Oregon Ducks

Oregon coach Willie Taggart addresses workouts, strength coach following controversy

Oregon coach Willie Taggart addresses workouts, strength coach following controversy

Oregon coach Willie Taggart characterized the workouts his team conducted last Friday that led to three players being hospitalized as "warm-ups" designed to get the team ready for the more difficult tasks ahead during winter conditioning.

They were not, Taggart said, "military-style," treacherous and dangerous workouts that many painted them out to be after the story, first reported on Monday by The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, became a national topic of conversation and sparked discussion and conversation over player safety in college football.   

Redshirt freshman tight end Cam McCormick, redshirt senior offensive lineman Doug Brenner and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were sent to Springfield PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend last Friday evening after experiencing symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis hours after completing a 6 a.m. workout during winter conditioning. 

The narrative left Taggart exasperated. The last thing, he said, that he and his staff would ever do is endanger players. What occurred, according to Taggart, was an unfortunate incident that has been blown out of proportion.  

“People are convinced that we’re (dumb) and don’t care about our players,” Taggart said. “We want our fan base to know that we do.”

The controversy that found its way into newspapers and onto websites and television networks across the nation abruptly ended what for Taggart had been about as good of a first month on a job as anyone could ever hope for. 

Taggart, hired on Dec. 7 to replace Mark Helfrich, hit the recruiting trail running by landing commitments within weeks, he assembled what appears to be a dynamic coaching staff, and he successfully rebranded the program, replacing "Win the Day" with "Do Something."

Then, in as much time as it takes to do a push up, Taggart found himself being forced to defend the workout regimen in question put forth by his strength and conditioning coach, Irele Oderinde.

Oregon on Tuesday suspended Oderinde for a month, and Taggart and UO athletic director Rob Mullens released statements in which Taggart took responsibility for the situation while Mullens emphasized that the University holds the well-being of its students in high regard.

All three players are expected to recover. Brenner has already been released. What happened was certainly unfortunate. The question is, was anyone at fault?

--- Introductory workouts

Oregon began winter conditioning last week. Workouts conducted by Oderinde were held last Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

The idea, Taggart said, was to ease the players out of winter break with workouts that didn't consist of running or weight lifting. Oregon missed a bowl game last season for the first time since 2004. That meant that returning players had an extra full month off from structured football activities that they weren't used to having. Their season ended with a loss at Oregon State on Nov. 26.

Typically Oregon's seasons end around the first of the year with a bowl game appearance. 

“We knew our guys weren’t in shape so we didn’t put them in the weight room or run them, or anything” Taggart said. “We’re going to build up to that. It all started with pushups and sit-ups.”

Oderinde used the same workouts under Taggart at South Florida and Western Kentucky. Oderinde played at WKU when Taggart was an assistant there from 1999 through 2006. Oderinde later worked as a strength coach at WKU during Taggart's tenure as the Hilltoppers head coach. By the time Oderinde made it to USF under Taggart in 2014, the strength coach had nearly 10 years of experience, according to the Bulls' website, with previous stops at West Virginia, South Carolina and Notre Dame

The workout sessions, which included planks, were designed to last 45 minutes with the team broken up into three groups with start times of 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.  Workouts were extended if players didn't use proper technique and/or didn't follow directions, according to Taggart. Punishment involved up downs as a group even if one player botched the workout.

“The whole team is held accountable,” Taggart said. “Then they go back to pushups and sit-ups and do it right. It’s more about just teaching guys the details and how we’re going to do things the right way.”

During last year’s 4-8 season, which led to the firing of Helfrich, players slacked in some areas, namely preparation and attention to detail. Taggart has told the team that those days are over.

Reestablishing accountability, however, does not involve cruelty, according to Taggart. 

Players, Taggart said, were given breaks and allowed to get water whenever needed. Then they could resume the workouts when they were ready to do so.

“No one expected everyone to make it and do them all,” Taggart said.

For that reason, according to Taggart, coaches did not order players to continue working past their limitations. Only vocal encouragement was involved. 

“Coach O doesn’t even work that way,” Taggart said. “He’s not even that kind of guy. He doesn’t yell, he doesn’t do any of that stuff.”

