On August 6th, ESPN released their college football announcing assignments for the upcoming 2012 football season. Mike Bellotti was nowhere to be found. Two years after getting fired as athletic director at Oregon, and just over three years since getting pushed out as football coach, Mike Bellotti is out of his broadcasting position, and seemingly out of public life. A swift, difficult and sad fall for one of college football's former leading men.
Mike Bellotti's began his coaching career in 1973, throwing balls to receivers on the JV2 team at UC Davis. Bellotti bounced around the D2 and D3 ranks for the next ten years, with stops coaching offense at Cal State Hayward, Weber State, and back at Cal State Hayward before being named the head coach of Chico State in 1984. In five years at Chico, Bellotti's teams were, at best average. Bellotti had 21-25-2 record at Chico in 1988, the kind of uninspiring mark that stalls, and eventually ends, young aspiring football coaches’ careers. It's probable that Bellotti would have silently been slipped out of the sport shortly thereafter in '88, but Rich Brooks saved the young coach from football oblivion with his offer to head the offense of the slowly assenting Oregon Ducks.
In the four seasons Bellotti was head coach at Chico St., Rich Brooks' Ducks were redefining mediocre, posting records of 6-5, 5-6, 5-6, and 6-5 from '84'-'88. But Bellotti's offense was a big reason the Ducks had the best season in the Brooks era in 1989. Oregon went 8-4, and made a bowl game for the first time since 1963. The Ducks followed that up with another 8-4 season in 1990, and after three nondescript years, Oregon exploded with a Pac-10 title and a trip to the 1994 Rose Bowl. Brooks, who was never going to get out of Eugene if he didn't leave after the Rose Bowl year, leapt at the St. Louis Rams offer, and Oregon, not wanting to disturb the positive vibes of the Brooks era, promoted the in-house candidate, Bellotti, to head coach.
Rich Brooks had a losing record at Oregon. 91-109-4. He had seven winning seasons, two 500 seasons, and ten losing seasons. While it's true that Brooks eventually dragged the Ducks out of the quagmire they had occupied in the years before he took over the program, Brooks didn't turn the Ducks into a national power or even start that process, as history suggests. When Brooks left, the Ducks weren't yet even a consistently respectable team. They were just one-time wonders in '94, who would presumably go back to being at bottom of the Pac-10 soon enough. Mike Bellotti had a lot of work to do.
It was under Bellotti that the Ducks became a leading football program. It was known that Bellotti was a great offensive mind coming into the position, but his calm and consistency in guiding the Ducks on a steady path into the upper echelon of the sport was totally unexpected. In 14 seasons with the Ducks, Bellotti only missed a bowl game once. He had only one losing season - which he followed up with a 10-1 regular season mark the next year.
Oregon was infrequently brilliant under Bellotti as well: Oregon's stellar 2001 Fiesta Bowl season jumps to mind, but so does the 10-1 2005 season with Kellen Clemens at quarterback, and the 2007 season in which Oregon would probably have played for the national championship had Dennis Dixon not been hurt. In fact, Bellotti's last year at the helm - 2008, which was supposed to be a rebuilding year, finished with the Ducks at 10-3. Bellotti's downfall was unearthing an out-of-this-world offensive coordinator from New Hampshire.
Maybe Mike Bellotti saw in Chip Kelly the same story he had when he was hired by Rich Brooks before him - small-time offensive guru itching for a shot to prove himself on the biggest stage. In any case, when Charles Kelly walked through the doors at the Casanova Center, Bellotti's fate was sealed. Chip's blazing attack took the Ducks offense to another level, and in 2008 he appeared to be the favorite for the Syracuse head coaching job. The Ducks didn't want to lose this coaching star, and with Bellotti aging, a succession plan was quickly hashed out.
At the time, there were many succession plans in college football - Mack Brown and Will Muschamp at Texas, Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher at Florida State to name a few - but in those cases, the head coach lasted until they wanted to retire, or were pushed out. Bowden was pushed out. So was Bellotti. In December the succession plan was announced. In March he was gone. Just at the peak of Syracuse's interest in Kelly. Bellotti was 57, in good health, and in charge of a program on the rise. With USC going down that year, Oregon was poised to take over the Pac-10. Bellotti knew it, and there was no way he would have stepped aside then. Not three months after saying he would leave in his own good time. After 14 impressive years, Bellotti was moved upstairs to the athletic director position, a spot he knew nothing about, and no way of succeeding.
