, each fanbase is going to support their team, regardless.
I don't think that's the case with Oregon, but I hope I'm wrong.
I understand that a certain level of disappointment comes with the territory of missing out on the National Championship game because of a missed field goal. But, if you can't let go of the Stanford game, and you consider this season to be a complete loss, you should examine your own fanhood.
Again, I could be wrong. We won't know for sure until the dip in level of play eventually occurs. And with the rate the Ducks are at, that may not happen for another 10 years.
But it's a disturbing trend that fans have become unhappy with just winning 11 games and only playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Will support continue to wane should the team falter in the coming years?
Only time will tell.
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