EUGENE, Ore. - Longtime University of Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who has played a significant role in the school’s five BCS bowl appearances and six conference championships, has announced his retirement from coaching according to the Ducks’ head coach Mark Helfrich.
Aliotti, who will conclude a 24-year Oregon coaching tenure and 17-year stint as the Ducks’ defensive coordinator with Monday’s Valero Alamo Bowl appearance vs. Texas, has orchestrated some of the most successful defenses in school history. Oregon led the conference in pass defense three times (2000, 2005 and 2006) and total defense in 2005 (357.7 avg.), in addition to leading the country in interceptions (26) and turnover margin (+1.62) in 2012.
Never has an Oregon defense allowed fewer points (243) during a 13-game season than in 2010 and not since 1992 had the Ducks yielded a scoring average lower than that year’s 18.5 points per game. For his efforts Aliotti was nominated for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate assistant coach.
During the university’s 2001 Fiesta Bowl season, Oregon limited teams to 115.3 yards-per-game on the ground as he was rewarded as an AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year recipient.
Oregon heads into Monday’s season finale pacing the Pac-12 in fewest yards allowed per play (4.69) while the mark was bettered by only eight other FBS schools. In addition, the Ducks rank 25th in the country in scoring defense (21.6 avg.) and third in the conference for the second year in a row – the third time in the last four years the program has ranked third or better in the league in scoring defense.
They also lead the league in pass efficiency defense (14th nationally) and stand fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense (381.2 avg.).
“After coaching for 38 years, it is time for a new chapter in my life and Kathryn’s,” Aliotti said. “Coaching is all I’ve ever known but it has been a labor of love and a fantastic ride.
“I’ve coached in a lot of great games in my life but the things I’m going to miss the most are the great players and assistant coaches I have had a privilege to work with. There is never an ideal time to announce these decisions because I don’t want to take away from the attention on this final game or the focus from the players who are the ones who deserve all the credit for getting us to where we are today.
“I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a great career and to step away from the game when I felt the time was right. Now is that time.”
The 38-year collegiate coaching veteran has served three separate stints as an Oregon assistant coach, spanning the tenure of four different head coaches. Aliotti initiated his stay in Eugene as a graduate assistant for two seasons in 1978 before returning in 1988 under Rich Brooks to coach the program’s outside linebackers. He was elevated to defensive coordinator prior to the 1993 season and was instrumental in a unit that spearheaded the school’s “Gang Green” defense that helped lead the school to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 37 years following the 1994 campaign.
Following a four-year hiatus that included stops in the NFL (St. Louis Rams, 1995-97) and UCLA (1998), the 59-year-old Northern California native returned as the Ducks’ defensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti in 1999. He continued in the same capacity for four seasons under Chip Kelly prior to this year in Helfrich’s inaugural season as head coach.
“Nick’s contributions to the football program at the University of Oregon cannot be overstated,” Helfrich said. “His dedication to the success of this program will certainly leave a lasting impression that is hard to measure. I want to thank him for his loyalty and efforts to help make Oregon football what it is today, and wish him and his wife, Kathy, a long and happy retirement.”
The personable Aliotti not only proved to be one of the program’s most successful assistant coaches on the field – where he mentored no fewer than 32 defensive players selected in the NFL Draft, including 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan – he also served as one of the school’s most effective recruiters.
Among the single-game pinnacles enjoyed by his defenses was allowing Colorado to run for only 49 yards in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl in a 38-16 win that propelled Oregon to finish the year ranked No. 2 in the country, as well as limiting third-ranked Michigan to minus 3 yards on the ground in the 2003 upset of the Wolverines.
The 1976 UC Davis graduate broke into the coaching ranks at his alma mater that fall, with his coaching career including stops at Oregon State (1980-83) and Chico State (1984-87) in addition to his stay at Oregon.The university will begin a national search for a successor immediately.