There have been a few football coaches turned athletic directors that have had success, but not many. Football coaches just aren't equipped to run major athletic departments. After nine months in Bellotti's case, that was abundantly clear. He was moved aside, with a nice severance package, to another job he was unequipped for: broadcasting. Bellotti was pretty bad in the booth, doing 9:00AM games on ESPN2, a dead-spot for an announcer. You got the feeling that Bellotti didn't like the work, and now, he's done with media as well. No college programs will hire a 61-year-old. And so, Bellotti is done with football, and out of the public eye.
Mike Bellotti, the winningest coach in Oregon football history was fired twice by his school of 20 years. He was bulldozed by the Chip Kelly train - the right decision by the Ducks - and thrown out with the wash after less than a year as an athletic director. Rich Brooks got the field at Autzen Stadium named after him, and there will someday be a statue of Chip Kelly outside that field. For Mike Bellotti? Nothing. Bellotti certainly had flaws as a coach - his teams were inconsistent in-game, and he didn't have the chops of some in his profession - but he doesn't deserve the fate he's been handed.
In Chip Kelly's first game as Oregon coach, that dreadful night on the Smurf-turf in Boise, Mike Bellotti, the new athletic director, was pacing the sideline, just as a coach would. He had taken off his jacket, he had forgotten his position, and he wasn't even trying to fight back his urge to coach the team on the field. Bellotti went too soon. Bellotti was one of the first in college football to put in the spread offense that allowed him to tab his eventual successor in Chip Kelly, and he laid the groundwork for Oregon to become a national power. He was a good guy. He served his school well. Now he's gone. It’s tough to not feel sad about that.
The bigger question, regardless of the amount of the pension, is why ANY publicemployee (teacher, fireman, cop, postal worker, civil servant or football coach) is allowed to collect a penny of pension BEFORE age 65. This country is going broke and we have 40 and 50 somethings 'retiring' on public pensions that payout 150-4000% more than said employees employees ever paid in. Mike Belotti is not retired - he be seen on ESPN as recently as last week (9/25) a his not yet 62. Say no to public eployees getting pensions BEFORE 65 -that includes the DOD as well.
I do blame Mike Bellotti for greedily pumping up the state’s perception of his income for his financial advantage. He’s just another public figure (in a long series of similar characters) who used the system for his own gain all while abdicating himself of any personal responsibility. It is so played. We see it all the time. I admit Mike Bellotti is sort of a poster boy for this egregious selfishness and there are others that are culpable as well. Nevertheless, this article about how we are supposed to feel sorry for him is completely insulting. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the public’s head could be sunk any further in the sand.
The intrinsic problem with the argument that “what he did was legal, etc” is that these rules, promises, and contracts are made between parties that have the same financial interest. In addition, he didn't contribute to his pension "like we all do". No, most of us don't get a tax-payer-supported-cadillac-retirement-pension program. Instead, we have to scrap a few bucks together in our 401k, be at the mercy of the market and pray hard that somehow we can someday have enough to simply retire. If you aren't absolutely disgusted by this, you are not paying attention. Sorry to be blunt, but there is no other explanation.
This whole arrangement depends on a public that is unaware or is distracted. Sounds kind of like what we have, doesn’t it? Oh well, so long as our football team wins…
State government IS looking into PERS. The amount of Mike's monthly pension check is rather staggering.
But remember he did nothing illegal to get...he contributed to his pension like we all do.
Blame State government, not Mike.
I am aware of several charities that Mike and Colleen sponsor with funding.
I am quite certain that he has taken good care of his Mother.
Yes...it would be quite difficult to figure out to spend all that...if we also had it.
With a science background, I always advise people to do some research on their own.
What do other football coaches get when they retire?
