September 25, 2023

In the aftermath of the Oregon Ducks' 42-6 rout of the Colorado Buffaloes in Eugene Saturday:


I've been very impressed with second-year Oregon coach Dan Lanning. The Ducks' program is in good hands. I also realize that part of this involves image, about staking out position for head-to-head recruiting of elite, difference-making players. And that Lanning's most caustic remarks about the Buffaloes and Deion Sanders' program were made to his team in the locker room pre-game. But coaches know when the cameras are on (and they're almost always on) and what's said there, stays there for maybe 11 seconds before it's all over the place. Plus, in this instance, Lanning actually invited ABC into the locker room for his oratory. ABC showed it on the game broadcast.


With that as the backdrop, Lanning's comments belittling Sanders' absolutely amazing use of the new-world CFB realities to turn around a program need to be taken as intentional and very public shots.  


“The Cinderella story is over, man,” Lanning told the Ducks. “They’re fighting for clicks. We’re fighting for wins. There’s a difference, right? There’s a difference. This game ain’t gonna be played in Hollywood. It’s gonna be played on the grass.”


My point? It's ALL a reality show. 


Even as fire-'em-up oratory, Lanning's approach was tacky and unnecessary. And it also was curious, given that the Oregon program long has led the parade in college football's embrace of new-era glitz, marketing and hype. They're All-American phenomena and the Buffaloes -- at least since Sanders' hire -- and Ducks have been more alike than different in taking advantage. Lanning's defenders on this point want to maintain it was more about the 3-0 Buffs being far overrated and the darlings of networks and national media as they came to Eugene, rather than it was belittling their approach.     


I don't like everything in this new world, either, and regret the ruthlessness involved in turning over rosters, but we got what we asked for. NIL. Transfer portal. Helter-skelter scrambling and geographically ridiculous realignment. Even much self-coverage via social media, YouTube and other means, to the point cutting back on media access. 


Lanning also has overseen a significant rolling-over of the Ducks' roster after Mario Cristobal's departure, and it has gone beyond time-dictated attrition.


In this game, both the Ducks and Buffaloes had high-profile quarterbacks who passed through the transfer portal -- Oregon's Bo Nix, who moved cross-country from Auburn and now is being pitched as a Heisman candidate, including with his image on New York and Dallas billboards; and Colorado's Shedeur Sanders, Deion's son. 


Also note that Deion passed on a chance to fire back at Lanning, praising him and calling him a great coach. Well, except for saying of obvious resentment from other coaches, "One thing I can say honestly and candidly: You better get me right now. This is the worst we’re gonna be. You better get me right now.”


Of course, though, this ended Buffaloes-Ducks matchups for the foreseeable future as we move on to the Oregon-Rutgers and Colorado-UCF rivalries.

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