Tuesday, August 14, 2012
State of the brand: Oregon Ducks
By Brandon P. Oliver
Editor's note: RecruitingNation is taking a look at the state of each team's brand.
It is no great secret that Oregon is in the midst of the biggest boom in program history.
Dating back to 2000, The Ducks have finished seven seasons in which they finished ranked among the top 13. That includes five top-10 and three top-five finishes. The Ducks have won four outright league titles and a share of fifth in the same time frame.
So where exactly does that leave the Oregon program?
It would be easy to think the Ducks have peaked, but there is still room for improvement. The Ducks have been to four BCS bowl games since 2000, with a record of 2-2. Overall, the Ducks bowl record since 1990 is a subpar 7-11. Since Chip Kelly has been with the Ducks they are 3-2 in bowl games, but just 1-2 since he took over as head coach.
The Oregon program has arguably grown more than any other program in the country in recent years. The Ducks went from six wins in 1996 to 11 in 2001, improving one win per season. They took a step back toward mediocrity for three seasons until 2005, when they again won 10 games.
Since Kelly arrived in 2007, the Ducks have been one of the most talked about teams in the country. Television appearances and revenues have more than tripled. Bowl revenues have grown exponentially more than that.
In addition to the growing fan base and a new-found national following, the ever-changing uniforms and new color combinations have led to an marked increase in apparel revenue.
Oregon has always had passionate fans, as the options for Oregon residents are few and far between when it comes to sports. With the success of the Ducks during the past two decades, support for Oregon is at an all-time high. The Ducks have sold out Autzen Stadium 79 straight times dating to 1999.
In 2002, the stadium known as the "loudest stadium per capita," was expanded by 12,000 seats, bringing the total to around 54,000. The Ducks have been over capacity in every game since, capped off by crowds exceeding 60,000 when the Ducks hosted Arizona State and USC in 2011.
Another expansion has been a hot topic in recent years. There have been rumors of another 10-12,000 seats being added to the north side of the field to modernize and match the renovations done in 2002. Expansion is likely in the works, but the school wants to maintain the intimate setting that allows for such a unique environment. Time will tell, but with the success the Ducks have seen, they may have no choice but to expand.
With the backing of Nike founder Phil Knight, the Ducks have seen expansion in nearly every way. Since 2009, the university has opened the Jaqua Academic Center, built an impressive baseball stadium (PK Park) and opened the state-of-the-art Matthew Knight Arena.
A new six-story football complex is under construction and will be completed in 2013. The new complex will include upgraded locker rooms, meeting rooms, movie theaters, a brand new weight room and lounges for players and coaches. Some might call it overkill, but Oregon has been a trendsetter in all things over the past decade and will continue to do so as long as it has Knight's support.
Other schools around the country have followed the Ducks lead when it comes to uniform changes, style of play and facility upgrades. California and Washington have both fallen way behind the Ducks in terms of football success in recent years. Their response? Build. The two programs are in the midst of projects totaling nearly $600 million.
Even USC is in the midst of facility upgrades. All three schools were in desperate need of upgrades regardless of what Oregon has done, but the attention Oregon received, and the success that has coincided with its growth have given many programs a reason to think big.
Oregon is on top of the world entering 2012 after three straight league titles and the subsequent BCS Bowl appearances.
The program has never seen this kind of sustained success in its history. It remains to be seen if it can maintain the high level of success once schools such as Washington and Cal improve. The league is full of new coaches and new facilities, but for now, Oregon is still leading the pack.
It is hard to imagine a relatively small school from the Northwest, with no history and even less local talent to build their roster with, being able to sustain itself over the long haul. With USC looking to be back at a traditional level, Oregon appears to have its hands full. If anyone can do it though, it might just be the Ducks.
Oregon's widespread innovations have made an impact on schools and programs all over the map. The financial backing of powerful boosters and general community support have helped the program grow into a national brand that has everyone's attention.
The question in the coming years will be what the Ducks will do next to push the envelope. The way things stand now, betting against the Oregon program seems like an exercise in futility.