Oregon’s head coaching search was interrupted in early December when 14 former Ducks football players sent a letter to athletic director Rob Mullens saying they felt the program was “dangerously close” to losing its identity.

The Ducks would eventually hire Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning to be the program’s new head coach in the wake of Mario Cristobal’s departure for Miami. Oregon reportedly offered and was turned down by former Duck and current Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, and though there seems to be considerable excitement over Lanning, the saga from last month remains on the minds of many.

“This feeling comes not from wins and losses, but rather, the idea that in the attempt to chase a national championship, we are losing what made us great in the first place,” the players wrote in the letter, as reported by The Oregonian’s John Canzano. “This is not a Blue Blood program. Our success was built on the continuity and hard work of the players and coaches in the 30 years prior to 2016 and we, as players, feel we are dangerously close to losing our identity.”

Joey Harrington, Marcus Mariota, and Justin Herbert were among the alumni who signed. According to Canzano, though he was never mentioned, Wilcox was a name the players felt needed strong consideration by the UO program.

Earlier this week, Mullens joined Canzano on his radio show to offer up some context on the letter and the players’ comments.

“That wasn’t the only input to that I received, as you might imagine,” said Mullens. “I appreciate the passion. Those folks on that list, I have a relationship with many of them. I talked to some of them during the search, before the search, some after the search, and appreciate all that they have done and you’re right. When we look at how are we going to compete in the Pac-12, how are we going to compete at the University of Oregon, we need that passion from every constituent group in our footprint to be able to compete with the best of the best in college football.”

You can hear the rest of Mullens’ interview with Canzano below:

John Canzano BFT Podcast · BFT Interview: Rob Mullens