Many players, Taggart said, took advantage of the ability to take breaks when they reached their max. In fact, Taggart said, coaches knew that many players wouldn’t finish the workouts. Some assistant coaches and trainers were present for the workouts. 

“We had some guys struggling,” Taggart said. “We had some guys sit out and not finish.”

--- Overdoing it

The scene involving Brenner, Poutasi and McCormick, Taggart said, did not involve the players passing out on the field and having to be rushed to the hospital. 

According to Taggart, the hospitalized players participated in a 6 a.m. session on Friday (the fourth day of the workouts) then went to classes, and carried out the rest of their day before returning to the football complex for dinner.

It was then that Taggart said the three players complained about not feeling right and that their urine was dark, a symptom of Rhabdomyolysis. The condition, described on Webmd.com, is a rare and serious side effect caused by the breakdown of muscle tissue to the point where it could lead to permanent paralysis, and can cause serious kidney damage. Symptoms include muscle aches and dark-colored urine.

Extreme muscle strain can be a cause and it can become more dangerous if there is more muscle mass to breakdown. Brenner is listed at 320 pounds. Poutasi is 315. McCormick is 240.

Those suffering Rhabdomyolysis can experience muscle pain and have trouble moving their limbs. A product of muscle breakdown is creatine kinase, an enzyme found in the muscles. which can increase in the blood stream. Normal CK levels for a male over 18 is between 52 to 336 units per liter of blood. A marathon runner can reach into the low thousands. According to sources, the players hospitalized had CK levels well over 60,000.

Taggart praised head trainer Kevin Steil for recognizing the problem and responding the way that he did by examining the players and then having them taken to the hospital where they could receive intravenous fluids. Taggart visited them at the hospital.  

One potential cause of what happened is that the players were not properly hydrated before the workouts. Also, the players, pushed themselves too hard.

“A lot of that comes with wanting to impress the new coaches,” Taggart said. “But all of the trainers were out there. It wasn’t like coach ‘O’ was out there just beating them down. You’ve got certified trainers out there with them.”

Trainers are required by the NCAA to be beholden to the department and not a specific team. This prevents coaches from hiring their own trainers and then influencing them to overlook workouts or injuries that might put an athlete’s health at risk.

One veteran player, speaking anonymously, said he enjoyed and completed the workouts. He added that they were clearly designed to test the will of the players but stated that there was no pressure to complete the tasks beyond one’s limits. If a player reached their max, they could stop. 

Taggart said it was made clear to the team that players were not going to win starting jobs in January and to take care of themselves as they push through a new regimen of workouts they were not used to.

“We want you to go hard but not to a limit that you’re going to kill yourself,” Taggart said.

While some players backed off, Brenner, Poutasi and McCormick did not.

“These guys were tough guys and wanted to show the coaches,” Taggart said. “That’s probably what was part of the problem. They didn’t want to be the guy that quit. There were other guys that quit and they didn’t want to so they probably pushed themselves to a limit that they shouldn’t have.”

Moving forward, Taggart said his staff must do a better job of making sure players are properly hydrated, something he said was routinely emphasized, and explaining to players that they shouldn’t feel pressured to push themselves too far beyond their physical limits. 

A narrative floating around that the hospitalized players were too “soft” or "out of shape" bothers Taggart. 

“Those guys finished the workout,” Taggart said. "Others did not. The fact that those guys finished like that, it says lot about them. I hate that they had to go to the hospital, but it says a lot about them.”

Some fans on social media have stated that the hospitalization of players following the first week of winter workouts further proves that Ducks were slacking under Helfrich. Taggart doesn’t agree.

“That’s a bunch of baloney,” Taggart said. “People are going to have their opinions. It’s just different philosophies on workouts. I hate it because when they call our guys ‘soft,’ they are calling me soft too.”

Nobody, Taggart said, is being labeled as anything other than trying to get in shape for a long season ahead.

--- #FREECOACHO

Taggart said players seemed to enjoy the workouts and were excited to get back out there for more. That statement is supported by their reaction to the controversy through social media.

“They are ticked off because they were enjoying the workouts,” Taggart said. “Even the guys that were in the hospital.”

Several players took to Twitter to support Oderinde, whom some refer to as “Coach O," and started a #FreeCoachO hashtag. 

