Only 13,933 Fans? It’s Nothing New at Autzen

Darren Perkins Editorials 38 Comments

A recent report by shows that, with the COVID-19 pandemic, college football attendance could drop by an average of 74 percent. At Oregon, a 74-percent decline means an average attendance of 13,933.

Yikes. Imagine a rip-roaring, louder than hell Autzen Stadium only playing at 25 percent of its capacity. That is like taking a sold-out Matthew Knight Arena and lightly sprinkling the fans — like parmesan on chicken alfredo — around a now seemingly cavernous Autzen Stadium.

But football in front of small crowds at Autzen is not unprecedented. As a 1992 North Eugene High School alumnus, I recall going to Eugene District 4j’s high school football games back in the ’80s and early ’90s. It was a very, for lack of a better term, “hallowed” experience. The place was just way too big. Going on road games to high school stadiums in Springfield, at Willamette HS, and the Coos Bay area schools made for a much better environment.

Kevin Cline

The in game experience at Autzen may well expose plenty of empty seats behind the coaches roaming the sidelines.

Of course, some of you are thinking, “Well no duh, that’s high school football. I get it, but to think of the Ducks playing in front of such a small home crowd will be an unprecedented experience.”

But, is it?

The inner greybeard in me (still five years away) can recall a time when it was not that strange for the Ducks to play in front of crowds of around 13,933 fans. In fact, I went to two such games in 1982, the last year this ever happened. The good seats along the sideline had a decent number of fans, as well as the GA cheap seat in the endzones. But each corner of the stadium, aside from a handful of people stretching out, typically had four or five completely empty sections.

Oregon games at Autzen Stadium with fewer than 20,000 fans:

1967: Idaho, 16,000, Win
1968: Idaho, 17,250, Win
1968: Utah, 17,000, Win
1971: San Jose State, 14,000, Win
1971: Cal, 18,500, Win
1974: Stanford, 18,500, Loss
1975, Cal, 18,500, Loss
1975: Utah, 10,500, Win
1975: UCLA, 15,500, Loss
1976: Utah State, 17,300, Win
1976: Stanford, 18,000, Loss
1977: Cal, 15,000, Loss
1982: San Jose State, 17,629, Loss
1982: Arizona, 16,489, Win

I recall a game in which the Ducks were running a free team poster promotion. My elementary school friends and I snagged as many as we could and then went to stand on the rim above those empty sections. We folded the posters into gigantic paper airplanes and then tossed them down over the empty sections to see whose plane would go the furthest.

Then we ran down to collect the planes to try it again, and we repeated this until some bored security personnel told us to stop. There was really no good reason to tell us to stop. I guess it was one of those “it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye” types of situations.

Kevin Cline

It’s been a long, long time since empty seats at Autzen have had an opportunity to take in a game.

Now, here we are in 2020 where it’s all fun and games until somebody catches COVID-19. Who knows exactly what the 2020 college football season holds in store for us? Perhaps Oregon will play at home with only 13,933 fans. And if so, bring it on.

Unlike the traditional blue-blooded royalty types such as Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc. — who’ve probably never had a spring game with only 13,933 fans — part of the proud tradition of Oregon Football is that unlike those old money programs, we came from nothing. It did not take a pandemic for us to play in front of 13k, it just took the Ducks being the Ducks.

The Ducks, “football’s future,” have come a long, long way since then, as Oregon is the first, and perhaps the only, new breed of college football blueblood.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: Kevin Cline 

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.

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And now some news that should surprise no one. The Women’s Basketball Coach at Duke just stepped down and one of the top names on their list for her replacement is Oregon associate head coach, defensive coordinator and lead recruiter, Mark Campbell. Campbell is currently being paid 1/6 of what the coach was expected to be paid at Duke next season.


Recruiting news, this is a BIGGIE!! 5* DT, Maason Smith has unveiled his final 8: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, USC, Oregon. Before we start musing about what Avalos could do with Smith, we must factor in that he is from Houma, LA, 106 miles south of Baton Rouge & LSU.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I rate this recruiting effort as a very low probability of success for Oregon; I know about the player connections, but pulling a 4-Star receiver from the south is different than pulling a 5-Star Defensive tackle.

