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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Know Your Foe - Oregon

Michigan will get their first taste of Division I-A football in 2007 this Saturday when they host the Oregon Ducks. This will be the fourth time the Ducks have come to Ann Arbor, but the first time since 1973. They have yet to score a point on their visits. Oregon won the last meeting between the teams, a wild 31-27 affair in Eugene in 2003. With the game on ABC, this will also be the first chance many Michigan fans will have to see the Wolverines in action this year (and that includes those that were in attendance for last week’s game). And with so much unknown about Oregon – such as which uniforms they’ll wear on Saturday – we’re sure you’ll want to learn as much as you can by reading the latest installment of the MZone's award-winning and calorie-free, KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Founded in 1876, the University of Oregon graduated its first class of five students two years later. Then in 1879, the UO Alumni Association was founded - much to the dismay of that first class of five who kept getting Pony Express letters at home asking them to give money to the university. UO’s first building was completed in 1877 and had the foreboding name of Deady Hall. Contrast that with the first dorm on campus, opened in 1893 which was called Friendly Hall.

One of the unique things about the Oregon campus is the way expansion has been handled. The Oregon Experiment is a book published in 1975 that the University used as a guide when the issue of building on campus was concerned. The “Experiment” espouses that the eventual users of the buildings to be built have major input on the design and construction. Additionally, the Experiment advocates expanding in small pieces rather than taking on massive projects. Following this theory has led to UO having one of the more architecturally interesting campuses in the country.

And Know Your Foe would be remiss if we talked about the UO campus and didn’t mention the classic 1978 comedy Animal House, which was filmed on campus and the surrounding area. The exterior shots of the Delta House were of the Phi Kappa Psi house on campus, which was demolished in 1986. The interior shots were from the Sigma Nu house which still stands. Additionally, the well-known “I’m A Zit!” food fight scene took place in the food court of the student union, which is known as The Fish Bowl (hey, Michigan’s got one of those, too).

Location – Eugene, Oregon. Named for its founder, Eugene Franklin Skinner, Eugene is known for its aging hippies as well as its numerous outdoor activities. With a population of about 150,000, Eugene is Oregon’s third largest city. The town’s unwieldy motto of “The World's Greatest City of the Arts & Outdoors” definitely sums up a side of the city that the local chamber of commerce would like to show off. And it’s true – numerous artists and writers have gotten their start in Eugene. There’s also a tremendous running tradition, and a love for outdoor sports - bicycling, rafting, kayaking, and hiking - that’s part of the culture of the area. But that tells only part of the story of Eugene.

A counter-cultural tradition thrives in Eugene. A former mayor called the city “The Anarchist Capital of the United States,” and a community of anarchists exists on the west side of town. But most of the counter-cultural environment stems from the 1960s, with much of it being the brainchild of former resident, author Ken Kesey. Co-ops dominated the scene in the ‘70s and Eugene still has the only food co-op in the U.S. that has no employees. Natural food stores (no, not Whole Foods) still pepper many neighborhoods while the public school system has included alternative schools for decades. Nicknames for the town include “The Emerald Empire,” and “The People’s Republic of Eugene.”

Nickname - Ducks. Originally, the nickname was “Webfoots.” But that name isn’t because the campus was overrun with ducks. Instead it’s named for a group of Massachusetts fisherman whose descendants settled in the area. By the 1930s sports writers were referring the UO teams as the “Ducks,” and soon after a live duck named Puddles appeared at University sporting events. Student newspaper drawings of Puddles greatly resembled Donald Duck so much that in 1947, Walt Disney noticed the resemblance and talked to the University about it. They came to a handshake agreement that lasted until 1990 when Disney Corporation got something on paper. But they continued to allow UO to use Donald’s likeness as long as it was for the sports teams. However, when Nike bought out the athletic department in the mid-‘90s, Donald pretty much disappeared. It’s rumored that he was killed by a flying swoosh.

