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University of Oregon fires Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich after Civil War loss, 4-8 record

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2016, file photo, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich instructs his team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash. Oregon plays Utah on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

The University of Oregon has fired head football coach Mark Helfrich after Saturday’s loss to the Oregon State Beavers in the two teams’ annual Civil War.

According to a news release, Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens made the announcement after the two met Tuesday night.

"We want to thank Mark for his eight years with the University of Oregon and appreciate his efforts on behalf of Oregon football," Mullens said in a news release. "We wish Mark and his family the best."

The Ducks ended its season 4-8. The team lost to the Beavers in this year's Civil War for the first time in nearly 10 years. The loss dashed any hope of making a bowl.

In the release, Helfrich thanked his family and Oregon players.

"Finally, to the players — thank you, and I love you. The future is bright for this young, talented team, and we will be supporting them and their new leadership," he said.

In a news conference held after his announcement, Mullens said he will lead the search for a new head football coach, but the university will use a search firm as well.

"We're going to look far and wide (for a new coach) ... someone who understands high expectations and really wants to be here," he said.

Mullens said the decision to fire Helfrich was made Tuesday.

Even after being fired, Helfrich will receive a $11.6 million buyout payment.

Watch Mullens' News Conference:

Helfrich was head coach of the Ducks for four seasons, leading the team to the first College Football Playoff championship game after the 2014 season. But Oregon faltered this year with a five-game losing streak, and finished at the bottom of the Pac-12 North with just two conference wins.

After taking over when Chip Kelly left in 2013, Helfrich went 37-16.

When Helfrich was promoted into the job at the start of 2013, he had the daunting task of replacing Kelly, who orchestrated Oregon's hyperdrive spread-option offense and led the Ducks to their first national championship game appearance in 2010. An affable native Oregonian, Helfrich had served as offensive coordinator under Kelly and recruited future Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

Helfrich went 24-4 in his first two seasons, including a loss to Ohio State in the first College Football Playoff championship. But last year he was challenged with replacing Mariota. He lured graduate transfer Vernon Adams from Eastern Washington, but Adams struggled with injury.

The cracks were showing in that 9-4 season, the first with fewer than 10 wins since 2007. Losses to Michigan State, then at home to Utah and Washington State pushed Oregon out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009.

The ultimate embarrassment came in the Alamo Bowl, when the Ducks surrendered a 31-0 lead and TCU staged the biggest comeback in bowl history to win 47-41 in triple overtime.

This season the Ducks brought in another graduate transfer at quarterback, Dakota Prukop from Montana State. But after five starts, Prukop was benched in favor of true freshman Justin Herbert.

Herbert was one of the few bright spots in the dismal season, throwing for 1,936 yards and19 touchdowns with four interceptions in nine appearances.

The overwhelming drag on Oregon's success appeared to be the defense. The Ducks, who switched to a 4-3 scheme under Hoke, spent most of the season mired in the bottom of the NCAA defensive rankings. At times it appeared that the players didn't know their assignments.

The defensive shortcomings were readily apparent in Oregon's 70-21 loss at home to No. 5 Washington on Oct. 8. Huskies quarterback Jake Browning threw for six touchdowns in the victory, which snapped a 12-game losing streak to the rival Ducks.

The issues on defense were again on display Saturday against the Beavers. The Ducks' season ended without a bowl game for the first time since 2004. Oregon had finished every season ranked in the AP Top 25 since 2007.

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