Less than 24 hours after Oregon fired its first head coach in 40 years, three players met with reporters to reflect on Mark Helfrich's time as coach and discuss the future.
Helfrich, who accumulated a 37–16 record in four years, was promoted from offensive coordinator following the 2012 season when Chip Kelly departed for the NFL. He led the Ducks to a Pac-12 title and a national championship game berth.
Oregon finished the 2016 season 4–8 overall and 2–7 in Pac-12 play. It was the program's first losing campaign and first without a bowl appearance since 2004. Helfrich was the first Oregon native to coach in Eugene in 71 years.
During his Tuesday night press conference, Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said he detected a "shift in culture."
"Over the past couple months, I've grown concerned with the direction of the program," Mullens said. "We were not competitive in a number of games and we were on a poor trajectory."
Linebacker Troy Dye believed the young team had bounced back, evidenced by a win over No. 11 Utah on Nov. 19. Helfrich's final game was a 34–24 loss to Oregon State. It snapped an eight-game Oregon winning streak in the rivalry game.
"Helf had us on the way back up," Dye said. "It's really unfortunate to see him go. He really had a plan for us. Guys were ready to follow that plan."
Jonathan Hawthorne is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Oregon. Follow him on Twitter.