The Final Four

I won’t have many more opportunities to write about the Ducks before I leave in June. Our next city manager, assuming the Council hires one of the two finalists, will be either a Beaver fan or something else. Either way, there won’t be a Duck city manager around for the first time in nearly 30 years to celebrate Oregon’s next appearance in the Final Four or their 2018 track and field championship.

Naturally, I’m hoping the Duck basketball team will go on to win the NCAA championship this year. I believe they have a good chance; and since my prediction last May that the Chicago Cubs would win the 2016 World Series was completely accurate, I predict the Ducks will win their 33rd NCAA championship next week. I was a little surprised that the Ducks rank 12th in the nation in the total number of NCAA championships among colleges across the U.S. They will move very close to the top ten after they win both the men’s basketball and women’s track titles this year.

Oregon may take a few years to catch UCLA, Stanford, and USC, each of which have won more than 100 championships over the years; but we are already well ahead of most other Pac-12 schools. I would never pick on the Beavers, for example, but they have won a total of three NCAA championships (two baseball and one cross-country). I am pulling for them to win their fourth this year in baseball unless the Ducks prove to be better.

I noticed that the announcement inviting employees to my small retirement celebration in June used a University of Oregon theme, and that seems entirely appropriate. In truth, however, I’m not really a huge sports fan anymore. I don’t think I’ve watched a complete basketball game this year, and I know I haven’t seen any of the Ducks’ victories in the NCAA tournament. I attended a couple of Duck football games last year (both wins) but gave up season tickets years ago. Though I’m proud of the athletic accomplishments of my alma mater, I would much rather see higher rankings for academic achievements and more attention given to scholarship. The U.S. reputation for having the best universities in the world is starting to suffer, and I doubt the basketball championship will do much to improve it.

College sports are a means to an end and a generally enjoyable part of the higher education experience in our country. The end is a quality education for all who seek it, and I am most grateful for the chance I had to attend the University of Oregon. My experience there had nothing to do with any athletic skills, but instead was made possible by the G.I. Bill. I wish veterans today had the same quality of educational benefits that were available to my father and me.

While I will be cheering for the Ducks over the next week, I will also be quietly supporting the Beavers, Vikings, Wolves, Red Raiders, Bearcats, Mountaineers, Roadrunners, Bobcats, Owls, Boxers, and every other Oregon college and university as they go about the important business of enriching our lives by offering educational opportunity.