Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) prepares to throw on the run. Oregon Ducks Football takes on the University of Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 16, 2019. (DL Young/Emerald)

University of Oregon sports teams are currently thriving. The sustained presence of talented senior athletes is a significant reason for such potent success.

Several cases of positive senioritis have allowed Oregon athletics to thrive during their 2019-20 seasons. UO football is powered by seniors Justin Herbert and Troy Dye, women’s basketball is led by superstars Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard and men’s basketball is run by fourth-year Payton Pritchard. There are additional seniors that have made vital impacts this season, but the previous list highlights several key Oregon athletic figures. According to women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves, “This is a great place for student athletes.”

This multi-sport success highlights the advantages of seniors returning for their final seasons of eligibility. Without these valuable seniors retaining their roster spots, all three teams would likely not be in the position they find themselves in now. 

All of these aforementioned players had the opportunity to enter their respective professional leagues. In fact, current seniors Herbert andIonescu could have been the top selections in the NFL and WNBA drafts. Ionescu was the projected top pick a year ago, and Herbert generated momentum as the potential top quarterback in 2019. 

By forgoing the draft, each Eugene star passed up substantial paychecks. An NFL contract pays much more than a WNBA deal, but Ionescu was already the projected number one pick a year ago, with nowhere to go but down on draft boards. This suggests a variety of reasons for Ionescu’s return. According to Ionescu, “I dedicated four years to this team, to my coaches. And I needed to do that.” 

Beyond being the star of the nation’s number one team, Ionescu is also pursuing her masters degree in Advertising and Brand Responsibility. This is another distinct advantage for athletes that choose to return for the final season of eligibility. While Ionescu’s reasons for returning likely are not the same as all senior athletes’, this shows a reason beyond the sport itself for returning.

Each of these three teams are currently red hot and rolling. Since dropping the first game of the season to Auburn, Herbert and Dye have led Ducks football to nine straight wins and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship. Oregon will play against the winner of the Pac-12 South division to compete for a spot in the Rose Bowl.

Returning for one’s senior year is not  the best option for every athlete, but for those in a position to do so, the benefits are clear. Furthering one’s education and athletic abilities are two reasons for staying on campus. Maximizing the tools provided by institutions like the University of Oregon helps student-athletes further themselves in multiple areas. Without UO’s aforementioned stars, the bright light illuminating from a near-perfect collective win-loss record would be much more dim.