A day after the University of Oregon fired head football coach Mark Helfrich, Ducks players described their now former coach as a great leader and a father figure.
Helfrich was fired Tuesday night after compiling a 37-16 record in four seasons as Oregon's head coach. The Ducks were 4-8 in 2016.
Players said they received a text message at 6:38 p.m. Tuesday informing them of an immediate team meeting.
Helfrich, accompanied by his family, addressed the team at the meeting.
"Let us know he loved us and would always be there for us," said offensive lineman Doug Brenner.
Athletic director Rob Mullens also spoke to the players.
"His main message was he wanted to reassure us he was going to do a really good job; he was going to find us a really good coach" said linebacker Troy Dye.
The university announced it would use a search firm to find the next football coach.
Mullens said Tuesday he had developed concern about the direction of the football program under Helfrich.
"Rob talked about how he wants to get Oregon football back to the success we've been used to," Brenner said.
Dye said he believes the team was already heading that direction under Helfrich.
"Helf had us on our way back up and it's really unfortunate to see him go," Dye said.
However, Dye noted that "other teams wanted it more than us" during games this season. Defensive back Brady Breeze said some players were too concerned with their personal statistics.
Breeze said players will need to "accept this new coach with open arms and prepare for next year." Still, he said of Helfrich, "He was such a big role model to so many of us and like a father figure."
"He was a great leader," Brenner said. "He inspired us."
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