There are no other major colleges that refer to themselves as Ducks (sorry, Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, you don’t count) and the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks (that’s hockey for those that don’t know) are the only pro sports team with the Ducks moniker.

Mascot – Donald Duck. As mentioned above, the University has been using Donald Duck – or a near facsimile – as its mascot for years. However, they’ve pretty much fazed Donald out. And for that you can thank Nike and their complete control that they have of the design of the Oregon brand. But Donald was almost ousted in 1978. At that time the campus newspaper, the Emerald was publishing a satirical supplement called the Immorald. The editors of each disagreed about how the Duck should be depicted, with the Immorald proposing a black-feathered duck named Mallard Drake who was more like, you guessed it, Daffy Duck. This controversy actually led to a student referendum that resulted in more students voting on the Duck issue than they did for student-body president which was on the same ballot. The Donald version of the duck won out and stayed on as the main Oregon mascot until about 1994. Donald has stuck around campus but is rarely used in any official capacity. Something called Roboduck was introduced as the mascot in 2002 but was met with heavy opposition and hasn’t been seen since.

Colors – Green and Yellow. Oregon is the only major college football team to use this color combination. Actually, they’re pretty much the only university that uses yellow as an official color. Know Your Foe has mentioned this before regarding Iowa’s and Appalachian State’s use of gold which is really yellow. And there are a ton of teams that do that – West Virginia, LSU, Minnesota, Iowa State and USC. And there’s even a team that calls their yellow Maize, though that technically is correct. Why is everyone so down on yellow? I’m sure some marketing study has found it to be weak, so good for Oregon (and Florida Atlantic) for being the only schools to wear their yellow proudly.

Logo – A simple, round O. For years the University of Oregon was represented on the fields of play by and an interlocking “UO,” typically in a classic-collegiate block font. There was also the use of a fighting Donald making his way through a block O, though this was never represented on the football helmets.

But then things changed in the mid to late 1990s. With some huge Nike dollars, the athletic department, and the entire university changed their identity. Out was the cute cartoon duck and traditional interlocking letters. In came the O. Now as Nike designs go, the O isn’t that bad. And the university has been consistent in applying it to everything the university does. After years of just being quiet and cute, Oregon had an identity. And they had a real good football team. For years the Ducks were a non-entity in the Pac 10. But since the late ‘90s, Oregon has been a top-tier Pac 10 team, and a player at times on the national stage. And though the Nike dollars had a lot more to do with that than the Nike design, the O has given Oregon a strong identity that is recognizable throughout college sports.

As always, all images of the helmets are from the incredible Helmet Project site, and the logo is from the equally wonderful SportsLogos.net.

Fight Song
Mighty Oregon. Written in 1916 by the director of bands and one of his students, it's a pretty forgettable song. The tune is well-known among current Ducks and alumni, but the song is notorious for having most of the lyrics mumbled instead of sung. Maybe it’s because they keep changing the words which have undergone numerous alterations in the last 90 years. The current lyrics are as follows:

Oregon, our Alma Mater,
We will guard thee on and on,
Let us gather 'round and cheer her,
Chant her glory, Oregon!
Roar the praises of her warriors,
Sing the story, Oregon,
On to victory urge the heroes
Of our Mighty Oregon!

Go! Ducks! Go!
Fight! Ducks! Fight!
Win! Ducks! Win!

These bear almost no resemblance to the original lyrics which sound more like something you might sing while watching one of the girls from Beer Bong Friday:

She is small our Alma Mater
But she rules with strength and right,
What she lacks in mass and numbers
She makes up for in her fight
Oregon is never beaten
'Till the final whistles call.
Who can tell her tale of triumph?
Scores can never show it all.

Oregon, our Alma Mater
We will guard thee on and on
Fellows gather round and cheer her
Chant her glory Oregon
Roar the praises of her warriors
Sing the story Oregon
Down the gridiron urge the heroes
Of our mighty Oregon.

