Oregon Unknowns: Reasons for the Renamed Rivalry?

David Marsh Editorials 31 Comments

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!

My friends, I felt the same as the majority of those on the Oregon message boards last Friday concerning the announcement of the change of name of our rivalry game with Oregon State. I thought at that time that it was a knee-jerk reaction to the trendy topic of the day, and I was not happy, as a 34-year season ticket holder, that there was no inclusion in the decision-making process of those who actually pay the freight.

More than half of my classes at Oregon were held in Deady Hall, and I have wonderful memories there of my experiences as a student. I was disappointed initially in the name change primarily for reasons of nostalgia, but when I learned that Matthew Deady actually ran for State Supreme Court in 1858 on a Pro-Slavery platform–I quickly felt some shame at not recognizing the pain the name could, and probably does, bring to people in the Oregon community whom I care about. I am now in support of the Deady Hall name change after learning of the relevant facts surrounding the issue.

I have also changed my view on the name change of our rivalry game after reading the article below, and I do not know which I am more embarrassed about? Is it for the terrible history that my home state has implemented with the treatment of minorities, or is it because I was unaware of these important facts before hearing them from the author of this article? I shudder at both, as once I learned of Oregon’s racial legislation from David Marsh–my views became modified to where a name change of a football game is minor compared to the impact of the symbol on so many present day citizens of Oregon.

Oregon Yearbook Oregana

Robert “Bobby” Robinson was one of the first black quarterbacks in college football and began at Oregon in 1927.

I am proud of the University of Oregon leadership in providing opportunities for black student-athletes before most colleges embraced equality, but I was unaware of our actual State laws regarding race at that time.

The purpose of publishing an article that might create controversy (especially when we do not allow any reference to politics at all on this site) was to provide the information to others who might be as ignorant of the past as I was. I do not believe in the old Soviet-style communist/socialist practice of sending children to the Gulag to atone for the sins of their parents, and I am not implying that further remedies need to be applied to the present in atonement for mistakes of the past.

But I do feel a personal responsibility to inform.

It is my hope that an introduction to the facts of Oregon’s legislative treatment of minorities will make our responses to the rivalry name change a bit more measured and reasonable. While we cannot alter the deeds of the past, we can move to promote the healing and strengthen the bonds among brothers and sisters of all races in this State. A name change “is nothing, but everything.”

But it is not only as a source of information that I offer the David’s article. It is also as an invitation to reconsider your views, as I did. 

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)


The term “civil war” refers to parties within a nation-state that are at war with each other for control of the government. History books are filled with “civil wars,” and the concept is by no means unique to the United States of America. However, we live in the United States of America, and when many hear “civil war”  they form an image of blue Yankees and grey Confederates fighting over the institution of slavery.

The history and legacy of the American Civil War is something with which we as a country still struggle. It is embedded in our country’s DNA, linking us to our nation’s not-so-distant practices of slavery and racism. This history and legacy of racism also remains embedded in the State of Oregon.

Oregon Library Special Collections

John “Cap” McEwan was the head coach in 1928.

It was in repudiation of these principles that the University of Oregon and Oregon State University decided to rename their 126-year-old rivalry game. But in reality it was not the two universities that coined the name. Rather, newspapers in 1929 adopted the name, and it was bolstered from an off-hand remark by University of Oregon Coach John “Cap” McEwan in 1933. By 1937 the name had officially caught on as it began to appear in University publications. Despite the name change, however, free speech remains the law of the land, and the official renaming does nothing to stop fans from continuing to call the rivalry game the “Civil War” should they choose.

The State of Oregon has a troubled past when it comes to race. There is a reason why Portland, Oregon is still the whitest major city in the United States. Oregon’s homogeneity is a direct result of institutional racism that was built into the State’s original Constitution in 1857.

The original ratification of the state Constitution required votes from the citizens of Oregon on the following three issues:

Should the state Constitution be ratified? Results of citizens vote: Yes
Should Oregon be a slave state? Results of citizens vote: No
Should Oregon allow free blacks? Results of citizens vote: No

The State of Oregon is unique because of those last two votes. Oregon opted not to become a slave state, which in itself isn’t terribly unique, but it is that third vote coupled with the second that is wholly unique in the history of the United States. The State of Oregon voted in our original constitution to forbid free blacks and people of color from the state! The State of Oregon Constitution (1857) reads:

“No free Negro, or Mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws, for the removal, by public officers, of all such Negroes, and Mulattos, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ, or harbor them.” – Article XVIII Section 4 Paragraph 2.

