| March 18, 2018

Column: More than a championship

March 27, 2017

Every March for the last 78 years, the NCAA men’s basketball has held a firm grasp of fans across the nation. 2017 is no exception, especially for fans of the University of Oregon Ducks.

The Ducks ranked brackets across the country after defeating a tough No. 1 seed Kansas to head to the Final Four, the program’s first since 1939.

The Final Four is always an impressive feat, whether it is a program that finds a spot year after year or a program that sneaks in as an underdog.

However, it would be wrong to completely hand Oregon the underdog title, they have defeated a top-seeded team on the opponent’s home court, all without the leadership of senior forward Chris Boucher. It is an exciting time for Duck fans.

During the first March Madness, the Oregon Ducks won the Championship after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 46-33. This matchup likely sounds familiar to Duck fanatics. Where has this been seen before? How about the first ever College Football Playoffs?

Similarly to 1939, the Ducks paved their way to the first ever College Football Playoffs in 2014, where they defeated Florida State in the semifinals to move on and face Ohio State in the National Championship game.

Although the dominant Buckeyes got the best of the Ducks, Oregon still fought to the top and permanently put its name in the history of the college football playoffs.

Even the NCAA basketball championship the game went in favor of the Ducks in 1939, but no one remembers this feat. No one knows the Ducks as the team that won the first ever March Madness, even if they should.

The 2017 team is making a run, proving to fans across the country that this is a program that should be associated with the championship title.

Can the success of one school program translate over to the success of another? Clearly, there are similarities between the football and basketball programs — both know how to pave the way for themselves. Yet both have lacked championships, no matter how close they have come.

The basketball team has been out almost 80 years, and the football team has come so close they could see the championship trophy, but has never quite grasped it.

The men’s basketball team can see it, they can almost feel the championship hats on their head — just two more games to go.

Meanwhile, the football program looks ahead to several more months of training and rebuilding following the firing of former head coach Mark Helfrich. There is hope for the newest edition of the Ducks football program, much like there was a lot of hype around the 2016-2017 basketball team.

A trip to the Final Four and a chance for the championship title would be more than a win for the basketball squad — it would be a win for the school. This school that seems to be a dominant player in several sports, yet has a harder time bringing home the trophy. Fans can only hope that the momentum and excitement from the 2016-207 basketball season will carry over to the fall as the football program makes another run at the world of college football’s version of the Final Four.

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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