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Eugene pool runs deep in this game

September 27, 2007|Chris Dufresne

Memo to Georgia: The road, this week, does not lead back to you.

It leads to Oregon.

Not generally considered the cradle of anything except rain, Oregon is suddenly a cross-legged guru from which all college football eminence flows.

No. 6 California plays at No. 11 Oregon in Eugene in a marquee game being televised by ABC and announced by former Oregon quarterback Dan Fouts.

Oregon has been coached since 1995 by Mike Bellotti, but when he looks across the field Saturday, it's going to be like looking in a pond reflection.

Cal is almost an Oregon subsidiary.

Golden Bears Coach Jeff Tedford was Oregon's offensive coordinator from 1998 to 2001, and since arriving in Berkeley five years ago, Tedford has raided Eugene like your teenager raids the snack cupboard.

Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory, receivers coach Dan Ferrigno and running backs coach Ron Gould once drew plays in Eugene.

Cal's director of football operations, strength and conditioning coach and equipment man all formerly worked in Oregon.

So did the team's video coordinator, head equipment manager, assistant equipment manager and a recruiting assistant.

You can't cross a train track these days without tripping over Oregon ties.

Boise State, star of last year's college football show and coached by former Oregon offensive coordinator Chris Petersen, plays at Southern Mississippi tonight.

Kentucky, guided by former Oregon coach Rich Brooks, is 4-0 with at least one conference victory for the first time since 1950. The Wildcats are ranked No. 14 in this week's Associated Press poll, highest since the 1977 team finished No. 6.

"There's a lot of good things going through Eugene," Brooks said Wednesday.

Brooks held the Oregon post from 1977 through the Ducks' 1994 Rose Bowl run before handing the program off to Bellotti, his obviously able offensive coordinator.

Oregon has had two coaches in two decades.

They toss the word "patience" around like manhole covers these days, but Kentucky stayed with Brooks as the program transitioned through the post-Hal Mumme probation period.

Brooks went 9-25 his first three years but pleads guilty with an explanation. Fighting Florida and Georgia with 68 scholarships instead of 85 is like swimming with an anvil tied to your foot.

"We're in a quick trigger cycle right now because people don't have patience," Brooks said. "I believe a lot of it is some of the people making those decisions don't have athletic backgrounds to understand what it takes, or don't have the conviction to stand up to some of the instant heat that comes from a percentage of fans that love to get on the Internet and talk radio."

Fran Curci, at nine years, remains the longest tenured football coach in the history of Kentucky.

Brooks survived in Eugene after going 4-18 in his first two seasons and beat the clock by finishing his fourth year at Kentucky 8-5 with a bowl win against Clemson.

"People stuck with him here at Oregon through the tough times and it paid off," Bellotti said.

Now it's Kentucky getting a dividend check.

Bellotti and Brooks had a funny-how-it-all-worked-out phone conversation after Kentucky upset Louisville on Sept. 15 and Oregon improved to 3-0 after a win against Fresno State.

"It took three or four years to get to the point where they could be competitive," Bellotti said of Kentucky. "But he saw it coming. He knew it and I think the administration believed in him."

Staying with Oregon as a topic . . .

UCLA plays Saturday at Oregon State, which is coached by Mike Riley, who attended Corvallis High and coached at Linfield College outside Portland.

Linfield, a Division III school, is trying to extend its NCAA record of consecutive winning seasons to 52. The streak started in 1956. Linfield, though, is 1-1 this year and plays Willamette on Saturday in Salem.

UCLA was once coached by Tommy Prothro, who coached Brooks as a player at Oregon State and then later hired him to join the Bruins' staff.

Brooks was hired at Kentucky by Mitch Barnhart, formerly the athletic director at Oregon State.

UCLA also employed Bob Toledo, a former Oregon assistant coach.

Toledo is now head coach at Tulane, which this week plays host to No. 2 Louisiana State, which this year hired offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who last year was offensive coordinator at . . . Oregon.

* No. 1 USC is flying over Oregon this week on its way to Seattle to play Washington. Two of the most successful coaches in USC history, John McKay and John Robinson, were former Oregon players and assistant coaches.

USC also once employed an assistant coach with a booming voice who is now lowering booms at Mississippi.

His name is Ed Orgeron, which rhymes with Oregon.

Ole Miss this week plays in Athens.

Hey, Georgia, what do you know -- the road did lead back to you.

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