These exclusionary laws were in place for 70 years before they were repealed November 3, 1926. Over those 70 years Oregon’s exclusionary laws would have an influence that continues to be felt today.

The State of Oregon Constitution (1857)

Article 2 Section 6, “No Negro, Chinaman, or Mulatto shall have the right of suffrage.”

Following the American Civil War, Oregon would ratify the 13th Amendment, the Amendment that abolished slavery. This was not seen as a controversial issue in Oregon at the time as the State of Oregon had already declared itself a free state in its Constitution.

Oregon’s institutional racism did rear its head with regard to the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Amendment that, among other things, granted citizenship to all those born in the United States citizenship and afforded citizens the right to due process and equal protection of the laws. Oregon ratified the 14th Amendment initially, but then, shortly after the ratification of the 14th Amendment into the United States Constitution by the federal legislature, the State of Oregon de-ratified it. Oregon’s act of de-ratification was more a symbolic act than anything else as the State was still bound to follow the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Oregon followed up its symbolic de-ratification of the 14th Amendment with a refusal to ratify the 15th Amendment, the Amendment that guaranteed the right to vote without restriction based on race or prior enslavement. The State of Oregon would later ratify the 15th Amendment in 1959 and re-ratify the 14th Amendment in 1973.

The Oregon History Project

The connections between racist groups and state and local government continued the laws set out by the State of Oregon Constitution (photo taken in 1921)

Despite its allegiance with the North in the American Civil War, Oregon has a troubled past with people of color. In the years that followed the Civil War the State had one of the largest KKK memberships in the United States.

Even though the State has made significant strides over the past several decades, institutional ties to its history of racism have endured. One of the means of preserving that link has been the naming of government institutions and structures.  There is a reason why the University of Oregon is renaming Deady Hall, a building named after an Oregon legislator and judge in the 1800’s who has been widely linked to racist views.

True, the term “civil war” as it pertains to the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry game has no actual connection to the American Civil War. But considering Oregon’s past, the words are too close for comfort. The argument “it has always been this way” is no longer good enough. If we are to strive toward a state of inclusiveness, it will take a broader understanding of our exclusionary past.

It is the right decision for Oregon’s two premier public universities to rename their rivalry game.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by: Kevin Cline

(Please remember that we want your views and wish for extensive discussion, but all must adhere to our enforced decorum on this site. We do not make any reference to politics on this site, and ask you to discuss what is only in the article.)

Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

For Football Season: FishDuck Back to Seven Days a Week!

I had to shut down the daily articles on July 20th because I could no longer work the extra 3 to 12 hours per week of certain managerial/editorial duties. (beyond the usual ones with FishDuck)

I’ve had a blast writing without those duties, and now, due to a new agreement with the writers, I can announce that we will have articles seven days a week again. I wish to thank the writers publicly for their graciousness in coming to a solution, as now I still do not have do those extra duties with our agreement, and meanwhile the writers are back having fun creating articles as I am.

Everybody is happy! So below is the new schedule through football season:

Monday: Mr. FishDuck
Tuesday: Darren Perkins
Wednesday: Joshua WhittedMr. FishDuck
Thursday: Coach Eric BolesAlex Heining
Friday: David Marsh
Saturday: Mr. FishDuck (GameDay Baby!)
Sunday: Jordan Ingram

A couple of writers could not join us as they have new projects in their lives, and cannot write for anyone at the moment–but perhaps we will see them back later.

Things rarely work out so well for all parties in agreements, but this time it has and truly….everyone wins!

Our 33 rules at FishDuck can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

FishDuck members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Thank you for this article, I did not know who Deady was, now I understand why the name of a building at an educational institution needs to be changed. We do not name buildings at places where we teach and inspire young individuals after people who are not part of the inspiring past.
I also can not agree with comments that this is a political post. You gave us an explanation of a potentially confusing event by providing the history and communicated that you are not in the favor of racism. This is not, and should not be a political point of view. It should be and is a healthy civilized human point of view and I am with you in that !

Steven A

Yes, nice article. Being a card carrying grey beard myself, reluctantly at first, I have now come ambivalent about monuments.


