by Rob Moseley
Gary Campbell's tenure at Oregon began in 1983, back when the UO football coaches were based out of McArthur Court, the Ducks' former basketball gym that doubled as headquarters for the athletic department.
Campbell, who enters his 31st year as running backs coach this fall, shared an office with fellow offensive assistants Neal Zoumboukos, John Ramsdell and Steve Greatwood. Each man's desk faced a wall, and to say their work space was small would be an understatement.
"If we pushed our chairs back from under our desk," Campbell recalled, "we'd bump into the guy behind us."
Campbell spoke Monday from his new home in the Ducks' Football Performance Center, the athletic department's striking new addition to the Autzen Stadium complex. With preseason camp set to begin Monday, Aug. 5, coaches were officially back on the job this week, in advance of the players' reporting dates over the weekend.
For four of the current assistants, Monday's work day in the new building was particularly striking. Campbell, Greatwood, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti and linebackers coach Don Pellum all were on staff even prior to the opening of the Ducks' previous home for the football offices, the Casanova Center.
"This is probably the finest football facility in the world," said Aliotti, who was a GA for the Ducks in 1978, giving him experience on the staff in five separate decades. "If there's one better, I'd like to see it."
In the Casanova Center, the football team occupied a suite of offices at one corner of the second floor, which included a couple of meeting rooms and small individual offices. By contrast, the Football Performance Center is some 140,000 square feet of dedicated space for the program.
"It's very energizing, extremely energizing," said Pellum, a GA with the Ducks in 1985 after completing his playing career in Eugene. "Like, let's go practice now.
"And it's pretty emotional. There was Mac Court, and then when we moved into the Cas Center, it was big-time. And now we're turning the corner to a whole 'nother dimension."
The assistants' offices in the new building are two to three times the size of those they left behind in the Casanova Center — "and 10 times as nice," Campbell said.
He first got a look at his office while it was under construction, and had trouble envisioning the finished product. Then he dropped by again a couple weeks ago.
"I came in and my jaw dropped," Campbell said. "It was unbelievable. To see all the technology hooked up, to see the furnishings in the place, it was something you dream up."
Each assistant's desk sits at one end of a long room, the window behind him looking out on the Ducks' new practice fields. On one wall of his office hangs three television screens that can lay flat or be angled out so as to be viewable from the desk. The other wall contains photos and mementos from the coach's career, and family photographs.
Asked about a particular feature of the office he enjoyed, Campbell, Aliotti and Pellum each mentioned the end of his desk that can be raised up, with the push of a button, to become a standing desk.
"I'm not embarrassed to say, today I'm having to ask, 'how do I do this or that?' " Aliotti joked. "But as long as I can turn on the computer and get the football part I want, and watch, that's all I need right now."
When players are on hand, the coaches will migrate from their wing of the building overlooking the fields to the "teaching box" that sits between the Casanova Center and Martin Luther King Boulevard. There are housed the meetings rooms for coaches, each position group and the full team, in a theater-style film room.
The running backs' meeting room in the Cas Center doubled as the building's postgame interview room; it wasn't uncommon for reporters to see plays diagrammed on the white board while waiting to do interviews after games.
"And that was certainly a step up, as far as Mac Court," Campbell said. "And now, (the running backs'' new meeting room) is just state of the art."
For Oregon's longest-tenured coaches working for the first time out of the new facility Monday, the energy was palpable.
"The stage is set," Pellum said. "Now we've got to go to work."