Barring a late snag, the Oregon Ducks plan to hold a spring football scrimmage that will be open to the public at Portland’s Jesuit High School on Saturday, April 15.
Athletic department spokesman Dave Williford said Wednesday that final details have yet to be worked out, such as the time it would start, but “it will happen, if there’s no (NCAA) compliance issue.”
“I am very excited about it,” UO coach Willie Taggart said Wednesday in a phone interview. “So often we ask all of those folks to come here and to support us on Saturdays, and I just think it’s right that we go to them at some point and be able to bring our team there and work out for a lot of our alumni and fanbase.”
The Ducks will open their first spring football under Taggart on April 5 and finish April 29 with the annual spring game at Autzen Stadium, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on a Pac-12 Networks broadcast.
For the Ducks, spring football practices held away from campus in Eugene once were a regular occurrence. Stops included staging UO’s spring game at Tigard High School in 1989 and again in 1993 and at Hillsboro Stadium in 2001. In August 2007, the Nike campus near Beaverton hosted a closed UO scrimmage during fall camp.
Last year, it was Oregon State that embraced going off-campus to the metro area, holding a double-header of a football scrimmage and baseball game at Hillsboro Stadium in an effort to attract alumni.
Should everything be cleared with UO’s compliance office, which Williford said is likely, this spring it’ll be Oregon that goes north.
“Oregon is a great football program, one of the best in the country, and when they asked to do it we were happy to help out,” Jesuit athletic director Mike Hughes said.
The scrimmage would mark the Ducks’ latest public push to seek out fans where they live in the state. To celebrate national signing day on Feb. 1, coaches and staffers attended parties from Medford to Portland.
“A lot of (fans) can’t get down here,” said Taggart, for whom the idea of off-campus practices is nothing new after holding two of them while at South Florida. “So I think it’s good, and I think it’s good for our players, as well.”
Opening the scrimmage to all-comers is in line with what Taggart called his goal of increased access to his program upon his hiring in December. During his four seasons at South Florida, Taggart opened at least portions of spring practices to fans and media, and he said Wednesday that a few spring practices at UO will be entirely open for fans, while media members are expected to be able to watch at least the first 20 minutes of each spring practice.
Last spring, Oregon did open its practice gates to the public once before the spring game, though that was only to invited season ticket-holders and students.
UO came to Jesuit with the idea close to a month ago, Hughes said, adding that he believed Liz Brenner, the UO and Jesuit alumna, had recommended her high school as a potential spring practice host. Brenner’s brother, Doug, is one of three former Jesuit players on the UO roster, including fellow offensive lineman Charlie Landgraf and defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux. Trey Lowe, one of the top recruits in the state in the 2018 class, currently attends Jesuit, but recently committed verbally to Washington.
“We rent to a lot of groups,” Hughes said. “Some of them don’t get any notice and this one happens to be more high-profile.”
One of Taggart’s closest friends and mentors is Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who in recent years has turned the off-campus practice into one of college football’s most-debated talking points.
In 2016, Harbaugh’s Wolverines practiced in Florida during the school’s spring break. In response, the NCAA in January passed legislation banning schools from holding off-campus practices during a school vacation, though it take effect until this summer. Harbaugh’s response, in turn, was to up the ante, saying later in January that the Wolverines will spend three of their 15 allotted spring practices next month in Rome, practicing at the home field of professional soccer club A.S. Roma.
Would Taggart consider migrating the Ducks somewhere warmer during spring ball?
“I think if it’s going to benefit our football team, I’m all for it,” Taggart said. “I know one thing, coach (Harbaugh) is using that as an educational experience for his players. I think that’s always good when you can educate kids on different things. You think about some of those kids probably never left the state of Michigan and now they get a chance to go out of the country and learn. I think that’s always good for our young people.
“So if there’s something that we can benefit from and teach our guys and help us, then I’m all for it.”
— Andrew Greif