I nominate the Toga Bowl as a replacement for the Civil War. It can be billed as the world’s largest toga party. The tailgate would be off the hook.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I think Oregon fans would love it, but after the big deal of the video “Shout,” I am not sure that Oregon State fans would embrace the name with the same enthusiasm!


Fans on both sides would have fun at a toga party especially students. It would be a blast and the media attention would be tremendous. Rather than an acrimonious war, it would bring the two schools together.


I was familiar with the some of this history. I’m not sure how pertinent it is to the decision to abolish the Civil War. It seems like an answer to problem that didn’t exist. I’m highly skeptical that much, if any, backlash existed against the moniker. We would have heard rumblings over time. The decision came out of left field and I was completely surprised. If many athletes or fans are offended by the name then I’m all for it going away. I just don’t think that’s the case. Dixon wasn’t motivated until his girlfriend said something. Simonton didn’t care but appreciated the gesture of OSU reaching out. I would really like to know to more about the decision making process by Mullens.


Let’s rename the game something more inline with modern Oregon culture –
I suggest “The vegan all grain bowl with maple almond butter dressing”


We don’t do Maple Syrup or Almonds much, so it’s probably best to leave those to other places.

For my part- I kinda like the idea of the platypus trophy (yes, it’s a thing -and it’s been bantered about for decades, with various degrees of seriousness and hijinks). lol. But, yeah.

If we want some more formal, representative and forward looking– something almost everyone who hearkens to Oregon is really proud of -something worth promoting worldwide (as our brand is … worldwide) how about something like the Tom McCall clash? Or cup, smash wallop or showdown.


Very informative article. Appreciate very much it was shared here for us Duck fans to consider.


The fact that it’s considered here makes all the difference.


Just wanted to post on the new board. Cool stuff Charles!

Announcement to ALL!

If you have tried to post a comment, and it keeps coming up with your name instead of your “handle,” do try it again soon. I believe I have it straightened out…

Thanks for your patience and do post comments!

Mr. FishDuck

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks David, this is a wealth of information that is new to me. I always thought that the Civil War has a bit of a negative ring to it. The history of the State of Oregon and institutional racism to unfortunate. Even worse is the connection to the Ku Klux Klan. Lets hope we are making progress.

Jon Joseph

David interesting walk through a dismal history. Thank you.

However, the abysmal dealings of the legislature did not prevent a POC playing for the Ducks in the 1920s.

I also see no nexus between the events you cited and the Civil War.

On a personal note, I had 6 relatives fight for the north. 3 were KIA and one had both legs blown off. One served as a junior officer in the first black regiment and died, as did Colonel Shaw, in the climatic battle depicted at the end of the movie ‘Glory.’

There is beautiful statue on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, that depicts Shaw and a number of the soldiers who served and died, under his command. I cannot imagine any person, no matter their particular skin color, wanting to see this statue torn down.

I also believe it would be a fairer representation to show black union soldiers in uniform, in addition to the photo of the Ku Klux Klan fools.

Jon Joseph

Thank you for the response. Sorry my wi-fi was down all yesterday. Couldn’t get back.

Seems to me that suffragettes back in the day were routinely, victims of systemic discrimination. Today? I doubt if a single feminist is upset when she is reminded of the 19th Amendment?

That the Civil War is not celebrated by African Americans is illogical, no matter the suffering endured at the hands of fool legislators and others, after the war.

For institutions of higher learning and students educated by these institutions, not to be able to distinguish between the acts of legislative morons and the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands on behalf of freedom for the slaves?

How many African-American graduates of OR and OR ST were asked their opinion on this matter before the decision was made?

Seems very much a knee jerk reaction to me.

BTW, I have zero problem re-naming a building named for a man who was an avowed racist,


I was not familiar with all the information. Thanks for an interesting article.


I was a little sad at first. The civil war is very nostalgic to me. However, it certainly isn’t to many of the athletes. I would rather give up my nostalgia than have the conversation that the Oklahoma State Cowboys or the Iowa Hawkeyes are having. I certainly am ecstatic with coach Cristobal and Coach Feld’s leading our students than Utah’s defensive coach Saclley.

We are doing right by our students and they will run through a brick wall for us. If you don’t believe me- look at the last two years of running schemes…

I appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through the inevitable bugs that occur when starting something new. For 30Duck, jrw, and Drake….I apologize that it showed your name for a while, but I did get it corrected to show your handle as you signed up.