Bottom line is that those trench players in the south usually do not leave “Mother’s Cooking.”

Not sure there is going to be anything to eat at LSU for a few seasons with the backlog of DT’s they have. If the kid is hungry he might want to come up where there is still competition, but he has a fighting chance to get a bone with some meat on it. I can dream can’t I, a 5* DT, wouldn’t that be amazing!


Now that would be a real steal. LSU would not forget that.

Jon Sousa

I gotta say, the eating is pretty good in the south. I didn’t lose a big ton of weight pedaling 1500 miles across Florida to all around Texas.

Jon Joseph

Would be sweet but a real shot in the dark..


I’m thinking he’s thinking LSU

David Marsh

LSU has too much national prominence coming off a national championship… I can’t see him realistically going anywhere else.

But we can live to dream.


As of right now I can’t assume we will have football this season(Maybe postponed to after the new year). I can’t Imagine we will play hawaii this year, They have some of the toughest quarantine requirements and I don’t think players will be able to be able to travel and avoid them. The state of florida Keeps breaking record after record on counts of new covid cases. I think all it’ll take is an blue blood team having to forfeit a game in the second week and the NCAA will suspend the season.

Thank you Darren, fun read and memories.

Back eight years ago when I was creating the Chip Kelly Instructional videos….I would place an advertiser in it when I could arrange it.

One such businessman told me of when he and his family were deciding where to buy a block of season tickets to support the program and he explained how he could walk laterally in the same row all the way around the stadium!


It’s like picking the best seat in an airplane and we all know the best seat in an airplane is where the pilot gets to sit.

Jon Joseph

Fun take Darren, thanks for sharing some great memories.

The Ivy League (you know, where LARRY went to school) will be deciding before the week is out whether to cancel the 2020 CFB season. The Ivy league is not, of course, a G5 or P5 conference, but its decision could be a bell-weather call?

Houston and K State have already sent all athletes home. Clemson and LSU could not come close to fielding a team today.

I wonder if the Pac-12 powers-that-be will allow student-athletes to go face mask to face mask in empty stadiums?

The pandemic toll on athletics continues. Boise State just announced that is dropping baseball and swimming and diving.

I very much doubt that OR ST and WA ST will have the desire or the $, to return to pre-COVID athletic department employment and budget numbers.

I wonder what Stanford drew for home football games last season? I think the numbers would come close to the numbers cited above in your article. The Cardinal Stadium was half-empty for the Notre Dame game.

UCLA home games last season reminded me of what the Yale Bowl looks like today; a cavernous stadium with no one inside.

Arizona? A basketball school that sells out maybe, for the ASU game and that’s it.

If your ‘partner’ is not willing to make the same capital investment and effort to succeed as you are, should this ‘partner’ receive the same share of $ as you? Receive the same $, I’m looking at you ASU, when its big OOC game is against BYU instead of tOSU, Michigan, Notre Dame?

This pandemic could well be the straw the breaks the Pac-12 camel’s back.

As I have opined before, I think Oregon is on the threshold of having to decide whether it wants to be a P5 or G5 program.


OT…Canzano has a piece up on the increasingly hot seat of Lavish Larry, including this:

“There’s serious talk amongst the Pac-12 CEO Group,” said one high-level conference administrator, “to end his contract ahead of the expiration date to have a fighting chance to save the (conference) Networks.”

Let us hope.

Jon Joseph


He also has to go sooner rather than later to allow the new commissioner time to prepare for the upcoming media negotiations.

Also, the CEO Group may want to reconsider the ESPN offer to take over marketing for the network. Take this deal and the network is up on DirecTV and all other providers that have carriage deals with ESPN.


I think I’m going to church to pray for this to happen.

Jon Sousa

Let´s not go overboard, you can pray anywhere…..

Mike West

Played my state championship game in Autzen in front of 14,000 (go Churchill!!! congrats Corvallis). It was loud. Autzen acoustics are awesome. Though I imagine 14,000 people spread out might not sound the same.