Rally fellows, stand behind them,
They are doing all they can.
Back the team in sun and shadow,
Back the captain, back each man.
They will carry home the vict'ry
To old Deady's hallowed hall.
Give the team the best that's in you.
Give your Alma Mater all.

Academics – According to the most recent U. S. News Ranking of America's Best Colleges Oregon is tied for the 112th spot with such football powerhouses as Florida State, South Carolina, Dayton, Ohio, and Loyola (IL). They just beat out conference foe Washington State (118th), and, most importantly to Ducks everywhere, they are ranked higher than Oregon State. The programs with the best reputation at UO are education - particularly special education - and creative writing.

Athletics – As mentioned above, the Oregon football program was an afterthought until 1994 when they won their first outright conference championship and went on to the Rose Bowl. Soon after they became a perennially competitive team, including another Pac 10 championship in 2001, ending the year ranked #2 in the nation. Their football season is highlighted with a season-ending game against intrastate rival Oregon State. “The Civil War,” which was a fierce rivalry even when both teams were winning two or three games a year, dates back to 1894.

The basketball team has made only nine NCAA tournament appearances, though the Ducks did win the first NCAA title in 1939. They play at the oldest on-campus basketball court in the nation, McArthur Court.

Interestingly, Oregon has not fielded a baseball team since 1981, despite having a team as far back as 1876, winning 14 conference titles, and producing 22 major leaguers. However, baseball will again be a varsity sport starting in 2009. Maybe the Ducks finally got jealous that Oregon State won the last two College World Series titles.

But it’s not football, basketball, or baseball that’s put Oregon athletics on the map. It’s track and field, particularly distance running. Legendary coach Bill Bowerman's teams won four NCAA titles in his 24 seasons at the helm of the Ducks, and his teams finished in the top ten in the nation 16 times. He coached 33 Olympians and 64 All Americans. His training innovations were legendary, though none can top the time he poured melted rubber into a waffle iron, creating a new type of running shoe. He went on to found Nike with former track team member and UO alum Phil Knight. The on-campus track, Hayward Field, is a mecca for American distance runners. It’s been the home of the Ducks since 1919 and seats 15,000. It will host its fourth U.S. Olympic trials in 2008.

You can’t mention Oregon athletics without mentioning Nike.Hell, Know Your Foe's mentioned the company several times already. The two are intertwined with more than just history. After all, the ubiquitous Swoosh was designed by a UO student in 1964, who was paid $35 for her efforts. Nike co-founder Phil Knight has been generous with grants to the university, particularly the athletic department. And there’s no doubt that the football team has benefited greatly from the money and the exposure that Nike has brought. But Knight has involved himself with the teams, particularly in 2005 when he threatened to withhold donations unless track coach Martin Smith was fired. The athletic department acquiesced and soon after Knight pledged $100 million to the athletic department.

Famous alums – Even if everyone doesn’t know him by name, Phil Knight has to be the most influential alumnus of the University of Oregon. But even if the rest of the list of famous Ducks isn’t earth shattering, it is interesting and diverse.

Author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) left his mark on Eugene and the campus. Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk also graduated from Oregon. Since it’s in the Pacific Northwest, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, and Aldus founder and PageMaker creator Paul Brainerd are both Ducks. Anyone who has a Roth IRA can thank UO grad William Roth, who was also a five-time senator from Delaware.

Famous Ducks on the playing field include NFL hall of fame quarterbacks Dan Fouts and Norm Van Brocklin, along with all-time ass-kisser Ahamad Rashad who played as Bobby Moore while in Eugene. Russ Francis and Joey Harrington also played on the gridiron for the Ducks. UO has produced a fine list of coaches, even if they didn’t coach in Eugene. Former USC bosses John McKay and John Robinson attended Oregon, as did current NFL head coaches Norv Turner and Mike Nolan. Former NFL coaches Jack Patera and all-around nut Gunther Cunningham were also Ducks. Current Gonzaga head basketball coach Mark Few, along with NBA disciplinarian Stu Jackson went to UO.

