1978 - 83 Ducks
(Authentic Reproduction)



Brooks began the ’78 season with a slight helmet change, exchanging the usual gray masks for one in yellow that made the helmet more attractive. If a second 2-9 season can be called "better" than the first one, '78 brought four losses by a total of only eleven points and the Ducks were seen as much tougher opponents. FB Vince Williams ran for 842 yards behind guard Steve Greatwood. The improved defense led by DT Vince Goldsmith was due to a pass rush and front four that were very active and young LB Bryan Hinkle looked like a star in-the-making. Safety Mike Nolan whose dad was a standout DB in the NFL and the head coach of the Forty Niners and Saints, had the expected on-the-field intelligence to play well. Brooks was recruiting well and fans were excited. The 6-5 finish of 1979 was the best Webfoot record since the 1970 season and the team was led by QB Reggie Ogburn. With FB Williams injured, it was the highly intense and competitive Ogburn, a JC transfer who led by example with a quietly determined manner, who was the team’s rushing leader in Brooks’ option offense. Much of the yardage came behind guard Greatwood who would later become an assistant coach in the NFL, at USC, and for his alma mater. The defense again demonstrated improvement with undersized 5’11”, 230 pound DT Goldsmith and 6'6" Neil Elshire a potent "Mutt And Jeff" tandem that disrupted opponents with their sacking ability. Goldsmith was All Conference and Elshire a Second Team choice. LB Brian Hinkle stood out despite playing with injury and most believed that Brooks with his third straight win over OSU and winning record for the season, had turned the corner and the Ducks could compete with the top of the PAC.


The 1980 off-season was difficult as Oregon’s athletes were deemed to be involved in a scandal that involved five PAC-10 schools. Receiving credits from a junior college in California for classes that were never attended, a number of players were declared ineligible for the ’80 season. Further investigation found that the coaching staff had engaged in illegal telephone usage and some players had received illegal travel money reimbursement. Brooks presented his resignation to University President William Boyd who immediately refused to accept it, believing that Brooks was “an honorable coach.” The NCAA did hand down sanctions that included the ineligibility of some players, fines for certain members of the coaching staff, prohibition from post-season play, and the loss of scholarships. Offensive coordinator John Becker resigned. Things took a positive turn once the 1980 football season started. There was inconsistent play with Oregon handing Rose Bowl bound Washington its only conference loss then losing to a poor 3-8 Cal team and coming back to tie USC 7-7 in a game considered by most experts to be a Ducks victory. The Webfoots improved to 6-3-2 and brought focus to a tough defense. 5'11", 230 pound DT Goldsmith who also was an NCAA Championship qualifier in the shot put, overachieved all season, was a second team All American, and won the first Morris Award, given to the PAC's most outstanding lineman as voted on by his opponents. He completed his Oregon career with 281 tackles and showed the same grit on the next level. Deemed to be too small for NFL play, he was CFL Rookie Of The Year for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and starred for a decade as one of the best sackers in the CFL. LB Hinkle and DE Elshire were all over the field with Elshire going on to play well for the Vikings at both DE and DT from '81 through 1986. and Hinkle then did the same for the Steelers over twelve seasons. DB Steve Brown showed significant improvement and his secondary mate Nolan followed in his father’s coaching footsteps and eventually became the head coach of the San Francisco Forty Niners. He gained further notice because he petitioned the NFL to allow him to wear a dress suit while on the coaching sidelines, in violation of the league’s marketing agreement with equipment supplier Reebok. Nolan won his point and has honored his father with his sartorial statement for the past few seasons.  


Players, fans, and administrators were relieved when Brooks put any ill will related to the NCAA investigation and sanctions behind him by turning down a lucrative offer to coach at Memphis State. The ’81 on-the-field work however, didn’t live up to its billing. Plummeting back to earth, the highly-touted Ducks, the pre-season favorite of many was a huge disappointment. Rated a dark-horse contender for the PAC-10 crown, their only wins came against Oregon State and small-time Pacific to finish 2-9. The I-Formation Offense could muster no more than fourteen points in eight of the contests and that lack of scoring ability explains the fall despite excellent play from OT Gary Zimmerman who had previously filled in on defense. Decent work on the defensive side of the ball with CB Steve Brown an All PAC-10 choice and tough to handle DE Mike Walter wasn't enough to overcome the sluggish offense or a lack of leadership among the players. A 2-8-1 year at the conclusion of the 1982 season had some in the Northwest concerned but Brooks was an able recruiter who always stocked some talent. Unfortunately, a defense that was relatively stable in allowing eighteen points or less in seven of their eleven contests was saddled with an offense that could not produce. The twenty-one points scored against Washington in late September in a 37-21 loss was the only time in the entire season that the Ducks put up more than thirteen points in any game. In six of their games they could not break single digits! Fans were frustrated further when a hometown audience was able to watch a spirited battle against Notre Dame with the winless Ducks fighting for a 13-13 tie against the Irish. If Brooks wanted an excuse, he could point to injuries that decimated the backfield other than FB Terrance Jones who rushed for 715 yards, placing second in the PAC. LB Chris Cosgrove and All PAC duo DE Mike Walter and CB Steve Brown headed the solid defense. Walter played for the Cowboys in 1983 and then finished his pro career with another ten years at LB with the Forty Niners while Brown played well for the Oilers from ’83 through 1990. Ending the season with two close wins gave some hope for the next year.


1983 was pivotal with pressure on the staff. Brooks brought in former Pacific head coach Bob Toledo as offensive coordinator and allowed him to eventually work freshman QB Chris Miller into the lineup. Miller was a big-time high school star in football, basketball, and baseball whose knee injury towards the end of his senior season kept him from the Major League draft and the recruiting efforts of most West Coast football powers, allowing Oregon to snare him. Miller lost a redshirt season when starter Mike Jorgenson was injured but he showed his future star ability, teaming up with WR Lew Barnes as the Ducks’ best receiving, scoring, and returning threat. Guard Gary Zimmerman was outstanding    and after starting his Oregon career on the defensive line, became the N.Y. Giants first-round pick. Instead he played for the USFL LA Express for two years and then became one of the NFL’s premiere offensive lineman, a seven-time Pro Bowl choice who had the unusual distinction of being on NFL All Decade Teams of both the 1980's and '90's playing for the Vikings and Broncos. He was inducted to The Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 2008. Two losses to start the season, the first to lowly Pacific, found the Ducks in two-a-day practices with full contact during an off-week following their second loss. They came back to defeat Houston 15-14 in a game Brooks always pointed to as the one that saved Oregon football.

If interested in any of these Oregon helmets please click on the photos below.