Junior cornerback Ugo Amadi Tweeted that the workouts weren't nearly as difficult as the media made them out to be. 

Redshirt junior safety Mattrell McGraw also defended Oderinde.

https://twitter.com/mattmcgraw_/status/821188300777996288

“The response that they have given, to me, says a lot,” Taggart said. “They wouldn’t say that if it were someone that didn’t have their best interest at heart and was trying to kill them. He’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. He’s not military. He’s just a good dude.”

Taggart has gotten good results from Oderinde in the past.

“I trust him,” said Taggart. “I love what he did with our football team at South Florida and I know what he could do with our guys here. But now a good guy, a good strength coach is being portrayed as somebody just whipping our kids’ butts and that’s wrong.”

Former USF players certainly appear to support Oderinde, according to a recent report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Players said that nobody they ever played with under Taggart and Oderinde ever ended up in the hospital after a workout.

Former Bulls offensive lineman Mak Djulbegovic said to the Tampa Bay Times that Oderinde isn't “gonna make you do something that's not reasonable."

"Sure, it'll be very difficult," Djulbegovic continued, "but if you don't take the right steps to be ready for these things, you might wind up in the hospital as these kids found out. Hopefully they learned their lesson."

The goal is to make the team bigger and stronger beyond what they have been used to at Oregon. It’s not that the Ducks didn’t seek size under former football strength coach Jimmy Radcliffe, but the emphasis at many positions had been more about speed and stamina given the pace of the offense under former coaches Chip Kelly and Helfrich. 

Many UO players, sources say, are excited about the prospects of getting bigger, which could help increase their NFL potential. 

“Guys are saying they want to get bigger, they want to get stronger,” Taggart said.

Taggart, who declined to discuss the details surrounding Oderinde's suspension, said his workout philosophy is no better or worse than what was being done under Radcliffe, it’s just different. Clearly Oregon experienced great success in the recent past.

While a couple of player parents wondered if the workouts might have been over the top since three players went to the hospital, some told CSN, anonymously, that they and their sons didn’t have a problem with them and were excited to continue working with Oderinde.

A department source said there is no doubt in his mind that the coaching staff cares about the players and their well-being. He said that they talk about it as a group.

The ridicule, Taggart said, has come up on the recruiting trail.  Taggart said parents of recruits have asked assistants about what happened and he believes opponents have used the hospitalizations as fodder for negative recruiting.

“All they hear is a ‘military-style workout,’" Taggart said, "and so now everybody is saying ‘they don’t know what they’re doing, they are hurting the kids, they don’t care about the kids’ welfare,’ and it’s not like that. And again, that’s why our players were so upset because they are putting a negative spin on it.”

In the end, Taggart believes that the players will perform better after going through his staff’s plan, just as players did at Western Kentucky and South Florida.

"We believe in what we're doing," Taggart said. "It’s one of those unfortunate situations that we all can learn from."

 

Former Ducks DL Arik Armstead has shed ‘bust’ label and is in line for huge payday

012820-armstead.jpg
USATI

Former Ducks DL Arik Armstead has shed ‘bust’ label and is in line for huge payday

MIAMI – Arik Armstead’s critics used to be numerous and boisterous. Search “Arik Armstead bust” on Twitter and you’ll find a multitude of receipts from 49ers fans who’d given up on the San Francisco 49ers' 2015 first-round pick.

First rounders in the NFL aren’t given the benefit of patience. Fair or not, they’re expected to contribute immediately. After being drafted 17th overall out of Oregon, Armstead’s rookie season was modest at best with just 19 tackles and two sacks. He then played just 14 combined games over the next two years after suffering back-to-back season ending injuries: a shoulder injury in 2016 and a broken hand in 2017.

Between the labels of “bust” and “injury prone,” many fans felt like they’d seen enough.

“It definitely fueled me,” Armstead said on Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. “People have their opinions of you and they oftentimes switch their opinions. When things aren’t going good, they want to be negative and then when things are going good, they want to be positive. It fuels me when people talk negatively about me. I always knew the player I was and what I was capable of.”

Fortunately, Armstead had plenty of support from within the 49ers organization. Kyle Shanahan, who took over as head coach in 2017, never lost faith in the embattled defensive lineman. That’s noteworthy given the natural urge of first-year head coaches to clean house and make the roster their own.