I know my buddy Jon Joseph wants a full house, but 14,000 in Autzen tops everywhere else by far.

Jon Joseph

1918? Sorry, I was thinking of Mr. FishDuck.


Great memories of the “poster planes!” Two of my favorites from 78 – 82. The seagulls landing in the corner seats during the game. And the paper mache “Duck” that was hiding a pony keg in the student section! Those were different times for sure.


Hmmm, I helped make that “Duck”… it wasn’t a very good rendering of a duck. It was for a homecoming game and was built by Sigma Nu fraternity.


The first game I ever attended was Oregon-osu in 1975. The Ducks won and I was hooked. I remember free mini-footballs being thrown into the stands, skydivers parachuting into Autzen, Bi-mart specials for tickets–lots of things to try to lure fans to the stadium. Now maybe it was because I was new to the game, but at the time when the Ducks scored it sounded loud, even with only 10-20,000 fans in the stands. Not as loud as 50,000+ of course, but loud to me.


I also remember being able to go on the field and see the players up close after the game. The big deal was to get a chin strap, sweatband or autograph from one of the players. There was definitely benefits to a more empty stadium, but the roar of the crowd and the outcomes weren’t as good as the modern era.

I do agree the noise when something big happened was still pretty loud.

Santa Rosa Duck

Darren, if your above described scenario played out for this season, I would be elated. There would be a season of some sort. I believe practice is supposed to start around July 15 or so. Anyone have an update on this? Thanks for the article. From Santa Rosa Duck aka Frank


Ah, Darren, this article is what I’ve been reminiscing on since all this began. I, and occasional family & friends were a part of those sparse crowds of the 70’s; back when going to Autzen on a Saturday afternoon was what you did to get away from everything. When you could decide at 10:00 am that morning to go to the game, and when you were there, it didn’t seem unusual. It was what it was.

Juxtapose that with the Autzen Experience that former Michigan head coach, Lloyd Carr endured. The Ducks are close, so close to being a blue blood. The program that Cristobal is building will get them there. Whenever that is now.


Juxtapose”, I had to look that one up. Very good 30Duck.


So would you rather have those days of old or the present where its even hard to get a ticket, let alone only an hour from home to kickoff ?? Just asking.

Jon Joseph

Blue Blood? 1st, you have to get to the final 4. If you have to take an L or 2 (or 4 like OK) so be it.

You cannot prefer to score an easier win against a lesser opponent in a lesser bowl game.

If you want to be today’s Clemson, you cannot go ‘Clemsoning’ against ASU in 2019, Arizona in 2018 and UCLA in 2017. And when you play a 5-7 OR ST and a 6-7 WA ST at home, you need to compete against yourself and blow these teams out.

4 schools have won the 6 playoff titles: Bama, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State. A ‘blueblood’ like Michigan, hasn’t come close to a final 4. Is Michigan any longer a blue blood? MI since the advent of the BCS has not played for a championship.

LOVE what Mario is doing, but there are at least 2 and probably 3 steps to go, before Oregon can be considered a CFB blue blood.


You are so right when you say “And when you play a 5-7 OR ST and a 6-7 WA ST at home, you need to compete against yourself and blow these teams out.” Something Oregon did not do last year and to me that is just a “head game” that the coaches themselves need to make improvements on. This year it’s time for the coaches to step up and improve on this. It should not be happening.


Theirs something very sobering in your article Darren. Not anything fans want to look forward to but it is what it is. Life in the new world, however we’ve been there, done that and gotten over it.

I like your last sentence where you say Oregon is the first, and perhaps the only, new breed of college football blueblood” (hopefully) your meaning we’ve made it to the top tier, but that won’t be until we win the National Title. Then and only then can we say “We made it”. We are certainly close, I can feel it. Now if we could only be there in the stands to watch it.

And your right Oregon is not one of the “traditional blue-blooded royalty types such as Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc.”. We are the Ducks so move over royalty were coming through, like it or not.