Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Top ranked college football teams all have signature identities. Even if it's not their year to shine, you know who they are. Florida State has the chop. Texas has their hook 'em horns. Florida's got the 'gator chomp. And Oregon is catching up. Today, when you see someone raise their hands in front of them and touch index fingers and thumbs, you know who it is. You also know who it isn't. It's not THE OH 11-0 State Buckeyes no matter how badly they'd like to think it is. Other ways to spot the Duck fan? 1. JEWELRY From crushed emerald O rings to diamond Duck earrings, Duck fans know their bling. What happened to the simple elastic bands with the alphabet beads that spelled out Oregon Ducks? They're in the back of the jewelry box with the souvenir tickets from the last losing season. When football stepped up, everyone stepped up. 2. INK Oregon Duck ink is colorful, stylish, and fits in out of the way places. How many times has someone you'd never think would ink lifted a pant leg, or shirt, to show their O? Dog lovers remember their favorite pets by the name or image needled into their skin. Motorcycle mommas do the same with their favorite Harley-men. In a location choice between dog and dude, it's no contest. Since dogs bond to the heart, they get the prime real estate. Like newspaper headlines, the most important name always runs above the fold. An important factor in choosing between man and man's best friend is a new dog won't see the old dog's name and feel threatened. If Oregon rolls through a season and comes out as clean as Notre Dame did this year, then finishes by crushing their opponent in the BCS Championship Game, expect changes. When that happens you'll find half the state sporting the Natty Tatty on their necks and foreheads with the final score across their knuckles like a genial version of Cape Fear. 3. CLOTHING The Ducks revolutionized what it means to take the field each game. With the X's and O's from the last team meeting history, here comes the day-glow rainbow uniforms. Opponents might accept losses to teams bigger, meaner, and uglier, but somehow a team making a style statement and boat racing them around the grid iron is more upsetting. A traditional power like USC plays in uniforms with no names across the shoulders as if we ought to know who they are without a program. This year USC played like they didn't know who they were either, so it makes sense. A team that went through turmoil like Penn State ought to have something written across their shoulders. If not player names, then a short phrase like "Don't Blame Us" would do it. Notre Dame can't put names on their shoulders because the glare from the rattle-can gold sprayed on their helmets would make them unreadable, so why bother? Oregon does it the right way, the coordinated and accessorized way. 4. COACHING Chip Kelly stands ready to plant his own coaching tree. He studied and learned the spread-option the way San Francisco 49er coach, Bill 'The Genius' Walsh, designed and installed the west coast offense. Every coach at every level has mentors, people whose style best fits their football philosophy, and Kelly has his followers. Did he turn down the Tampa Bay job so they could hire the former Rutgers coach? Greg Schiano brought a new wrinkle to the NFL when he ordered his players to blast into opponents who lined up to kill the clock in their victory formation. Kelly's addition to the league would be more entertaining than that. Did he return to Oregon this year so he might name the coach replacing him? Mark Helfrich hopes so. The Ducks offensive coordinator brings his local roots to the sidelines, from playing high school football for the Marshfield Pirates in Coos Bay, and college ball for Southern Oregon University. The fans will love him if he keeps winning. 5. ADMINISTRATORS Taking a page from the 'If You Can't Beat Them Head Hunt Them' book, Oregon collected two men from the SEC who've seen college football as up close and personal as you'd ever want to see without putting on a helmet. Craig Pintens left LSU for Oregon to become senior associate athletic director for marketing and public relations. He worked his branding magic in the bayou without spending the night in Mike The Tiger's cage. In Eugene he says, "Oregon is your favorite team’s favorite team,” and makes it stick. Mr. Pintens' boss is Athletic Director Rob Mullens who came over from the Kentucky Wildcats. In a USA Today article he said, "One of the things that attracts me to the University of Oregon is folks are not afraid to say 'we want to win championships.'" Anyone familiar with Kentucky basketball knows they aren't afraid to say they want to win championships, either. Coaches who don't usually find themselves called former coaches. As University of Oregon sports improve and climb in the national stratosphere, it's a comfort for Duck fans to know the athletic leaders won't be sucking air. They don't need to pretend they've been to the top of the mountain; they come from programs that live at the top. Now it's Oregon's time.
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