Mark Helfrich: 'Coaching at Oregon is the pinnacle for me'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday January 20, 2013

Posted by: Chris Vannini on January 20, 2013

When Mark Helfrich was growing up, he played pick-up ball at Autzen Stadium.

It was his dream to play for the Ducks. That didn't happen, but his coaching dream came true Sunday, when he was named Oregon's new head coach, replacing Chip Kelly.

"Growing up in Oregon, raised about two hours from here, playing pick-up football in Autzen before there was all this other stuff around Atuzen Stadium and dreaming of someday playing (for Oregon) in Autzen Stadium. Luckily, for Duck fans, I was never allowed to play in Autzen Stadium. Coach (Rich) Brooks and Coach (Mike) Bellotti at that time made a very good evaluation. But I had a couple high school games in there and that was the extent of that dream.

"My dad went to school and played here, my uncle played here, my brother, his wife, my mom, so many family and friends that went to school here just make this home. Coaching at Oregon is the pinnacle for me."

Helfrich replaces Kelly, who left for the Philadelphia Eagles. Although Kelly called the offensive plays, Helfrich maintained that things will mostly be the same with him in charge. But there will be some differences.

"I bet 99.2 percent of the time, we're in lock-step," he said. "It's going to be that 0.8 percent where you go, 'Oh, that's totally different.' I won't wear a visor, I'll eat more vegetables. We're about a process. We know the end game and there are different coaches that have been successful of all different shapes, sizes, personalities, temperaments and it's about the players and the process."

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said Helfrich's contract is worth $9 million over five years. Mullens also said five candidates had in-person interviews, including a number of internal candidates. But most figured Helfrich would take over.

He called Oregon the "pinnacle" for him and made it very clear he wants to be in Eugene for the rest of his career.

"I love this place," he said. "The biggest thing about this place that is special right now is our players. To be around our guys, I believe so much in them. It's really hard to convince a group of guys that age to not think about eight months from now. It's to think about the next minute and the next hour and the next day, and to focus on what really matters.

"These guys have, again, just an unshakable commitment to that and each other, and it's very special. My family is happy here, my wife is happy here. I've learned very quickly that that is the most-important thing in all of this. No, but this is a special place to me.

"We talked about a lifetime contract. I was not able to get that done, but maybe we'll earn that down the road."



Chris Vannini is the lead writer for and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to

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