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Jeff Eisenberg

Vultures are circling Oregon coach Ernie Kent

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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In the waning moments of their team's 62-42 victory over Oregon on Saturday night, Oregon State students found a way to further salt the wounds of their in-state rivals.

They serenaded the Ducks with chants of "Goodbye Ernie," a coldhearted nod to the very tenuous job security of longtime Oregon coach Ernie Kent.

Kent has two Elite Eight appearances, five NCAA tournament berths and the most wins of any coach in Oregon history in his 13 seasons, but losses like Saturday's listless 20-point wipeout are the sort that earn a coach his pink slip. The Ducks (12-10, 4-6) were swept by Oregon State this year for the first time since the 1992-93 season, further evidence of the erosion of an Oregon program that has produced a winning Pac-10 record just once in the past six years.

When Kent's Ducks went 2-16 in conference play last season, many assumed that would mark the end of the guy dubbed "No Tourney Ernie" by his harshest critics. Instead Kent saved his job last offseason by adhering to his administration's suggestion that he add former Arizona coach-in-waiting Mike Dunlap to his staff at a hefty $400,000 a year pricetag.

Plenty of signs exist that Kent won't be so fortunate this offseason. Empty seats abound in the final season of Mac Court, the athletic director says progress hasn't been "significant" and one fan burnt his season tickets in mid-January rather than have to endure the rest of the season.

The complaints about Kent earlier in his career were that his teams underachieved, only making one NCAA tournament with the likes of Aaron Brooks, Malik Hairston, Maarty Leunen on the roster. Right now, it's not so much that he's underachieving but rather not replenishing the roster with talent.

Rivals.com ranked Oregon's recruiting class last in the Pac-10 for 2010 and seventh in 2009. The Ducks' recruiting pipeline to the midwest has dried up, they failed to land in-state blue chippers Kevin Love and Kyle Singler and the only elite prospect they've signed in recent years, center Michael Dunigan, has been slow to live up to expectations.

With a new arena set to open next year, Oregonian columnist John Canzano wrote that the Ducks couldn't afford to bring Kent back again unless this season results in an NCAA tournament berth.

A 4-6 record in the weakest Pac-10 in recent memory isn't getting it done, so we'll see if the Oregon administration holds Kent to the same standard.

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