7 reasons it made sense for Dan Lanning to stay at Oregon and pass on Alabama

The Oregon Ducks football program seems to be in this position once every three years or so, and it’s not fun.

The head coach being lured away from Eugene by another supposedly higher-profile program is a story we’ve seen before. First, it was Willie Taggart to Florida State, and then it was Mario Cristobal to Miami. Neither found success at those places, and perhaps Dan Lanning has learned that lessons.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but “it’s damn green in Eugene,” as Lanning put it on Thursday morning, announcing he was staying at Oregon and passing on the vacant head coaching job with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

There are a number of reasons that Lanning might have decided to stay at Oregon, many of which the coach has told us before. Here’s what we thought were likely the deciding factors:

The 2024 Future is Bright

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With the expansion of the College Football Playoff and the high level the program is recruiting at, Oregon should be playoff contenders on a yearly basis, especially in 2024.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel joins a large portion of the offense and defense that is coming back, setting up Oregon to make quite the impact in its first season as a member of the Big Ten. The Ducks will be among the favorites to win the conference in 2024, and they have a good chance at making a playoff run.

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Alabama will be among the favorites to win the SEC and more, but the SEC is a weekly ordeal and the Crimson Tide’s quarterback situation will not be as settled as the Ducks’ next season.

Filling Nick Saban's Shoes Will Not Be Easy

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Gene Bartow followed John Wooden at UCLA. Ray Perkins followed Bear Bryant at Alabama, and Phil Bengston followed Vince Lombardi at Green Bay.

Those coaches had some wins, but they couldn’t come close to replicating the success of the legends they replaced. Does Dan Lanning want to be known as the guy who followed Nick Saban? As it turns out, the answer is no. Lanning wants to build his legacy at Oregon instead of living in the shadow of another legacy.

Family Matters

Tom Hauck/Getty Images
Tom Hauck/Getty Images

No decision like this is made solely by the head coach. For Lanning, he has a family: his wife Sauphia and three young children. Here are a handful of things Lanning has said publicly since taking the job in Eugene:

  • “As a coach, all you ever really want to focus on is being in a place where you can win and you can raise your family.”

  • “Since the day I got here, it’s been no secret that I want to be here. I’m thrilled about the opportunity that was given to me to become the head coach at Oregon. That means a lot to me. I never take it for granted. I wake up every morning and I pinch myself.”

  • “Like what I’ve said before, with a 13-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old, to be able to raise your family in a community like this, to be able to compete for championships and have the ability to get the resources you need. A lot of coaches hang onto these moments and they don’t do anything or don’t say anything, No. 1 because they don’t want egg on their face when they decide to do something else, No. 2 because they’re concerned about things that I’m not concerned about, like getting a better contract. I’m taken care of extremely well here at Oregon.”

  • “This place has everything that I could possibly ever want, my family could ever want. I’ve got an 11-year-old that’s lived in eight states; the last thing I ever want to do is leave. I want to enjoy this opportunity here. It’s been a phenomenal place for us and when you talk about things that align, things that match your vision of what you’re looking for as a head coach, Oregon checks every box for me.”

The Phil Knight Factor

Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Oregon has been to the national championship game twice in the last 15 years, but the Ducks haven’t been able to get that big win. Nike co-founder Phil Knight obviously would like to be alive to see his alma mater win the national title on the gridiron, and Lanning is very close to doing just that.

It may not be a bad thing to be known as the man who delivered the first championship ring to a billionaire who is considered one of the most powerful men in all of sports.

Oregon will have a roster in 2024 that will have a great chance of making a playoff run and winning the big one. Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly, Mark Helfrich and Mario Cristobal couldn’t win the ring. Lanning has a great chance of being the coach to finally give Knight a championship.

He's Got His Guys

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It takes any new coach a few seasons to reshape a roster in his own image. 2024 will be Year 3 for Lanning in Eugene and as a former defensive coordinator, he will have a defense that will be one of the best in the Big Ten and more than good enough to win a national title.

A large number of defensive players from 2023 are returning in 2024, and those young players such as Matayo Uiagalelei and Teitum Tuioti will be a year older and ready to contribute far more.

Of course, Alabama will be good in 2024 as it always recruits at a high level, but the Crimson Tide’s roster will need a few more years to be Lanning’s roster. Even if Alabama won the national title in 2024, everyone will say Lanning won it with Saban’s players.

They will not be able to say that should Lanning win the big one at Oregon.

The Expectations are Different

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Don’t get me wrong, expectations are high in Eugene. However, Oregon isn’t a place that has gone 16 years without having fewer than 10 wins in a single season. Alabama has been in eight of the last 10 College Football Playoffs. Every year, if the Crimson Tide aren’t hanging a championship banner, the season is considered a bust.

While Lanning and the Ducks absolutely have aspirations of making that the case in Eugene, it isn’t that way yet. So while Lanning likely would have found success in Tuscaloosa, there was always the chance that if a rough patch came, he could be shown the door. That doesn’t exist in Eugene. Yet.

The Compensation Doesn't Matter

As one of the most prestigious jobs in college football, Alabama will make its next head coach one of the richest men in the sport.

As he’s told us before, though, that’s not something that is important to Lanning.

“A lot of coaches hang onto these moments and they don’t do anything or don’t say anything, No. 1 because they don’t want egg on their face when they decide to do something else, No. 2 because they’re concerned about things that I’m not concerned about, like getting a better contract. I’m taken care of extremely well here at Oregon. I have the resources I need here at Oregon to be really, really successful. I’m not motivated by that. I’m motivated by winning. I’m motivated by being elite here.”

Lanning is already among the highest-paid coaches in the nation, and there’s a good chance that Oregon continues to make that the case as he delivers wins in Eugene. This wasn’t a situation where he needed to go to the SEC to get a bigger paycheck. He is taken care of well in Oregon.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire