Dan Lanning Oregon Dan Lanning is staying at Oregon, and the Ducks now have one thing left to do.

Nick Saban’s retirement jolted the college football world and then some on Wednesday. The search for Alabama’s next head coach went off to the races, with many wondering who would replace the legendary Saban in Tuscaloosa. They’d have an unenviable task like any other, and damn near everyone knows it. One name almost instantly emerged as the name to watch: Oregon head coach Dan Lanning.

Less than 24 hours later, Lanning entered the fray to set the record straight publicly. He’s staying in Oregon.

The Ducks head coach posted a video that concluded with audio of Lanning making a previous statement, along with text that affirmed his status in Eugene. “If you’re scared your coach is leaving, come play for us. The Ducks aren’t going anywhere… and I’m not leaving,” the text read.

Lanning could be heard saying, “The grass is damn green in Eugene.”

(Full disclosure: I’m an Oregon fan. But I jumped on the wagon a bit late. They were fun to play with in the EA Sports NCAA Football games. I loved their uniforms, and their play style under Chip Kelly made me a fan. I’m now here for good. I need to get to Eugene for the first time)

Conventional wisdom suggests that the person who accepts the Alabama job will be under unbelievable pressure. The scrutiny they would face from boosters, the media, and alums alike would be absurd. Saban’s dynastic run with the Crimson Tide masked the fact that it’s pretty chaotic there, just like the other SEC powers.

At the same time, It’s Alabama. They have more ‘want’ than any program in the country. It’s an illuminated position in the sport. The Crimson Tide has always been at the heart of the sport, but under Saban, they were arguably THE most visible college football team in the land. So, the job involves levels of fame and notoriety not seen in many other places.

In other words, it’s pretty hard to say no to. That’s without even involving the dollar signs.

Despite the allure and the attraction, Lanning decided to remain at the University of Oregon. At 37 years young, Lanning’s jump from Georgia defensive coordinator to Ducks coach to Crimson Tide coach would have only been a four-year cycle. It’s a lot. It’s understandable to see why he would choose to say “no,” just like it’s understandable when someone inevitably says “yes.”

For Lanning, this move signals that he and the Ducks are ready for what comes next. The last two seasons were terrific for Oregon, posting 10-win seasons and consecutive bowl wins. Their only trip-ups were to rival Oregon State in 2022, a win the Ducks got back this year, and three losses to arch-rival Washington. Lanning’s yet to beat the Huskies, but morale is high anyway in Eugene. The Ducks are recruiting like they’ve never recruited before. They face a unique challenge, as the depth of in-state talent forces them to recruit nationally. But after an outstanding cycle, Oregon’s reached heights they never have before in terms of blue-chip talent.

This is the program enjoying the fruits of its labor. Before the 1990s, Oregon wasn’t a great job. Following their memorable 1994 season, the Ducks have been off and running. The program has 14 double-digit win seasons, all coming in the 21st century. They have six 12-win seasons and one 13-win season from their memorable 2014 campaign that saw them fly to the College Football Playoff final. Oregon’s won six New Year’s Six bowls and, at times this century, has competed to the bitter end for a National Championship. This is what the kids that Oregon is recruiting know now. The flash, the style, the uniforms, the great running backs, and the victories. They’ve won eight conference titles, three Rose Bowls, and competed in another.

There’s just one thing left.

Oregon’s yet to win a National Championship. The Ducks have come close to the sun a couple times in the 21st Century. In 2001, Oregon did what it had to do, but the BCS rankings put Nebraska into the title game instead of them. They won the Fiesta Bowl, destroying Colorado, while Miami flattened Nebraska to finish one of the greatest seasons ever. In 2007, they appeared in prime position. Then Dennis Dixon and the Ducks traveled to Tucson on a Thursday night. We don’t need to talk about that any further.

In 2010, Oregon quite literally was in it until the end. Auburn booted a field goal with no time remaining to win the BCS National Championship in Glendale, breaking Duck fans’ hearts. Two years later, on a cold, rainy night in Eugene, the Stanford Cardinal held a prolific Oregon offense to 14 points and edged them 17-14 thanks to a touchdown pass to Zach Ertz. In 2014, Ohio State rolled over the mismatched Ducks in the first CFP Championship Game.

Oregon has become one of the most recognizable college football programs in the country. Sure, it helps to have a big budget and Nike in your backyard. But since 1994, there’s been a shift, and the Ducks have been on an upward trajectory since. They started the 2010s off hot and appear to want to start the 2020s off hot too. Lanning choosing them over Alabama is a serious move in the college football landscape. It’s not just that Lanning declined the coveted Alabama job, but it also shows that the Oregon job is worth it. They’ve had six coaches since the turn of the century, and it turned into a revolving door in 2016, 2017, and 2018, when three different coaches held the mantle in Eugene.

But what’s also true is that five of those six coaches won at least ten games at Oregon once. Amid turnover, it’s a place where you can win. There’s nearly a quarter-century of evidence since 2000 of that much. There’s just one thing left.

Now that we know Lanning’s staying around, Oregon might be closer than ever.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022