Mark Helfrich: New Oregon Head Coach Put in No-Win Situation

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2013

Jan. 3, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA: Oregon Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich prior to the game against the Kansas State Wildcats during the 2013 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Oregon defeated Kansas State 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks are going to name Mark Helfrich their new head coach, according to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports. It makes sense for the program, because he knows the team and system well, having served as the offensive coordinator under Chip Kelly. 

However, whether or not this is the right move for Helfrich is another story entirely. He is put in a situation that seems designed for him to fail in spectacular fashion. 

First, losing Kelly is going to have an impact on Oregon's recruiting. Just how much impact remains to be seen, but the idea that all the players who have verbally committed to play under him will stay with a new coach seems a little far-fetched. 

The Ducks weren't lighting the recruiting world on fire, even with Kelly this season. Their current class is ranked just 27th in the country (via, and that's coming off a fourth straight BCS game and second consecutive victory in a BCS game. 

That is not necessarily a sign the program is in trouble, because Oregon rarely gets a lot of elite talent. It has just been so good at finding players who fit into that uptempo offensive style and speed defense system the team runs. 

But a big problem that Helfrich faces is trying to replace Kelly. He can say whatever he wants about just trying to keep business going as usual, which all new coaches do.

When you take over for a coach who has become such a beloved figure in that area, had a 46-7 record in just four seasons, never finished worse than tied for first in the conference and made it to a BCS game in every season, fans are going to always compare you to that. 

On top of what Helfrich has to do on the field, there is the fact that Oregon has an NCAA investigation hanging over its head like a rain cloud in a cartoon that won't go away anytime soon. 

According to Charles Robinson and Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports, the investigation into Oregon's use of football recruiting services will result in an appearance before the NCAA committee on infractions at some point:

The sources said Oregon is now anticipating an appearance before the NCAA's committee on infractions (COI) this spring – something the school was hoping to avoid following an investigation into the football program's financial relationship with prep adviser Will Lyles.

If the NCAA finds Oregon was involved in a scenario where it is in violation of rules, who knows how hard the committee will come down on the program.

The Ducks are a team that has been on one of the most impressive runs in the BCS era, but that appears to be coming to an end with Kelly gone and possible sanctions coming at some point. 

Helfrich will have to be there to pick up the pieces. Given his resume as an offensive guru, it is entirely possible the Oregon program will be fine. But the odds get longer and longer the more you think about it.