Tuesday evening, Oregon made the unsurprising decision to fire head football coach Mark Helfrich after four seasons. What was surprising, however, was the awkward situation created by the school’s use of an internal reporter to break the news.

At 7:00 p.m. Tuesday evening, Oregon’s Twitter feed sent out the breaking news under the super-awkward title “Football Program Getting New Direction,” which probably deserves a whole post of its own for the way it says everything and nothing at the same time.

The post was written by Rob Moseley, editor of GoDucks.com and former sports reporter for the Register Guard, where he had covered Oregon football and other topics for 10 years.

Athletics programs and pro teams hiring in-house reporters to write stories are part of the new normal for sports fans, so it’s not an unheard-of setup. Where it gets tricky, however, is the way someone in that position covers breaking news and big changes like a coach firing, and how the perceived angle from which they’re coming from can conflict with the general dissemination of factual news.

The post read like a normal head coach firing announcement, complete with quotes and appreciation from both sides. That is, until you got to the backend of the story. Then, things suddenly shifted from “providing information” to “throwing Helfrich under the bus.”

After taking over for [Chip] Kelly following four seasons as offensive coordinator, Helfrich maintained Oregon’s status as one of the nation’s most potent offenses. But after finishing 37th in the FBS in total defense in 2013, the Ducks slipped to No. 89 during the playoff season, No. 117 in 2015 and No. 126 this season, despite the hiring of a new coordinator who installed a new scheme.

The Ducks saw several significant streaks end in 2016, including their winning streak in the Civil War. Oregon failed to make a bowl and suffered a losing season for the first time since 2004, and saw an Autzen Stadium sellout streak that began in 1999 end at 110 consecutive home games. The Ducks lost at least eight games for the first time since 1991.

Helfrich helped recruit and groom quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won the 2014 Heisman Trophy while leading the Ducks to the title game. But the Ducks had to rely on graduate transfers entering both 2015 and 2016.

Vernon Adams Jr. helped Oregon reach the 2015 Alamo Bowl but was hurt just before halftime, and could only watch as the Ducks squandered a 31-0 lead. Dakota Prukop won twice to open 2016 before giving way to true freshman Justin Herbert in the midst of an ensuing five-game losing streak.

Oregon’s first loss of 2016 was at Nebraska, a 35-32 defeat in which the Ducks went for two after all five of their touchdowns and converted once. The next week, Pac-12 play began with a loss to Colorado in which the Ducks allowed 41 points and threw an interception on a potential game-winning TD pass in the final minute.

The recently completed season also included one-sided losses to Washington (70-21), Southern California (45-20) and Stanford (52-27). An upset of No. 11 Utah on Nov. 19 kept alive Oregon’s hopes of making a bowl despite a 5-7 record, but the loss in Corvallis ended that.

Calling out Helfrich’s shortcomings and harping on the mistakes made during his tenure hardly seemed like the kind of tone you’d want your athletic department’s website in the initial announcement, especially considering the piece begins with a humble, appreciative quote from Helfrich himself.

As Twitter started taking Oregon to task over the story, Moseley chimed in to clarify his role as the writer.

Soon after, however, Moseley decided that the article’s back-half was perhaps a bit too much for an initial announcement. And despite the fact that he was hired to write stories like a newspaper reporter, his role as an in-house writer means different situations call for different tones.

While many considered that the initial announcement read like a hit-piece, it’s important to consider that obviously wasn’t Moseley’s intention, and he was indeed hired to make critical assessments about Oregon football. However, perhaps the role of an in-house reporter requires a bit more nuance than one who writes for an outside source. Whether or not you think it’s valid or “right” that Moseley has to balance the two sides as a writer covering Oregon will largely determine how you feel about in-house reporting in general.

[GoDucks.com]

About Sean Keeley

A graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse related things for SB Nation, Neighborhoods.com, Curbed Seattle and many other outlets. He currently lives in Chicago.