Shanahan recalled Armstead dominating during OTAs in 2017.

“He would destroy our practices sometimes because we couldn’t block him,” said Shanahan, who never bought into the idea that Armstead was a bust. “Then we got into the year and he didn’t have all the statistics which made people get down on him, but I always thought he was playing at a high level.”

DeForest Buckner, a fellow 49ers defensive lineman as well as Armstead’s teammate and roommate at Oregon, admired his friend’s mental toughness through years of adversity. The age of social media make it tougher and tougher to ignore the noise.

“It’s amazing to see,” Buckner said. “Honestly, his mental strength, man, not wavering when everybody was calling him a bust. Putting all of that stuff in the back seat and just keep going forward.”

Armstead’s haters are quiet these days. Their ammunition has run dry after Armstead posted 10 sacks in 2019 and helped power the 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV. He’s a key cog in the NFL’s most feared defensive line along with Buckner, Dee Ford and Nick Bosa.

His breakout season has been simultaneous to San Francisco’s meteoric rise to become NFC Champions. After winning at least 11 games in his three seasons at Oregon, Armstead endured four losing seasons to begin his NFL career. The 49ers posted a combined 17-47 record from 2015-18. Between a dominant pass rush, a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and a standout running game, everything clicked all at once for San Francisco in 2019.

“It’s been building for a long time coming, the adversity – both as a team and individually,” Armstead said. “It makes that moment that much sweeter.”

Armstead couldn’t have picked a better time for his breakout campaign. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the former Duck is set to cash in. Purse strings will be tight in San Francisco as the 49ers are getting thin on cap space. They might not be able to match offers from other bidders around the NFL. Of note, the Seahawks have cash to burn could be a potential suitor given their pressing need to improve the pass rush.

But Armstead reiterated that he hasn’t thought about what might come next. A matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs awaits on Sunday, which means 60 minutes of chasing superstar QB Patrick Mahomes. That’s all that matters this week in Miami.

“I want to be remembered forever as a Super Bowl Champion,” he said.

It’s conceivable that Armstead’s next few months will include a ring and a sizeable raise. Not bad for a bust.

Oregon teammates Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner reach Super Bowl together with 49ers

012820-buckner-armstead.jpg
USATI

Oregon teammates Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner reach Super Bowl together with 49ers

MIAMI – Arik Armstead leaned over to DeForest Buckner as the 49ers boarded their charter flight to Miami.

“Bro, we’re going to the Super Bowl,” Armstead said.

They’ve had several Paul Rudd-esque “look at us” moments over the years, but that one hit different.

The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers landed in South Florida on Sunday evening. This hysteria of Super Bowl week is a spectacle that only grows with each passing year. It began on Monday with Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park. Armstead and Buckner spent an hour answering questions from media outlets from all around the world. As is the nature with that specific event, the conversations commonly strayed away from football.

But the two did recognize just how special their journey together has been.

They arrived to the University of Oregon in 2012, each a four-star recruit – Buckner from Oahu, Hawaii and Armstead from Elk Grove, Calif. The pair of 6-foot-7 defensive linemen became an immediate force for the Ducks. Oregon posted at least 11 wins from 2012-14 including a victory in the Fiesta Bowl in 2012 and a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game in 2014.

Armstead opted to leave college early and turn pro after his junior year. The 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft (17th overall). Buckner came out a year later. In a serendipitous moment, San Francisco drafted Buckner seventh overall. The college teammates, friends and roommates were together once again.

“It’s faith, man,” Buckner said. “It’s crazy how things work out. To be college roommates, teammates, having so much success at Oregon together, him leaving early, me staying another year, both of us getting drafted to the same team – it’s crazy to me.”

Armstead had already endured a 5-11 record as a rookie in 2015. Their first three seasons together in the NFL from 2015-18 saw the 49ers post an abysmal combined record of 12-36. They’ve each played crucial roles in San Francisco’s 13-3 turnaround. The 49ers won the NFC West in 2019 and claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC before steamrolling the Vikings and Packers in the Divisional Round and NFC Championship Game, respectively.

