Why the Duck Resentment?: An Open Letter

Steven Smith Editorials

Dear Fellow Pac-12 Members,

Here on the campus and across the state and nation, many a Duck fan is becoming aware of a budding intra-conference displeasure with Oregon. This presents itself in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Call it an identity crisis of sorts, even bordering on ENVY (one of the Seven Deadly Sins). Are we not all supposedly united together as proud members of the Conference of Champions? Why, then, all the animus, angst and annoyance toward Oregon now?

Some recent examples of not-so-subtle rancor include the selection of the 2019 Pac-12 All-Conference players and teams. Oregon had a total of four players selected, while a preponderance of players were selected from the University of Washington and the University of Utah. Oregon schooled both the Huskies and Utes, in Seattle and Santa Clara, thus winning the Pac-12 title and earning a Rose Bowl berth.

Yet, Mario Cristobal did not even win Coach of the Year in the Pac-12. Is this a curious oversight or evidence of a grudge? Those “better players,” as voted on by the Pac-12 coaches, were beaten by Oregon players and coaches who are not as highly regarded. Just how could that happen? Smacks of resentment, yes?

Pac-12 Grievances

“Uncle Phil” is a big source of resentment for fellow Pac-12 schools.

Upon reflection, we must ask ourselves, is Eugene worthy of such ire? Are there definitive reasons for other programs’ displeasure? The dislike is palpable. My guess is that it stems from one or more of the following litany of perceived slights:

  • Money: Yes, the Ducks have been blessed by the largess of Uncle Phil Knight. But is not Seattle not rife with huge mega corporations and potential donors? Tempe, Palo Alto, Berkeley and the LA schools are similarly surrounded by cash giants. Salt Lake City and its silicon slopes ooze new and established money along with an abundance of technology companies. It’s true that Pullman, Corvallis, Tucson and Boulder have funding challenges, yet cash follows success. Oregon is not the only Pac-12 program blessed with dollars.
  • Winning causes envy, as we all know. The Ducks own recent titles in football, basketball and track. However, we do not resent titles fellow Pac-12 teams have won. Seeing other schools succeed only fuels our drive to capture future championships, as should be the case with all Pac-12 universities.
  • Brand: Oregon’s national cache is another possible source of resentment. Our colors are unique, and our style and constantly changing uniforms forever transformed the athletic industry. But don’t all Pac-12 teams benefit from this recognition? Especially during a time in which the Pac-12 has gone years without a CFP contender, don’t we want to draw as many viewers as possible to the West Coast?
  •  Fans: Are we that much more arrogant, over the top or lacking in respect compared to the other schools’ fans? We don’t think so, but we have felt the vitriol from other schools’ fans during away games. Opposing fans get a touch unruly and “mouthy” every time the Ducks come to town.
  • Facilities: Yes, we have some of the very best anywhere. No one is stopping you from doing the same, right? (See “Money” section above.)
  • Coaches: Washington State, especially, has become resentful of the Ducks for “poaching” four of its assistant coaches over the last few years. But isn’t this a normal part of college football? Just this off-season, Oregon cornerbacks coach Donte Williams was hired away by USC. The best programs have to reload assistant coaches every year (just ask Nick Saban).
  • Livability: When the sun comes out in March, Eugene is without doubt a gorgeous place to drop anchor. We love our town and the surrounding area. All schools have similar assets, whether on or off campus, do they not?
  • Yes, we too have been guilty of demeaning our Pac-12 rivals with terms like “little brother” and sayings like, “He who sleepeth with the Dog, riseth with the flea and dog breath, too.”  Such banter is one thing, but seething and murmuring about rivals’ success is, simply put, undue and unnecessary.

Oregon fans have enjoyed rubbing it in to their Pac-12 rivals, too.

One last point about the “Money” grievance above: Some schools have bemoaned the challenge of needing to call many donors to raise cash for athletic upgrades. “All Oregon has to do is call Uncle Phil,” they say. Somehow this is Oregon’s fault? As I have pointed out, the money is available to harvest for all schools by maximizing connections and selling the on-field product. Plus, there are a number of programs that generate more revenue than Oregon Football each year, so our success is not simply the result of throwing more money at our program than anyone else.

The above are just a few examples, but you no doubt have more in the memory bank. Let ’em out! It can be therapeutic.

Moving Forward

There is little doubt Oregon has a huge target on its back. Everyone wants to bring down the Ducks in every athletic endeavor. We will cope and deal with this “problem of success.” It is part of the challenge of becoming the best and staying there. Why use scorn as a ploy, though? Competition, not contempt, is a better way to play, now and in future.

May the best team win!

We welcome the challenges of performing in this conference together as comrades in arms. If not:

Consider this: Would all fellow conference members welcome our signing an exclusive pact with a consortium of ESPN, IMG NIKE and Uncle Phil to create our own Webfoot Network, similar to the Texas Longhorn network model? Brilliant innovative minds in Eugene could certainly make it happen!

Perhaps an exit of the Pac-12 to become an independent athletic contractor would make you happier? Should Oregon become the new “Our Lady” of the West Coast and pursue independent status? Intriguing stuff to mull over, wouldn’t you say?

May the best teams and programs win, but without resentment for Oregon’s success. Let’s live under the Pac-12 umbrella as brothers and sisters together, without unproductive angst.

Who knows? The above ideas could possibly get the current commish and his minions to give us a level playing field with the other Power Five conferences. We all have degree of resentment toward the Conference and its leadership. So consider dropping it against Oregon!


(and without returning resentment)

Steven Smith
Powell Butte, OregonTop Photo by Kevin Cline

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.


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