Yeah, he contributed to his pension, but of course only a fraction of what he got. The present value of an annuity that yields $41,000 per month is somewhere between $12 and $15 million bucks. Seems ridiculous to me, probably you as well. Take it up with our state government? Will do. Of course, their on the same PERS system and loyal to those groups that advocate for such an absurd program. I guess it's easier if we all just stay focused on college football and the sad fate of someone who has the difficult task of spending $10k per week.
Much of Mike's work was in ''building the program''.... and not necessarily to get the Ducks to the BCS Championship game !! His teams were more than average, dude. His PERS payout is his PENSION. He contributed to it
from day 1. Why do you deny him his due? If you do not embrace the amount...who does...take it up with
your state governement, senators, etc....that is, if you have a clue how to do that.
The pension money going to Mike has no connection to our sagging education programs in Oregon.
THAT can be blamed on people who vote down anything having to do with education in our communities.
I now have friends and relatives who are jobless teachers. Their Union operates on tenure (seniority)
Yeah, so sad. $41,000 per month for the rest of his life from the taxpayers of Oregon while our schools are closed and prisons are emptied. Very sad indeed. What a joke...
It would be great to hear FACTUAL accounts of Mike's allowing his players to ''run free and wild''. ha
Somebody obviously wasn't paying attention.
There is nothing sad about the Mike Bellotti story....what part is ''sad''. I attended a dinner shortly after
Mike stepped down from coaching and his words left no doubt whatsoever that that decision was
HIS. I guess speculating is entertainment for those who have nothing else to do.
He made incredible gains in our program.
Mike Bellotti does not receive anything $$ that he has not earned the right to have.
Why would you deny him that?
His PERS account is notated by NUMBER first, not his name.
He either was a shrewd financial planner or had someone else who was.
Investing in the State Pension Plan for State employees was common sense.
IF you have a gripe with how it works, you should take that up with your State
government officials, not with Mike.
Mike and PK come from the ''old school'' where contracts WERE valid with one's word and
a handshake. His U of O attorney was in charge of the details and she dropped the ball.
The money he left with was less than he was promised.
I wonder if your selfish attitude would change if YOU were in a similar situation???
Belotti let his players run free and wild. They did not honor the U of O, they disgraced it. Until Chip Kelly became coach I had no respect for the team and would barely watch their games. Belotti took his golden parachute and now receives over $40,000/mo from PERS. I wish him well in his new career but am so glad the Ducks now have a team and coach I can finally respect. Sad? No, that word does not come to mind when the name Mike Belotti is mentioned!
All I needed to read was the first paragraph to know this article was trash and just plain wrong. Where Mike may have been forced out as coach (he would not admit it), he was never fired as AD. In fact he left to work with ESPN, where he still works today. He just did a game and can also be seen on multiple shows on ESPNU including the Experts. I don't know if you actually believe what you are writing or you are just trolling. Either way, you might want to make sure what you write is actually correct.
Hey Abe, I imagine the traffic your posts on internet forums create must be astronomical for this "blog." Oh, and it appears your "article" isn't just lame, but is factually incorrect on several ways. Maybe a retraction or correction is in order? That's what real writers do.
Some people miss Mike. I think some of us are waiting to see if Chip can be consistent in the long run. Let's see how this year goes. I think Chip needs to work on they way he portrays himself to the community, but give him a chance, change is hard. We got the a bowl game last year, lets see what this year brings.
How is this sad? He's still working for ESPN and he's working the studio now.
ESPNU BCS Countdown (Mon., 6-7 p.m.): the hour-long live studio show, hosted by Nowkhah, discusses the ever-changing college football standings. ESPN’s Mike Bellotti, Tom Luginbill and Kevin Carter will share analyst responsibilities.
@aberoyce We miss Mike a lot...is there any way to follow all of his broadcasts...in the
booth and in the studio? I know we can catch his color analyst duties on Saturdays...but
there is more. Know how to find that?
Poor, poor Mike. He'll have to console himself with the $41,000 a month that he gets as an Oregon state government pension.
@bojack54 Why don't you keep your posts on your own blog, where you can dictate who is allowed to post comments (here's a clue, you have to agree with the overlord).