Ducks are represented in the entertainment field as well. Today show newsreader Ann Curry as well as ESPN anchor Neal Everett attended Oregon. Do you think they might have dated? TV writer (The A-Team) Steven J. Cannell is a Duck, as is Bullwinkle writer Allan Burns. Do you think the Michigan Marching Band knows about this? Does that mean they shouldn’t play the Bullwinkle theme on Saturday? Finally, former University of Michigan president Lee Bollinger got his B.S. from Oregon, but no U.S. Presidents have been Ducks.

The Game – There’s a ton of pressure on both of these teams. The pressure on Michigan is apparent. With their BCS title dreams dashed before classes even started, the Wolverines have to avoid falling to 0-2 which could lead to a complete collapse, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Ann Arbor since 1968. Meanwhile, Oregon has to win to avoid their fans saying “You lost to a team that lost to a I-AA school.” Meanwhile, neither defense looked that good last week, though at least Oregon’s offense was impressive. The embarrassment from last week isn’t enough to carry the Wolverines. OREGON 45, MICHIGAN 41.


Crabapple Buck said...

From the department of little known facts...The reason they used Uof O for Animal House is because they didn't for 'The Graduate'. When the producers wanted to film the college scenes with Katherine Ross and Dustin Hoffman, the president said no. After it won an Oscar for best picture, he caught a lot of flak over the loss of publicity. When Animal House asked, he never even wanted to see the script (which would have been a dealbreaker for a pussy academic). After that, chaos ensued.

On a personal note. Could you fuck-ups please win this week to salvage some dignity back for the Big Ten. I know there is no I in team but there are two in Michigan. Play like you have a pair.

Matt said...

Steve Prefontaine? Yeah, he might go down on the list as a famous alumnus. Just sayin.

A2saint said...

Despite what happens this weekend at least we are still unbeaten in the Big 10!

Mathew said...

I came in to comment on the lack of Pre, looks like matt beat me to it.

Chris said...


matt said...

i predicted a few days ago in a comment that oregon would win 45-42.

one thing we won't see in this game: defense.

or made field goals.

runmaster said...

Duck Fan replies:
This is great. Good job.

I feel if it gets to a kicking game this could get ugly fast. I am not sure either team has a great toe.
About the Duck mascot. Walt Disnet's daughter is an Oregon grad. (50's). In fact, I have been told that that is how the hand shake deal came about. It has been said that it Walt and the then current AD shook on the 50 yard line, at old Hayward field.
Also, many of my friends say that is why I have a Micky Mouse education (Ha).

I could tell you more than you want to know about the mascot, but I will spare you. One interesting thing is that when "Robo" ('02) Duck came out it was Disney trying to seperate the school from the Disney trademark. Robo Duck was a Nike thing and I think the fans said "enough already" After much begging and $$ the Disney folks gave in and extended the relationship with a ton of conditions, and Donald was back. One thing, is that the costume has go back to Disney for refurb. after almost each game.
BTW, if you (M) run up the middle Sat., you will run up the score.
I am a duck fan but I am not out of my mind. I just hope we look like a 1 A program Sat. on ABC.
Score M 48 OR 17 Oregon may win the stats, but not the game. Only way we pull it off is with a lot of Mich. turnovers.

san francisco values said...

Christalmighty! God forbid they film 'The Graduate' at the school at which it actually took place! It isn't like it's an ugly campus or anything

Kraut said...

Wow, I have to admit I'm a bit surprised you pick Oregon to win. Altough Michigan was pathetic last week I have to believe (maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid) Michigan is going to bounce back this week.

Didn't Oregon give up like a million yards (ok, 500+) last week to Houston? I'm not sure App State wouldn't beat Houston ...

I'm thinking (okay, hoping) something more like UM 55, UO 35 ...

god of the whoppers said...

for all of you pre fans, he never graduated, not to say that doesn't make him and alumni, he is, but...
maybe the team can read a few of his quotes before they play and think like he did. balls out till you win

Williams said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.