A year later folks on both sides of the Oregon and Oregon State football rivalry tell me they’re no closer to renaming the game formerly known as The Civil War.
No Platypus Cup.
No Willamette Classic.
So what gives?
“To be candid — not much,” long-time Oregon State associate athletic director Zack Lassiter told me a couple of weeks ago. “Hasn’t been a front-burner issue given all the other items we have been navigating.”
Lassiter, who was the ideation guy at OSU, left Beaver Nation last week. He was hired as the athletic director at Abilene Christian University, where the chief rival is not a trivial conversation.
Meanwhile, Oregon and Oregon State will play Saturday for the 125th time. The driver’s seat in the Pac-12 Conference North Division is up in the air in Eugene. But there’s bound to be considerable fumbling around when people try to refer to the game as “the Duck-Beaver rivalry” or “the game formerly known as the Civil War,” or whatever you decide to call it over turkey this week.
The game was first played in 1894 and was known as “The Civil War” from 1929 to 2020, when both schools announced they would no longer refer to that name because of the connection to the American Civil War. This caused angst from those who saw the outcome as a positive historical event that resulted in the nation-wide abolition of the institution of slavery.
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Still, here we are this week about to see “No-Name Game II.”
This Ducks-Beavers series has a trophy. The “Platypus Trophy” was carved by Warren Spady in 1959. It’s quietly exchanged by the alumni associations depending on who wins. But this game officially needs a name — and a purpose. One that is forward thinking and benefits players on both sides. The sitting athletic directors, Rob Mullens (Oregon) and Scott Barnes (Oregon State), will not be able to directly benefit from what I’m about to propose, but I suspect they’ll love it just the same.
Sell the name of this rivalry game to a corporate partner.
Highest bidder wins.
Let the Ducks-Beavers game be called “The Chevron Classic,” or “The Ford Bowl” or “The Columbia Sportswear Series.” Dutch Bros. is a dynamic Oregon-based company. If CEO Joth Ricci sees the value I could foresee Mario Cristobal or Jonathan Smith holding up “The Dutch Bros. Cup” at the end of the game.
Will that be hot, iced or blended, coach?
There are a number of lucrative possibilities here. But my point is we’re never going to get consensus on what this rivalry game should be called so why not turn that into a positive? The result would be the most lucrative name-image-likeness deal in college history and players on both sides could evenly split the proceeds from the game every year.
Yes, I’m proposing the game formerly known as The Civil War become the first payday event in college football history. One that would allow players on both sides to honor the spirit of prosperity and capitalism in the process. Sell the naming rights. Not just for football, but for baseball and basketball too. Let thirsty corporate partners participate in what would undoubtedly be a major victory for college athletes, and let the rest of us find some much-needed solace about this blasted name change.
The dirty little secret?
The universities themselves have been selling this rivalry’s rights for some time without sharing a cent with athletes. The Ducks-Beavers game is currently monetized by Oregon and OSU’s multi-media rights partner (Learfield) through a joint sponsorship program. There are a half dozen companies that participate. It’s been good for the athletic departments, but what I’m proposing here is something good for the players.
No need to rip up the Learfield deal. The universities can still benefit financially from the game. But our in-state players should enlist an outside agency to negotiate exclusive naming rights to this game on their behalf. It has to be a third party. The universities can sit out. This columnist will volunteer to shop that deal — commission-free — if nobody else is interested.
Under NCAA rules, the universities can’t participate in helping procure name-image-likeness deals for athletes. UO and OSU will have to be hands-off. It’s why newly formed endorsement agencies are sprouting up in college towns. But what the Ducks and Beavers athletes need here isn’t competing agencies but some old-fashioned solidarity and unified purpose.
Sell the rights. Allow the buyer to own the game’s name. Can you imagine the influence and publicity that would be sparked from every player on both sides working together in an unprecedented NIL deal? Can you imagine how Cristobal and Smith might utilize this little fact in recruiting?
So how about we start the bidding for a five-year football game deal at $1 million?
That’s a cool $1,250 a piece for the 160 or so football players who suit up in each Ducks-Beavers rivalry game. It gets me thinking about how some smaller companies might be able to afford the rights to the men’s and women’s basketball series. Baseball, too. Gymnastics? Track and field? What else? Let every college athlete at Oregon and OSU hate each other on the field and buy dinner because of each other off of it.
This rivalry has some quirky history. Thomas Autzen graduated from Oregon State in 1909 but Oregon’s home football stadium is named for him. Don Essig, the public-address voice of Autzen Stadium, is a Beaver, too. Meanwhile Mike Parker, the OSU radio broadcaster, is a graduate of the University of Oregon.
Oregon coach John J. McEwan called this football rivalry game “the great civil war” in 1928 while talking to reporters. Before that it was called “The Oregon Classic” or “State Championship Game.”
What I’m saying is — change is what we do around here.
College is a place where kids go to learn. The academics involved in higher education in our state might appreciate seeing players seize control of this game’s name. That move would be born out of the very ambition and passion educators aim to foster on a daily basis.
Precision Castparts Classic?
The State Championship Game presented by Intel?
Get right on it. Because this no-name stuff is a no-win thing.