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CIVILITY IN CIVIL WAR COULD BE, WELL, HISTORY

by: COURTESY OF OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY - Coach Tommy Prothro gets carried off the field by his players after the Beavers' 10-7 victory in 1957 - which gave OSU a share of the Pacific Coast Conference title with Oregon (both 6-2). The Ducks went to the Rose Bowl, however, because the Beavers had gone the year before and rules at the time prohibited repeat trips.The Civil War football series is almost as old as, well, the other

Civil War.

Just 35 years after Oregon reached statehood and fewer than 30 years after the end of the great battle between the Union and Confederate states, the University of Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College met on a sawdust field girdiron in front of 500 curious observers.

The “Farmers” beat the “Lemon Yellows” 16-0 on OAC’s Corvallis campus on that cold, wet November day in 1894, beginning a rivalry that will enjoy its 116th renewal Saturday when Oregon State plays host to Oregon at Reser Stadium.

Now it’s the Beavers and the Ducks and the entire state — along with much of the nation — taking notice of the seventh-oldest rivalry in the land.

It’s not always been billed as “The Civil War.” The matchup was initially called “The State Championship Game.”

The first reference I’ve found to “Civil War” in state newspapers came in 1929, but the term didn’t come into vogue until the early ‘60s.

Going into Saturday’s Reser showdown, Oregon leads the series 59-46, with 10 ties.

The rivalry has been cyclical, with Oregon dominating the early years, Oregon State taking over from 1936-74 and Oregon regaining the advantage from 1975-97.

The teams went back and forth from then until 2008, with the Ducks winning the last four matchups.

The rivals have played annually except in 1900 and ‘01, when intercollegiate athletics were banned on the OAC campus; in 1911, due to a riot that broke out after the ‘10 game, and in 1943 and ‘44, during World War II.

Seven games have been in Portland, and in 1912 and ‘13 the teams squared off in Albany, of all places.

Since 1953, the games have alternated annually between Corvallis and Eugene.

The rivals have met twice in a year only two times — in 1896 and 1945.

The Beavers and Ducks nicknames, incidentally, didn’t come into existence for a while. The first reference I found to the Beavers was in 1910. In 1930, “Ducks” was voted in by the UO student body and a small white duck named “Puddles” began to appear at games.

But for many years, the newspapers referred to OAC as the Farmers, the Agrics, the Agriculturists, the Hayseeds — yes, the Hayseeds — and later the Orangemen.

Oregon’s sobriquets included the Lemon Yellows, the Dudes and, in time, the Webfeet and eventually the Webfoots.

It wasn’t until the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that the media referred to them as the “Beavers” and “Ducks” on a regular basis.

Historians differ on the origination of the game that became somewhat of a cross between the sports of soccer and rugby. It could have been Princeton-Rutgers in 1869, or Harvard-McGill in 1874, or Harvard-Tufts in 1875. No matter, college football was still in its infancy when the two state schools first got it on in Corvallis.

OAC started its program in 1893, Oregon a year later. Here is the account from the Corvallis Gazette newspaper from the first meeting:

“The game was marked by brilliant plays throughout. For the first few plays, the Eugene players went with a dash that won plaudits from all, and it seemed they would do up the Farmers in short order. Their game consisted principally of straight runs around the end. On center plays, their work was generally ineffectual against the heavy rush line of the home team, and many times cost them considerable loss of yardage. OAC made large gains around Eugene’s right end.

“The best of feeling prevailed during the entire game, and little or no slugging was indulged by either side. The Eugene team made a favorable impression on everyone. With the exception of P. Nash, who suffered a dislocation of a shoulder blade in the first half, none of the players were injured.”

Good feelings between the programs didn’t last long. Two years later, in 1896, Oregon won a game that OAC said should have been a tie verdict. There was controversy involving a referee and charges of dirty play from both sides and, yes, more than a little slugging. Even the referee got popped.

According to one newspaper report of the day, the OAC side charged “that an erroneous decision by referee Otto Burchhardt of the Multnomah Club gave the university men points they were not entitled to. Eugene got the ball on a fumble within a few feet of the college goal, and carried it over the line, but lost it without making a down. (Players from) both teams fell on it, and apparently (Charles) Osborne of OAC secured it. The referee decided it to the Farmers’ ball, but when the teams lined up, he changed his ruling and allowed Eugene a touchdown.”

