The Capital One Cup, recognizing the best overall athletic universities in the country, released its fall standings Wednesday, and it’s good news for Duck fans.
Recent runs of success enjoyed by Oregon’s football, volleyball and cross country teams have placed the Ducks No. 5 in both men’s and women’s sports, the only school in the top 10 in both standings. In the spring, Capital One will award a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships and the Capital One Cup trophy to the winning schools at the ESPY Awards in July.
ESPN anchor and college football analyst Rece Davis serves on the award’s advisory board, and the Emerald caught up with him to discuss the school’s recent athletic success and Oregon football’s prospects for the 2013 season. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Emerald: First question, Rece, who should Oregon keep its eyes on in the Capital One Cup standings this winter?
Davis: You have to talk about Florida and Stanford. They’ve won the cup in each of the first two years. Until someone knocks them off, they have to be considered the favorites.
But Oregon has a tremendously well-rounded athletics program. We know how good the football team has been, (men’s head coach) Dana (Altman) is doing a great job with the basketball program — that can provide an unexpected boost in the standings if they can finish in the top ten in the
Oregon went a long time without being recognized as a national athletic powerhouse. Aside from money, what’s the national perception of what’s behind Oregon’s rise to prominence?
I can give you two very short, concise definitive answers: The first is football and the second is Phil Knight.
You have to have booster involvement in order to generate the revenue you need to enhance your facilities, market your product and establish your brand, as Oregon has done brilliantly, and you have to have football.
Football drives the boat, and anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. I don’t have my notes in front of me, but I think I remember from covering the Fiesta Bowl that prior to 2000, I don’t think Oregon had a double-digit win season. Since then, they’ve had eight of them, four under Chip Kelly. Branding for the uniforms, the beautiful facilities, all those things make Oregon an attractive destination for students who want to play various sports.
Chip Kelly’s decision to stay at the college level — did that surprise you at all?
Yes, it did, because the whole vibe around the Fiesta Bowl was that he was gone. Chip and I are not friends in the sense that he calls me to discuss his vacation plans. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for him, but the next time he calls me asking for advice will be the first time.
That said, I think Chip Kelly is a college coach. Not to say he can’t win in the NFL, but I think, like (Alabama head coach) Nick Saban, Chip Kelly is a college guy. He can have a greater impact on a program and on people as a college coach than he can as an NFL coach. I think he belongs in college football.
Am I a little biased in saying that? Absolutely. I like the NFL, but my passion is college football. I want Chip Kelly in our game. But I think that his demeanor, how he runs things, how he talks about winning the day, and not talking about any of that other stuff — it plays very well in college.
I don’t want to digress, but people act like Saban was 4-28 with the Miami Dolphins. He had one winning season and one losing season. He was two games under .500 (15-17), and they didn’t have a quarterback in a quarterback-driven league. That guy could be successful in the NFL. I just think Saban has realized he will have a greater impact in college, and I hope Chip is very happy in doing that as well. I think it’s good for the game and good for him as well.
We got the chance to talk to College GameDay’s Desmond Howard earlier this year, and he flat-out said he didn’t think Kelly’s system could work in the NFL. What do you think?
I always acquiesce about questions of Xs and Os to guys who’ve played. But I would counter with this: If you look around the league right now, and I know Chip’s offense is different form the pistol stuff you’re seeing, but who thought that stuff would work in the NFL? You’re starting to see, because of the numbers count, if you’re judicious with the threat of the quarterback it can really change the dynamics for a defense.
I remember talking to Chip many times — they have a rule for quarterbacks: “Touchdown, first down, get down.” Marcus Mariota does a great job of it, and I think the same thing can be applied in the NFL.
Would he have to change some things? Of course he would. But he’s a really, really smart offensive guy, and I think he would make the proper adjustments to make it work.
In the NFL, ultra-athletic quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck — they’re making an immediate impact. Even in college, freshmen like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Mariota can be successful out of the gate
Is pure athletic ability becoming more valued at the quarterback position?
It’s always a great thing to have when you’re a transcedent athlete like Mariota is. Manziel is of a different breed in my judgment, because his brilliance is founded in the innate improvisational feel he has for buying time, finding alleys, creating chaos for a defense.
But I still think the first job for any quarterback, whether its Manziel, Mariota, or Mike Glennon, the guy at NC State who would come in third in a race with a pregnant woman, the first order of business as a quarterback is to manage the game. People don’t like to hear that, but you’ve gotta manage the game first, then let your talent go.
If you ask any defensive coordinator in the country what they hate the most, it’s having to deal with a QB who can make a bad play a good one strictly by being an elite athlete.
Within the media in Oregon Chip Kelly is well-known for being quick-witted, but caustic and terse. Does that bother national media guys like yourself?
No. Look, he’ll always answer a question. But he may answer it in a couple of syllables. I think that’s fine. We in the media sometimes get so offended, we’ll swing at a guy — figuratively speaking — when he doesn’t answer a question like we’d like him to. That’s ridiculous.
It’s incumbent on us to ask good questions. Sometimes Chip’s going to give an answer that’s unfair. Nobody’s perfect in this exercise. It’s our job to keep pushing legitimate things and doing our homework, asking questions we’re curious about. Whatever he says, roll the tape back. It’s only fair.
With a young offense and Kelly back on the sidelines, how do the Ducks stack up next year in your earliest of preseason polls?
For me, Oregon starts next season where they ended this season — national championship contenders.
I was a little disappointed I didn’t get quite the love in the Pacific Northwest in the preseason that I thought I had earned by picking Oregon to win the national championship this year. Notre Dame, going into the BCS Championship Game, deserved to be there — the most deserving team. The best teams from the start of fall practice to the very end were Alabama and Oregon. Two different things.
No problem. This offeseason I’ll be wearing my “Aloha Means Touchdown” shirt a fan gave to me, for sure.
— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) January 4, 2013
Fans can track Oregon’s Capital One progress on Facebook and Twitter.