Buckner, fresh off a 12-sack season and his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2018, continued to be a force in 2019 with 7.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a touchdown. Armstead exploded for 10 sacks after never having a season with more than three. Now, they’re days away from playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

“We talk about it all the time – all the shared experiences we have together, playing alongside each other for seven years,” Armstead said. “It’s been great to have someone who knows what you go through and plays a similar position. It’s been great to play alongside him for so many years.”

The reality is that Sunday could very well be their last game as teammates. Armstead is set to be an unrestricted free agent in March, and with the 49ers tight on cap space, he may be the odd man out in San Francisco. The 49ers will need to work out a mega deal with tight end George Kittle and Buckner could also be in line for a new contract ahead of his fifth-year option in 2020.

That’s not to say it’s impossible as the 49ers would surely love to keep him in a perfect world. But Armstead has made himself a lot of money with his breakout season, and his play may have priced out San Francisco when other bidders come calling.

“We need to cherish every single moment, take it one day at a time and try to get this victory on Sunday,” Buckner said of the chances Armstead departs in a few months.

The 49ers have a great chance to beat the Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. Should that happen, you can envision Buckner and Armstead hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with confetti raining down on them. They’ll know exactly what the other is thinking without having to say a word.

“Look at us.”

A historical weekend leads to Chris Duarte earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors

A historical weekend leads to Chris Duarte earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors

For the second time this season, Chris Duarte has been named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

Duarte’s historical performance on Thursday night vs. the visiting USC Trojans was nothing short of spectacular. 

[RELATED]: Chris Duarte’s 30 points wasn’t even the best part of his game vs. USC

Offensively, he dominated. A 30-point night off 9-of-20 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point range. But it was his defensive effort that was 

Duarte nearly recorded a triple-double: 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals. The last player to do that was Niagara’s Alvin Young, who had 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals against Saint Peter’s on Jan. 30, 1999. According to GoDucks.com, the eight steals was the most by a Duck since Kenya Wilkins set the school record with nine against Boise State on Dec. 20, 1996. It was also the most steals by a Pac-12 player since 2015 (T.J. McConnell, Arizona).

Oregon went on to win in double overtime 79-70 over USC.

On Sunday against the visiting UCLA Bruins, Duarte picked up right where he left off. His hot-hand continued and recorded 24 points off 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range. He pulled down six rebounds, six assists and added five steals. Oregon won handidly over UCLA, 96-75 at Matthew Knight Arena.

Over the weekend, Duarte averaged 27.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 54 percent from three-point range. 

With the sweep of the L.A. schools, the Ducks now take the sole lead in the Pac-12 conference with a 17-4 overall record and 6-2 in the conference. 

The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

It's the end of an era for the Los Angeles Chargers.

According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Chargers have informed quarterback Phillip Rivers that they will move on from him after sixteen seasons.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last week that the 38-year-old quarterback moved his family "permanently" from San Diego to Florida. Rivers is a free agent coming off a season where he passed for 4,615 yards and 23 touchdowns, his fewest since 2007, and 20 interceptions. 

Schefter states that the Chargers have been impressed with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and may have him start for them next season, which very well may be the case. But, it's hard to believe the Chargers see Taylor as the long-term replacement for Rivers especially when they could have played him last season over him. 

Rivers' replacement may not be on the roster yet, and the Chargers may be looking to the upcoming NFL Draft for his heir... Insert, Justin Herbert?

The Chargers own the sixth overall selection in the upcoming draft which aligns with Herbert's projected draft range of inside the top-ten. The Eugene native has found himself in a consensus top-three among the quarterbacks joining LSU's Joe Burrow and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. The former completed arguably the best college season ever for a quarterback winning the Heisman Trophy, National Championship and breaking the touchdown record for a single season. The latter was the consensus top quarterback in the draft before suffering a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State.

Herbert impressed scouts and NFL coaches alike last week at the Senior Bowl being named the MVP of both the practices and the game. 

Most of the buzz coming out of the Senior Bowl was about Herbert's stellar play which should keep his draft stock high. The event helped Daniel Jones get chosen sixth overall last season after being named MVP of the event. Perhaps history will repeat itself. 

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan raved about Herbert praising his "prototypical size and athletic ability", intelligence, and a "really, really strong arm". His team also owns the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. The expectation is that they'll select Joe Burrow, however.