During the dispute, Oregon coach (J.F.) Frick went onto the field to “offer some advice. He was ordered off and, refusing to go, was carried off forcibly. When Burchhardt gave Eugene the protested touchdown, (Pat) Kelsay of the Farmers’ team accused him of unfairness. Burchhardt told Kelsay he lied, and the latter knocked the referee down. Kelsay was then ruled off.”

According to a report from Oregon officials, Kelsay — son of Corvallis mayor Judge Kelsay — and brothers Brady and Bruce Burnett “initiated slugging tactics and played dirty football” during the game “while the language they used toward their opponents was such as, to put it mildly, should have been foreign to college young men meeting on the field of sport.”

The other referee, F.J. Raley, said the OAC trio “played the dirtiest football I have ever seen.”

OAC representatives said Oregon reps forced the two game officials — both representatives of the MAC club — on them, contending that “Burckhardt knows nothing about the game and should not have consented to act as referee. The fact that his errors were perhaps unintentional does not compensate us for the loss of the game.”

According to the OAC side, “The charge against Bruce Burnett is peculiarly insulting, for he was slugged out of the game in the first five minutes, although he appealed to Raley against the big Eugene fellows. The man who took (Burnett’s) place was not used to the position, and but for his fumbles, the college team would have won easily. Citizens who attended say the only foul they witnessed was when Bruce Burnett was deliberately hit in the face and hurt so that he had to leave the game.

“Raley paid no attention to any of our protests, and we perhaps did not talk to him in ladylike terms when we called his attention to the constant gross off-plays of the Eugene men. In playing football, we have not time to say ‘Please’ and ‘Sir.’ ”

Three years in and it was already a heated rivalry.

By 1910, the game was a major event on the social calendar in the state. Thousands traveled by train from the region to take in the game in Corvallis, won 10-0 by Oregon before a crowd of 5,000 in what one newspaper described as “the most bitterly fought football game in the history of the two institutions.”

Afterward, nearly 1,000-strong Oregon fans stormed the field along with a car carrying a group of UO players. That precipitated an on-field dust-up between OAC’s Tom May and former UO star Fred Moullen and, an hour later, a donnybrook at the train station between supporters of the two schools. The Oregon school president, waiting to board the train, attempted to calm the situation.

According to one newspaper report, “He attempted to pacify the excited partisans, told them their demonstrations were a disgrace and pleaded for them to disperse. During his talk, he was hissed and booed by the Corvallis contingent.”

In the ensuing melee one UO student’s head was shaved, others “robbed” of their college hats and one “felled unconscious.”

The result was an indefinite suspension of athletic competition between the schools by the Aggies.

Two years later, the schools agreed to meet at a neutral site — on a hastily built field in a park in Albany — with Oregon prevailing 3-0 before a throng of 6,000.

In 1920, a record crowd of 13,193 packed the stands in Corvallis to watch a scoreless tie. Two years later, a crowd of 18,000 at an expanded Bell Field saw Oregon win 10-0.

Fast forward to 1937, when Oregon State scored a 14-0 upset at Hayward Field, leading to a celebration in Corvallis that got out of hand. The next day, OSC students held a mass rally and, with plenty of spirits being imbibed, embarked on a parade to Eugene, and among other things, scaled Skinner’s Butte and painted the giant-sized yellow “O” orange.

UO students didn’t take kindly. A group of them grabbed some of the offending Beavers, stripped them to their underwear, dipped them in buckets of yellow paint, took them up the hill and dunked them into the “O,” turning it yellow again.

I’m not making this up.

As the years rolled on, a lot of good football was played. Not, though, in 1983, when the woeful Ducks and Beavers slithered to an 0-0 tie that will live in infamy as the “Toilet Bowl.” There were 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals in the last Division-I game to end scoreless before overtime was introduced in 1996.

In 1994, Danny O’Neil-led Oregon came from behind to claim a 17-13 victory at Corvallis to secure the Ducks’ first Rose Bowl bid since 1958.

In 1998, Ken Simonton skirted right end for the winning score in Oregon State’s 44-41 double-overtime win — still the greatest college football game this reporter has witnessed.

The highest stakes were involved in 2000, when fifth-ranked Oregon visited Corvallis to take on eighth-ranked Oregon State. The Beavers won 23-13 and finished an 11-1 season by busting up Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks beat Texas to end their campaign 10-2.

In 2008 and ‘09, the Rose Bowl was on the line for Oregon State — and the latter year, for both teams. Oregon spoiled the Beavers’ dreams each time, making it to Pasadena the latter year.

The Ducks and Beavers will do it again Saturday before a packed house at Reser and a national television audience. The only thing that’s for sure is it won’t end in a tie.