In 1877, one year after the University of Oregon was established, the school held its first intercollegiate sporting event, a baseball game against Monmouth College. In the top of the first inning, Monmouth scored 17 runs. 1877 was not the best year ever for Oregon athletics.
Fast forward 133 years. The football team is undefeated, basketball and volleyball are moving into a new arena, and baseball is back and fully loaded. The question is: is 2010 the best year ever for Oregon athletics?
The arguments FOR:
- Duck football enters uncharted territory with its first appearance in the BCS Championship Game. The Ducks went undefeated for the regular season, including a 9-0 record in the Pac-10 - the only team to ever accomplish this feat. RB LaMichael James was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and the Ducks' first unanimous All-American.
- Ashton Eaton caps a historic career. Eaton was the 2010 male recipient of the Bowerman Award, the Heisman Trophy of track and field. Eaton set a world record in the men's indoor heptathlon, and followed it up with his third consecutive NCAA outdoor championship in the decathlon.
- The Oregon women capture a title. Women's track won the 2010 Indoor Track & Field championship in dominant fashion, piling up 61 points to beat second-place Tennessee by 25. The Ducks overcame a disappointing 13 point first day to blowout the competition the rest of the way.
- Men's golf has a season to remember. The Ducks finished third at the NCAA championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a performance made sweeter by knocking out the rival Huskies in the quarterfinals. The Ducks were led by sophomore Eugene Wong, winner of the 2010 Jack Nicklaus Award winner as the best golfer in Division I.
- Women's basketball is on the run and on the rise. Head coach Paul Westhead has the Lady Ducks running and gunning, and guided the team to a third-round WNIT performance in his first season in Eugene. The Ducks are 11-2 heading into Friday's Pac-10 opener in Tuscon against the Arizona Wildcats.
- Horton hears an "OOOOOOOOOO". In the program's second season back, Oregon baseball put together a fantastic season, improving from a 14-42 campaign in 2009 to go 40-24 in 2010, coming one win away from a trip to the Super Regionals of the College World Series. The Ducks enter the 2010-11 season ranked ninth in the country.
- Don't have a sport we like? We'll create one for you! Oregon continued its commitment to innovation by introducing varsity Team Stunts & Gymnastics. Under the tutelage of coach Felicia Mulkey, the Ducks had a successful first season, culminating in a third-place finish at the NCA National Championships. The name of the sport has since been changed to Acrobatics & Tumbling, and is still going through growing pains, but that hasn't stopped Coach Mulkey from adding 18 new scholarship athletes for 2011-12. The team is currently ranked #2 in the NCATA preseason poll.
- To industry! The Oregon athletic department opened 2010 with its unveiling of the Jacqua Academic Center. While the building is not without controversy, its place as an innovative and beneficial place to learn is undeniable. Construction on Matthew Knight Arena is almost complete, and numerous renovations to Hayward Field made it a great place to host the 2010 Pac-10 championships.
The arguments AGAINST:
- Ducks run afowl of the law. The 2010 offseason was filled with legal trouble for the Ducks, the football team in particular. Most notably, 2009 starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended for the season after pleading guilty to second-degree burglary and dismissed from the team after police found marijuana in his car during a traffic stop, and starting running back LaMichael James was suspended for the 2010 opener against New Mexico due to a domestic dispute. Other incidents: a kicker fight, a wide receiver Facebook rant, and a drunken cheerleader unable to parallel park.
- Men's basketball: a zit upon our pretty face. Being the second-biggest revenue sport on campus, can a year really be called the best ever when our basketball team is terrible? Men's basketball went 16-16 last season, but on-field performance is the least of the program's problems. The athletic department decided not to renew coach Ernie Kent's contract, and the ensuing coaching search erupted into a full-fledged brouhaha, with possible replacements ranging from Tom Izzo, to Mark Few, to PJ Carlisimo, to Mark Dunlap. Out of the chaos came Dana Altman, but the program had already taken a hit with four transfers and an NCAA investigation.
- 2009 - Men's indoor track wins the NC, Galen Rupp wins the first Bowerman award, football wins the Pac-10.
- 2007 - Brooks leads the Ducks to the Elite Eight, Dixon is magic, women's hoops has a deep NIT run, volleyball to the Sweet 16, men's XC wins a title.
- 2002 - Joey and the Ducks win the Fiesta Bowl, the Lukes take a trip to the Elite Eight.
- 1994 - Kenny Wheaton scored.
- 1970 - Pre arrives, wins the Ducks a team NC in track & field.
- 1917 - The Ducks won the Rose Bowl, and benzduck was born.
All in all, I'd say this year has all the qualifications of being the Best Year Ever. My sentimental favorite would be 2007, as I was in school at the time and got to travel with men's basketball and women's volleyball to their NCAA tournaments. But overall, it was real good to be a Duck fan in 2010. Hopefully, 2011 will be even better.