[RELATED: Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert]

After the Bengals, the next team in need of a quarterback is the Miami Dolphins at No. 5 who infamously appeared to tank the season for a high draft pick. But they had a little too much "Fitzmagic" and received the fifth pick. Speaking of the 37-year-old quarterback, Dolphins general manager expects Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to the team in 2020, so it'd make sense for them to take Tua Tagovaloia and sit him for a season.

That would leave the Chargers on the clock with Justin Herbert as the best quarterback available. Given the rest of the Chargers' roster is loaded with talent, they would want to take advantage of it by getting a high-level quarterback in as soon as possible to make a Super Bowl run. Five of the last eight Super Bowls have had quarterbacks on rookie contracts starting the big game, and it would have been six if Carson Wentz hadn't suffered a torn ACL during the Eagles' championship season.

If Herbert can continue to impress during the draft process at the NFL Combine and his pro day, which by all predictable measures he will, don't be surprised if he's headed to Hollywood. 

Sabrina Ionescu named back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week

Sabrina Ionescu named back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week

FRIDAY

Sabrina Ionescu and the then-No. 4 Ducks are ready to take on a top-10 opponent and rival in then-No. 7 Oregon State. On Oregon’s first possession, Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard do what they do best: a pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Ionescu dishes to a cutting Hebard that results in a bucket. This time, this assist, there was something else present: Ionescu passes Gary Payton and becomes the Pac-12 all-time leader in assists.

The Ducks went onto defeat their rival 76-64. Ionescu finished with 23 points, nine assists, and four rebounds.

SUNDAY

A different kind of emotion.

A visibly distraught Sabrina Ionescu took the court on Sunday afternoon an hour after hearing of Kobe Bryant’s passing. A close friend of hers and a big fan of the Oregon women’s basketball program.

Trying to collect herself to face the then-No. 7 Oregon State Beavers, her father Dan found her in the locker room and told her “Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls, you deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and get it done today. Go out and play for Kobe.”

Ionescu finished with a team-high 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists to lead the Ducks past the Beavers 66-57. Oregon also broke the Corvallis curse and for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, the Ducks won in Gill Coliseum.

For the second straight week, Ionescu’s performance earned her Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

This is the third time this season and eleventh in her career that Ionescu has earned this honor, good for second-most in league history. 

Portland selected as finalist for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four

usatsi_8458699.jpg
IMAGN

Portland selected as finalist for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four

Portland has been announced as a finalist for the 2025 or 2026 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, the NCAA announced this morning.

The bid process was handled collaboratively by Sport Oregon, Oregon State University, the Portland Trail Blazers, and Travel Portland. If the bid is successful, it would be the first time that Portland has hosted the Women’s Final Four.

The other three finalist cities in the running are Columbus, Phoenix, and Tampa.

“We are excited to be named a finalist for the Women’s Final Four, and look forward to the next steps in the process to make this a reality,” said Sport Oregon CEO Jim Etzel via a release from Sport Oregon. “We are tremendously fortunate to have such great bid partners, and a community that is incredibly supportive of women’s athletics.”

The Moda Center will again be hosting the 2020 Women’s Regional in March.

“Oregon State Athletics would like to thank Sport Oregon, the Portland Trail Blazers and Travel Portland for partnering with us in our goal to bring one of the most iconic NCAA Championship events to the Moda Center,” Beaver Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes said via the Sport Oregon release. “The record breaking success we experienced hosting the NCAA Regional last March and the awareness of the outstanding women’s basketball programs in this region have elevated the sport to new heights. We’re excited to further enhance our Strategic Plan objective to increase the Beaver brand in the Portland metro area.”

The group bidding on the event traveled to Indianapolis in December to make its’ formal presentation to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.

The next step is for the committee to conduct site tours of the finalist cities this summer and a final presentation will be made to the Committee in September, 2020.

An official decision for 2025 and 2026 for the Women’s Final Four will be made in October, 2020.

After sweeping the Civil War series, Ducks move up in the AP Poll

After sweeping the Civil War series, Ducks move up in the AP Poll

After an emotional, hard-fought weekend, the Oregon Ducks (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) left victorious on both occasions over their rival Oregon State Beavers (16-4, 4-4 Pac-12).