Well done, Charles, the right way to discuss this issue. I very much appreciate your personal response to discovering the realities of history. As one who has long been aware of Mr. Deady and Oregon’s back story, I find it commendable that you are open both to putting this story on your site, but that you can speak frankly of your own thoughts.


Interesting information that I did not know. Thanks for sharing it.


Thanks very much for the information in the article, When I first heard of the change I didn’t have much of a response, as has been brought up earlier, I and anybody else, can still refer to the game as, The Civil War. But, I kept seeing so many others really mad about this.
I saw the, “Stop the PC Machine”, and of course, “I’ll still call it that”, even though of course what you chose to call it was never in jeopardy. But that non issue seemed to be fueling a lot of the heat; standing up for their right to call it what they wanted to was something they weren’t willing to give up.
A lot of the heat I think is very much tied in to the climate we’re living in now. The Pandemic, social un rest has everyone more sensitive than usual, and I think, reacting to anything is a release.


Change is inevitable. No issue with coming up with a new name for the In-state rivalry games.

I suppose I am more concerned about who ultimately gets to decide what changes are needed, and If there are economic costs associated with the change, who gets to pay those costs?

At some point we can’t afford to live in a perfect world.

Jon Joseph

I agree. POC do not march in lock-step any more than white people.

Mike West

I don’t like to get political. I’m already in trouble with my family for views I will always stand by. One thing I do know, is I see the picture clearer than most being bi-racial. Knowing the bias both sides refuse to acknowledge.

I want to share a video I hope most have seen, but in the spirit of expressing the fact most people in this country share far more beliefs than they dare admit. Perspective is just that-perspective. Some of it is objective, some not. What this site has taught me most is respect for others’ views is fundamental to the core values that makes this country the magnet of the world.

If we lose the ability to respect others’ views, the country we grew up in is dead. You can be right all you want, right up until those that disagree with you start real wars instead of vocal ones.

From my perspective this speech by Trevor Lawrence demonstrates his willingness to listen, without surrendering his values and principles. In my view, the noise we’ve heard is the beginning of the discussion, not this notion that one side is right and the other is wrong. Until we respect and understand each others’ perspective, we will fight.

If we allow that fight to solidify battle lines, this time there will be no going back. A second Civil War in this country will certainly destroy it. Families will separate forever. The continent will divide, and the security Americans have enjoyed will never return.

Listen carefully to the words Lawrence speak. He is talking about starting a genuine DIALOGUE this country continues to avoid. Dialogue responsible people can conduct in order to prevent destructive forces that want to divide this country. The issue is not going away, and its time both sides start to listen as much as contribute. I’m not talking rainbows and unicorns. I’m talking about painful discussions where feelings will get hurt, because denial of irrefutable facts on both sides of the isle continue to persist.

I dare say being uncomfortable by talking it out, and developing acceptable solutions will work much better than tearing this country apart. If we don’t do this, Civil War will be called a Race War. People already want to censor others’ opinions. That is a very, very dangerous path.

I give you Trevor Lawrence.


Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Thank you Mike.

Some feedback I am receiving by email seems to think I am advocating for a wholesale change of history as we know it. I felt that name changes were fine and explained why; if someone doesn’t think they should–I do understand.

But the key objective of the article was to inform many of us who did not know the extent of Oregon’s legislative racial past.

Ryan Robertson

Good article David!

I was happy to cede my publish date so that someone with a better grasp on the issues at hand could have their voice heard.

While I know that the term “civil war” as it pertains to the rivalry is not tied directly to the American Civil War, we do not live in a perfect world. The perception in the USA is that the term “civil war” refers to OUR civil war, and thus the rivalry game would be forever linked to the conflict.

Thanks again for a great article!

Lou Farnsworth

Thanks David, for writing this article; and thanks Charles, for publishing it: for it certainly does deserve to be an exception to our “no politics” rule. Whatever one’s position happens to be on the issue of renaming (fill in the blank); formulating those opinions certainly deserves to be made in the light of all the pertinent facts. I had no clue that Oregon’s past was so very steeped in unbridled bigotry.

My friend….neither did I. We need to get this information out there to all fans in the state…fans of both Oregon and Oregon State.


Enlightening and useful, David. Thank you.