Thursday, December 31, 2009

Call Them the California Golden Ducks?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2009 at 8:24 PM

USC won’t be in the Rose Bowl this year. Neither will UCLA, UC-Berkeley or Stanford. But California will be well represented when the University of Oregon Ducks take the field.

A Wall Street Journal story that appeared before this year’s Civil War game (under the somewhat unsporting headline “Football’s Carpetbagger Bowl”) noted that over the past five years, 93% of the players the U of O has signed have been from out of state – the highest percentage among the 65 colleges in the six major conferences. The Beavers are No. 6 at 85%.

“[T]he only major home-state contributors on Oregon's roster are the left tackle and the kicker,” Morgan Flint, the pride of Bend, the Journal wrote.

It wasn’t always thus. From the 1960s through the ‘90s, the Duck and Beaver teams had a much higher percentage of Oregonians – and they stunk. “From 1965 through 1988, Oregon won no more than six games in any season,” the Journal notes. “Oregon State had losing seasons every year from 1971 through 1998.”

Both schools turned their programs around and became national powers “largely by identifying underrated California high-school players whom the local schools didn't want or couldn't fit on their rosters.”

While Oregon’s imports come from far and wide, the great bulk of them – starting with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was recruited after being a standout player at the City College of San Francisco – are California-grown. A look at the Ducks roster shows that nearly half of the players (61) come from the Golden State.

The problem isn’t that Oregon high schools don’t produce good football players; they just don’t produce enough of them to support one major college football program, let alone two. Oregon State Coach Mike Riley is quoted as saying the state produces only eight to 10 major-college-caliber players a year, and some of those end up at out-of-state schools.

And neither Idaho nor Washington produces a bumper crop of outstanding high school players either, so if OSU and the U of O want to field teams that are national contenders they have to look south.

Oregonians who like to indulge in Calfornia-bashing might want to think about that as they watch the Rose Bowl tomorrow. As for me, I’m hoping to see Morgan Flint win it with a field goal with two seconds left on the clock.

Go Ducks!

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