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My vote's for Bellotti
By Todd Harris
Special to

I know it's early, but if I had a vote for Coach of the Year, put me down for Oregon's Mike Bellotti. He is the complete package.

Mike Bellotti
Mike Bellotti has made Pac-10 frontrunners of the Oregon Ducks.
Bellotti has succeeded in a place many would not consider a hotbed of college football -- Eugene Ore., a place where he and his Ducks now have an 18-game winning streak. Autzen Stadium isn't the fanciest place, but for opponents it may as well be known as "Dante's Inferno."

Bellotti has turned a quiet town into a bunch of college football diehards, and in the process rallied a program into the national rankings. His Ducks are now securely in the driver's seat as the Pac-10 representative for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 -- all this without the usual hoopla and media hype that comes with such success. However, Bellotti will be the first one to tell you his team hasn't done anything yet. This week, the Ducks host the Arizona Wildcats, also undefeated in the Pac-10. If the Ducks run their home-winning streak to 19, by defeating Arizona, coach Bellotti may just have his Ducks in a national championship hunt as well.

Bellotti came to Oregon as an offensive coordinator in 1989 and since his arrival, the high-flying Ducks have never been more potent. His pre-Oregon résumé may not be loaded with stints at big-name schools, but folks, proof is in results, and Bellotti has had the Midas touch everywhere he has coached. Since coming to Oregon, Bellotti has designed an offensive scheme that suits his players' talents rather than make them adapt or conform to his predetermined system.

Talk with Oregon's opponents and they will tell you the Ducks are all that and then some. However, knocking off UCLA, Washington and USC is only part of Bellotti's game plan. This is a program on the move. They are building new facilities, hiring new assistants and making a commitment to the future success of Oregon football. Review some of Bellotti's shrewd hires and personnel moves over the past five years and you would think he was on his way to coaching on Sundays. This may happen in time, but for now, Bellotti and his staff are all about maintaining a family type atmosphere around the program.

Last week at the L.A. Coliseum against USC, Bellotti's Ducks fell behind early. On the fourth play of the game, the Trojans broke a big play and took a 7-0 lead. The Ducks didn't panic, and behind the direction of junior quarterback Joey Harrington, quickly rallied to tie it. After that, it was all Ducks.

It's still early. Bellotti's Ducks still must face Arizona, Arizona State, then get past Cal and Washington State, and of course, the final game of the season -- "The Civil War" at Corvallis against the 5-1 Oregon State Beavers. Believe me, as someone who grew up in Oregon, there is nothing civil about this game. The Beavers would like nothing better than to spoil the Ducks season and a possible trip to Pasadena.

Many would say the Ducks are the Rodney Dangerfield of college football, getting less than their fair share of respect. Bellotti doesn't put a lot of stock in respect. He places stock in wins. So if the Ducks take care of business and head into Corvallis with their Run for the Roses still alive, expect a barnburner. If the Ducks pass that test, then let the Bobby Fischer comparisons begin.

And let it be known that I voted first.

Todd Harris is a sideline reporter for ABC's Pac-10 games and is a frequent contributor to

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 Maurice Morris takes the shovel-pass from Joey Harrington and rumbles into the end zone.
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 Joey Harrington lays it in nicely for Josh Line on a 23-yard TD pass.
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 Kareem Kelly lays out to haul in the Carson Palmer bomb.
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 Sultan McCullough slices through the Oregon defense 59 yards for a TD.
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