Oregon's chartreuse bus fleet will be rolling into Boise in mere hours and the Polish sausages are ready to sizzle at Bronco tailgates. Yes, at long last, its game week in Broncoville and the hype has reached critical mass. The Broncos and Ducks preseason rankings both average out to a solid 15 in the polls and the biggest game in Bronco stadium history is hurtling at us like a Jeron Johnson hit. Most fans, like me, know little about the Ducks or their quaint little institution in Eugene. Needless to say, there is a lot to be learned about this week's foe (don't worry, Kellen Moore already knows their defense intimately)...so let's all give the Ducks a closer look through the magic of factoids and childish jokes. It's time to get to know your enemy, Bronco Nation...so take notes.
Ten things Bronco fans probably didn't know about the Oregon Ducks or their hippie-laden hideout to the west.
10) The home of the University of Oregon, Eugene, was founded in 1846 and is named after its founder, Eugene Franklin Skinner (a real looker I might add). He took a cold from exposure during the big flood of 1861 while trying to save his cattle and never fully recovered. Greater love hath no man than this, that man lay down his life for his livestock.
9) Oregon has played in 22 bowl games in their history and hold a 9-13 record. Their most lopsided defeat was a 38-6 loss at the hands of Colorado in 1996. Their most lopsided bowl victory was a 56-21 win over South Florida in 2007. FYI, Boise State is 5-4 in FBS bowl games since joining Division 1-A in 1996, but have gone 1-4 in the last 5 years with an average margin of defeat of only 3.5 points...ouch.
8) In 1910, the Oregon football team defeated Puget Sound 115-0. Apparently Puget Sound's "two hand touch" defensive philosophy backfired in a big way.
7) The University of Oregon and Boise State both have legitimate claims to the same Hall of Famer. Dave Wilcox played two seasons for BJC before transferring to Oregon for his final two years of eligibility. Wilcox was a 7-time Pro Bowler at linebacker while playing for the San Francisco 49ers and considered by many to be the greatest outside linebacker of his era. Not one to choose sides, his son Justin showed both of his Dad's alma maters a little love—playing defensive back for the Ducks before settling in as Boise State's defensive coordinator.
6) In 1915, a Eugene farmer named James Fullerton found a whale carcass on the beach in Florence. Fullerton thought that the whale carcass would be great for the students of the University of Oregon to behold, so he had it shipped by railcar to the University. Problem was, the University had no knowledge of it and refused to accept a rotting whale carcass (go figure). The railroad wouldn't unload the thing and it stunk up the Eugene area for a good while. Ultimately, Fullerton had to pay to have the whale buried in a vacant lot. Fullerton was so enraged by the University's refusal of his "gift" that he founded his own newspaper, the Hornet, to smear the University and its officials. Among Fullerton's claims: "President (Prince Lucien) Campbell has turned the university into a 'hotbed of Germans'". Fullerton went to trial for, and was found guilty of criminal libel. This story (pages 27-29) is way to awesome for me to have made it up.
5) The Zorn-MacPherson Bill in 1932 proposed that the University of Oregon and Oregon State University be merged into one institution. The bill lost in a landslide vote of over 6 to 1, but I've provided an artist's rendering below of what the school mascot would've looked like had the bill passed.
4) Bill Bowerman was the head track coach at Oregon for 24 years. During his time at the university, he coached 31 Olympians and 51 All-Americans. He also developed waffle-soled running shoes that led to the founding of NIKE, Inc. Oh, you can also thank Bowerman for bringing jogging to America by way of his 1967 book, oddly enough, entitled: Jogging. OBNUG salutes you, Bill Bowerman, we'd never have had a boring, tedious excercise fad (or serious case of shin splints) without you.
3) Oregon's first year of football was played in 1894 with a brutal 4-game schedule consisting of Lewis & Clark, Oregon St., Portland University, and Pacific. The squad was co-coached by Cal Young and J.A. Church and went 1-2-1 on the year, playing Pacific to a thrilling 0-0 tie. The following year, coach Percy Benson led the "Webfoots" to their first undefeated season (4-0). The team outscored opponents 64-8 that year, although 44 of those points came against Oregon State. Wow, what it must have been like to cover college football in the 1800s! Come to think of it, I think Dustin Lapray would've been right at home.
2) In the 1940s, cartoon drawings of "Puddles", the Duck mascot, began to bear a striking resemblance to Donald Duck, so the school's Athletic Director, Leo Harris, parlayed a friendship with a Disney cartoonist into a meeting with Walt Disney himself. Disney granted the University of Oregon permission to use Donald as its sports mascot and finalized the deal with a handshake. In the 1970s, Disney lawyers weren't so sure the handshake held much weight legally and went after the University. The University was able to produce a photo of Walt Disney and Leo Harris wearing matching Oregon jackets featuring the Donald Duck mascot. The lawyers backed off, granting the school more formal permission to continue using Donald's likeness on Oregon sports memorabilia.
Facemasks are for pansies.
1) One of Oregon football's most famous alums is Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin (pictured above during his salad days). Van Brocklin went 16-5 as the starting QB for the Ducks and was later drafted by the L.A. Rams. He led both the Rams and Philadelphia Eagles to league championships. Van Brocklin was the only quarterback to defeat a Vince Lombardi-led team in a title game. A nine time Pro Bowl selection, Van Brocklin led the NFL in passing three times and in punting twice. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
There, now we know a bit more about the Ducks. I hope everybody had fun...but not too much. There will be a test.