Their reward? A No. 3 ranking by the Associated Press.

Previously, the Ducks had been ranked No. 4 heading into the back-to-back games against the then-No. 7 Beavers. After walking away from both contests the victor, Oregon showed they belong in a higher tier than their rivals from the north. 

The Beavers dropped to No. 10 after getting swept. 

Let's recap the weekend.

Versus No. 7 Oregon State: 

The Ducks opened up the Civil War weekend with a home game that they looked quite dominant in for stretches. 

After falling behind 10-2 early, the Ducks would storm back to take a 45-29 halftime advantage. The lead would get as high as 21 points in the fourth quarter before a late Beavers rally made things more interesting.

Sabrina Ionescu showed why she's the best player in college basketball by scoring 23 points along with four rebounds and nine assists; including two buzzer-beating three-pointers to end the first and third quarters. 

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: The Ducks break open the floodgates against the Beavers]

@ No. 7 Oregon State: 66-57 WIN

The Ducks persevered through one of the most emotional environments you'll ever see. Just an hour before tipoff, both teams learned that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically passed away. The loss especially affected Ionescu who had developed a relationship with both Bryants.

[RELATED: Sabrina Ionescu paying tribute to Kobe Bryant: “This season is for him”]

Her father told ESPN the advice he gave to his daughter before the contest. "Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls. You deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and do it today. Go out and play for Kobe."

She did just that, playing all 40 minutes and putting up 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds. After the game, she told ESPN that this season is for Kobe. 

NEXT: Now Oregon looks ahead to traveling east to play Utah on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. PT, then Colorado on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. PT, before traveling to play No. 4 Connecticut on Monday at 4:00 p.m. PT. 

Oregon men's basketball team moves up in latest AP Poll

Oregon men's basketball team moves up in latest AP Poll

The Ducks are ascending once again.

After sweeping the Los Angeles schools at Matthew Knight Arena this past weekend, the Ducks moved up one spot to No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll.

Oregon (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12) entered the weekend ranked No. 12 after losing in Pullman and narrowly defeating Washington in overtime. 

What's better than one overtime? Two overtimes.

Versus USC: 79-70 2OT WIN

The Ducks outlasted the Trojans in a war of attrition Thursday night winning in double-overtime. Guard Payton Pritchard became the first player in Pac-12 history to record 1,500+ points, 600+ assists, and 500+ rebounds in a career. To defeat the Trojans, he scored 24 points, dished out seven assists and got two steals.  

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard sets record, Chris Duarte balls out in win over USC]

However, it was guard Chris Duarte that led Oregon to victory recording one of the more wild stat lines you'll see this season: 30 points, 11 rebounds, and EIGHT steals. Duarte and Pritchard scored all of Oregon's points in double overtime. 

[RELATED: Chris Duarte’s 30 points wasn’t the best part of his game vs. USC]

Versus UCLA: 96-75 WIN

After a stressful win over the Trojans, the Ducks cruised to the program's largest victory over UCLA since 2003, winning 96-75 at Matthew Knight Arena. The Bruins turned the ball over a season-high 23 times, including 15 Oregon steals. Duarte had six of those by himself to go along with 24 points. 

UP NEXT: Oregon travels to Berkeley to play the California Golden Bears (9-10, 3-3 Pac-12) at 6:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, before traveling to Palo Alto to play Stanford (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. 

Family members of former Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli among victims of helicopter crash

Family members of former Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli among victims of helicopter crash

In a tragic helicopter crash that resulted in nine dead, amongst Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, the parents and sister of former Oregon baseball great J.J. Altobelli (2010-2012).

John was the current head baseball coach at Orange Coast County and the former coach of the Brewster Whitecaps, where J.J. played in the summer of 2011.

“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” says Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler. “He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none - he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy.”

According to the Orange Coast College website: Altobelli led the Pirates to numerous conference and state championship titles, notching more than 700 wins during his career and four state championships. In 2019, he was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association as an ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year, a testament to his incredible work ethic and passion for the game.

Alyssa was basketball teammates with Gianna on Kobe’s team.

J.J. is a current scout for the Boston Red Sox.

Our hearts are with you, Altobelli family!