SAN ANTONIO, Texas After his unit starred in Oregon's 30-7 win against Texas in the Alamo Bowl on Monday, retiring defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti held court with the media for the final time and told an interesting story.
In summer 1978, Aliotti arrived in Eugene, having driven in his green Volkswagen bug from Davis, Calif., where he worked as running backs coach. Then-Oregon coach Rich Brooks had offered him a graduate assistant job. Aliotti had $200 in his pocket and the clothes he wore and no place to live.
"I took a chance," he says. "I was sleeping in the old locker room. I had nowhere to eat. I ate as much at the training table as I could. A Daisy Duck lady took me in.
"Before I was done there, I was calling her grandma. She was washing my clothes. She was upset when I wasn't there for dinner, setting the rules of what I could or couldn't do."
With Brooks in 1978, the Ducks lost their first seven games and went 2-9.
He would leave Eugene a couple times for other jobs, once to the NFL after he helped Brooks and the Ducks make the Rose Bowl, before returning as defensive coordinator in 1999, right when the Ducks started their ascension into the country's elite.
Now Aliotti, 59, goes out with positive thoughts, having helped the Ducks go to four consecutive BCS games and the Alamo Bowl and 57 victories in the past five seasons. He has helped teams win numerous league titles in his 38 years coaching 24 years with the Ducks.
"Five decades at one place, not continuously," he says. "But only Joe Paterson (at Penn State) has been in only one place for five decades."
The University of Oregon?
"It's been my whole life," says Aliotti, who had a salary exceeding $400,000 and now bags a hefty retirement from PERS.
The UO football program has grown immensely, especially with facilities Casanova Center, Moshofsky Center, Autzen Stadium expansion and now the extravagant Hatfield-Dowlin Complex and practice fields not to mention other UO sports facilities.
"It was very important to me to see the ascension ...," he says, "to the Taj Mahal we have now. It used to be parking lots."
Monday's game went about as well as Aliotti could have dreamed. And, his players were playing for their D-coordinator.
"He was himself," safety Avery Patterson says. "He didn't want this to be about him. All of us players, all us defensive players, we knew it was for him. We wanted to do it for him. We wanted to send him out the right way."
Family greeted and hugged Aliotti on the Alamodome field, and players doused him with water or Gatorade or something. He held court with the media on numerous subjects, including the state of the Ducks.
"A lot of people are happy for me. This game's bigger than me," he says. "It just so happened that this was my last rodeo last rodeo in Texas.
"It feels good to go out this way. With due respect to everybody else, we're just as good as the others they picked (for BCS games). We are. We had a hiccup against Arizona. Stanford was one of those games where we didn't play our game, offensively, with a hurt quarterback. They were able to do what they wanted; that was the reality."
He finished with media and, then, bellowed: "I'm O-U-T, out!"
And the fiery Italian walked away, into the darkness.