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The Great Duck Migration: A Flock of Oregon’s Coaches Fly to New Teams

Is Oregon a training school for coaches?

Valspar Championship - Round One Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The last couple of months have seen an unsettling amount of coaches leave their respective programs for seemingly better opportunities at other schools. Track & Field, Women’s Tennis, Softball, Lacrosse and Women’s Golf have all experienced turnover at the head coaching position.

Is this a sign of something larger or simply the natural cycle of a successful coach? Perhaps Oregon’s commitment to football and basketball (both men’s and women’s) has left the bowels of the piggy bank barren when it comes to non-revenue sports? It’s disconcerting that nearly all of these departures were in women’s sports. Hopefully, the hiring of talented newcomers like Melyssa Lombardi will prove to be a fresh start and not a step backwards.


Alison Silverio (women’s tennis)

Coach Silverio knows what it takes to win a national championship, having earned one at Georgia Tech in her playing days. She had transformed Oregon’s struggling program into a thriving one and will be hard to replace. In four years, Silverio had a 52-43 record and took the Ducks to their first NCAA tournament bid in a decade as well as their highest national ranking ever at 17.

On Friday, the hiring of Courtney Nagle was announced. The former Duck was hired away from North Carolina where she was an assistant coach. She helped lead the Tar Heels to a 122-12 dual match record, and could turn out to possess the perfect combination of coaching talent and U of O loyalty to take this team to long-term success.

Ria Scott (women’s golf coach)

Since 2009, Scott has lead the women’s golf team to the NCAA postseason in every year of her tenure. Women’s golf was seemingly ramping up for their highest level of success before Scott’s departure halted the momentum. Furthermore, likely replacement Laura Cilek, associate head coach turned interim head coach, has already accepted the head coach position at Colorado State University.

Recently, Derek Radley of Arizona accepted the job in Scott’s absence. With six years of experience as a Wildcat assistant, Radley has been credited as an outstanding coach and recruiter. Here’s hoping he can live up to Ria Scott’s legacy.

Katrina Dowd (women’s lacrosse)

Coach Dowd was the least experienced of the coaches fleeing Eugene, leaving before her third year. Dowd said she was “interested in pursuing other opportunities”, which could mean a renewed focus on her own playing career; both Dowd and interim head coach Becca Block play for the Long Island Sound, but since professional lacrosse doesn’t pay it’s likely she will search for a new coaching career. She leaves an 18-17 record at Oregon.

Maurica & Andy Powell (men’s and women’s track)

Track Town, USA lost their power couple the day that Maurica and Andy Powell left the Track Program. Their departure would be painful enough with out the added insult that they both plan to join the huskies. Maurica will be Washington’s first Director of Track & Field and Cross Country while Andy serves as head coach.

It will be extremely difficult to find a replacement that can match the duo’s experience and credentials: 2016 Women’s Cross Country National Coach of the Year, four-time National Assistant Coach of the Year, and 40 individual National Championships in Track and cross country. The Powells built Oregon up from a stagnant program to a national contender, so let us pray we can recover from their absence and that they don’t find the same success up north.

Mike White (softball)

The only criticism of coach Mike White’s nine-year tenure would be that he had seemingly plateaued, albeit at a very high level. With five Pac-12 championships and a post-season appearance in every season he coached at Oregon, Mike White decided to leave for Texas. The Longhorns upped the ante to hire away Coach White, who will go from earning an average of $237,500 in Eugene to $450,000 in Austin.

Mike White compiled a 435-11-1 record while at Oregon, but it appears Mr. Mullen has made the decision to test his luck with a less proven (and cheaper) coach rather than continuing with one of the best and most consistent softball coaches in the country.

If all goes according to plan, Melyssa Lombardi, former Oklahoma pitching coach, will take Oregon’s talented roster into the world series and finish the season on a high note- one of the few things Coach White was never able to accomplish.

If half of Mullen’s replacement hires work out, then it is likely we’ll completely forget about this strange time. However, if the majority of these programs drop in quality, then fans will likely deem this period as a preview of what will become status quo for Oregon’s non-revenue sports.

Obviously football pays the bills, but it also comes with its own massive bill as well. We’ll see if competitive coaching for the other programs is a price that must be paid for gridiron glory.