By Rob Moseley
No matter what the task, when Chip Kelly was leading Oregon’s football program the attitude was, the faster and more efficient the better.
Kelly’s successor, Mark Helfrich, plans to continue that theme on the field this season, beginning Saturday against Nicholls at 1:05 p.m. And fans will notice one legacy of Kelly’s decision-making whenever the Colonels retire to Autzen Stadium’s new visiting locker room, now located outside the east end zone.
In order to maximize UO players’ time with coaches, at halftime the Ducks will meet not in the new Hatfield-Dowlin Complex but in the old visiting locker room, a few yards off Autzen’s west end zone. Visitors will now congregate outside the east end zone, in a newly configured locker room also available for opponents of Oregon’s baseball, soccer and lacrosse teams, and those of the Eugene Emeralds minor-league baseball team.
“Using the on-field meeting space at the base of the tunnel during halftime saves us time returning to the field,” said Jeff Hawkins, the senior associate athletic director for football administration and operations. “And it helps avoid interaction between the teams by having them enter from opposite sides of the stadium.”
The 83 lockers from the west end zone space were moved to the new visiting locker room. The room was reconfigured with stools and white boards to accommodate the Ducks’ halftime meetings.
The UO football team’s locker room prior to the move to the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, inside the Casanova Center, will be repurposed. A final determination on its use has yet to be made.
The new visiting locker room will affect the flow of fans who enter and exit Autzen Stadium via the southeast ramp. Because opponents will access their locker room in the area, the East entry gate will open 90 minutes before kickoff, rather than three hours before like other gates. And there may be what the athletic department has termed “minimal detours” in that area pregame, at halftime and postgame.
Also new to the gameday experience at Autzen Stadium this season is the new “Zen North” feature on the north side, as previously featured on GoDucks.com.
Among the long-standing policies still in place: The East parking lot will open four hours before kickoff; stadium perimeter gates (with the previously noted exception of the East gate) will open three hours prior to kickoff; the Ducks’ “March to Victory” through the Moshofsky Center will take place about two-and-a-half hours prior to kickoff; and stadium seating areas will open 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
The other change welcomed by the Ducks is the availability of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex for pregame meetings and meals both the night before and the day of games. Oregon players will still spend the night before home games at a local hotel, but the athletic department will save money by not requiring a hotel with adequate catering services and meeting spaces for the entire team.