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Oregon is Perfectly Positioned for NIL Era

December 10th, 2021 by dk

Mario Cristobal is going home. He’s leaving Eugene to become head football coach at his alma mater and to be close to his ailing mother and his only brother. Like Willie Taggart four years ago, Cristobal left for Florida before the Ducks’ postseason bowl game.

Cristobal’s contract would have paid him and extra $1 million if he had delayed his departure announcement until January 15, 2022. Apparently, flipping some of the Ducks’ top recruits before the early signing period commences next week was worth that kind of money to Cristobal or his Florida patrons.

Almost everyone wishes Cristobal well in Miami. It’s hard to deny anyone a homecoming, especially to be near an ailing mother. But not everyone is sorry to see him go. He embarrassed the Ducks on national television when he refused to switch quarterbacks in the second half of either defeat against Utah.

This preserved the redshirt status of our top freshman quarterback, but it also showed an unwillingness to do what’s necessary to win. It may not have changed the outcome, but that stubborn refusal to adapt to circumstances was not a good look. Cristobal held his Maginot Line logic that everything will be determined at the line of scrimmage.

Quick history refresher: the French wanted to show strength against the Germans after World War I so they built a concrete bunker with fixed machine guns that ran 280 miles along their border. The Nazis invaded France in World War II through Belgium instead.

Clever coaches have taken advantage of Cristobal’s inflexibility. Utah expected Oregon to do everything possible to stop their rushing attack in last week’s rematch. So they passed the ball instead, until they built a comfortable lead. Machine guns set in concrete were ineffective against an aerial attack.

So now what? Hiring from within doesn’t look likely. Pulling from the national coaching carousel isn’t very appealing either, given our recent history.

I won’t suggest any names, except to say that Willie Taggart peaked too early. What could a coach with Slick Willie’s showmanship accomplish in this new NIL age of college football? Now that players can be compensated for their Name, Image and Likeness, the coach no longer holds their only (literal) meal ticket.

Basketball star Sabrina Ionescu is Nike’s Chief Athlete Officer for a new project. Division Street will coordinate and maximize Oregon players’ NIL earnings. Did you know you can rent a Noah Sewell-themed Airbnb, filled with the linebacker’s jerseys and shoes and other ephemera for $300+ per night? The NIL era has just begun. Creative opportunities abound.

Phil Knight and Nike can build Oregon into a NIL powerhouse for its athletes, combining a national brand with a rabid local fan base. Oregon can offer athletes a payday that may outstrip what some earn in the NFL. Players may compete in Eugene as long as their eligibility allows, just to build their brand.

We’re losing a coach who was determined to win from the trenches, even after his mentors moved on to more creative strategies. Who will lead college football into the NIL era? Oregon is positioned perfectly.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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