The Duck That Couldn’t Fly: Oregon’s Mandrake

Zeke Lerner-Wood Editorials 42 Comments

It was mid-autumn in Eugene, 2002, and a cold breeze blew up through the bleachers from the Willamette River, sending chills through Duck football fans packed into the newly expanded and upgraded Autzen Stadium. It was only halftime and the score was 38 Oregon, 7 Stanford. Oregon had just come off two back-to-back losses, one from USC and the other ASU, making the easily plucked win from Stanford nothing to gripe about (final score 41-14) however, the highlight of this game was actually at halftime. 

As the fans began to stretch their legs at the end of the second quarter, exclamations and pointing fingers soon began to erupt around the stadium. A massive egg the size of a small car was being pushed out onto the center of the field. Eyes darted to the Commander-in-Chief of the Ducks, Puddles himself, who paced nervously around the enormous egg at the center of the field. 

Smoke began to trickle out from the sides and top of the egg, and suddenly, a gloved black fist burst through the shell, scattering fragments into the wind. The stadium shook with noise, excitement, and anticipation. Slowly, the arm shrank back into the egg, and 60,000 people held their breath. The egg wobbled once, twice, and then exploded,

From YouTube

The Mandrake Emerges!

and out leapt The Mandrake

The Mandrake was an obvious counterpart to Puddles, and was initially well-received by Oregon fans. While Puddles would continue with his usual shenanigans during games, such as push-ups, break-dancing, and other lighthearted jests, the Mandrake would stun crowds with acrobatics and flips. 

Oregon created the Mandrake to deal with legal constraints on use of its primary mascot. Despite being known as Puddles to Oregon fans, the Duck is in fact modeled after Disney’s Donald Duck. Due to license agreements, there were a variety of conditions that Oregon had to adhere to when it came to advertising with the Duck outside the state. Creating an original mascot would allow for Oregon to take their marketing and advertising to the next level nationally. 

This would have been a fantastic idea if everybody didn’t hate the Mandrake. The sneering duckbill, the chiseled bodysuit, and the acrobatic routines reminded fans more of an action figure than a mascot, and their excitement quickly waned.  Compared to Puddles, the Mandrake would not fly. 

The Mandrake made his last public appearance in a 2003 basketball game, never to be seen again. Luckily for us Duck fans, on April 1st, 2013, Oregon tweeted out that the Mandrake would be returning as the official co-mascot of the Ducks. Even luckier for us Duck fans, this was an April Fool’s joke.  

Despite his lackluster career, what are your thoughts on the Mandrake? Would he fit in today’s Autzen Stadium, or is there only room for one Duck mascot? 

Zeke Lerner-Wood
Eugene, Oregon
Top photo from John Giustina

Brad Nye, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a land conservation attorney in Central Oregon.

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Charles Fischer

Why is/was “The Duck” called Puddles?

From the FishDuck Oregon Football Repository, (in this article)….

The name “Puddles” originated in 1920, when before each game, a real duck would be plucked by some well-lubricated students from the Eugene Millrace; or failing that, from one of the many ponds or “puddles” in the area surrounding campus. This duck was then brought to the game to serve as the team’s unofficial mascot.

The tradition of allowing a wild duck onto the field and to venture through the stands at football games lasted until 1947, when activists from the local humane society led a successful campaign to ban the practice.”

BigDucksFan

Thanks for the link.

Jon Joseph

In in favor of banning the ‘activists.’

DuckUp

Lol at the time I was 13 and at this game. Wasn’t big fan of Mandrake. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

30Duck

https://twitter.com/wilnerhotline/status/1307349903710982144

Source: Talk within #Pac12 that it could announce this morning that games would start 10/31, then some presidents pushed back. UCLA not ready. Possibly a few others.

BigDucksFan

In reality UCLA won’t be ready for several years. Until they get a different HC.

30Duck

Great point, BDF. I’m at a loss to how UCLA can say it isn’t “ready” now for a Oct.31 start? The B1G already has a schedule set to begin play on Oct.23/24. Larry & the Pac-12 took the postponement as a canceling of the season; the B1G took it as what it was, and was working for what has now come to be as soon as the postponement was announced.

The Pac-12 is botching the re-start as well. How does UCLA KNOW NOW it isn’t ready to start on Oct.31 ? It just needs to start the process like the other teams. If, by Oct.31, it isn’t ready to play, it forfeits the game. There is no reason that the conference as a whole needs to take a hit. Games have been canceled in the Big 12, the season hasn’t stopped.

BigDucksFan

Right on. Everyones had plenty of time to get ready. If UCLA isn’t ready maybe thats another reason they are not winning games.

30Duck

Dissension in the ranks? According to Wilner? Yes. The head coaches and AD’s of schools that were ready to announce the re-start yesterday are frustrated. Where there frustration is targeted exactly isn’t identified; but there are obvious targets.

This could be Larry’s waterloo.

BigDucksFan

I sure hope so. It’s way to obvious where the leadership is incompetent in the Pac-12. Not to mention the school presidents and chancellors that have kept him in power. However if they are going to get rid of “Lazy Larry” they need to do it soon so they can get the next one in early enough to take on the TV networks.

Many cost saving changes need to take place in the Pac-12 leadership in order to save it from collapse.

1PAC12FAN

I’m in the minority RoboDuck fan club. You know what we say….once a Duck!?!

30Duck

With all due respect to, “Puddles”, it simply lacks the gravitas that, “The Duck” conveys.

Haywarduck

Fortunately it is only our mascot. It could also be worse, the Rhode Island scrotie the nad, is a legendary mascot. There is also the Long Beach dirt bags, among others.

BigDucksFan

How about the University of California at Santa Cruz, mascot is the yellow banana slug. Now there is a school that’s way out there.

PittDuck

True that!

Charles Fischer

The BEST commercial ever involving “The Duck?”

This short video makes me laugh every time with Lee Corso…..

PittDuck

Thanks for the article covering some fun history of our beloved Ducks! Unfortunately Mandrake never really stood a chance against our Beloved Duck!

Had Mandrake gotten into it with the Cougar, the fallout would have been vastly different and Duckdom would still be suffering from the shame.

The Duck turned it into a beloved memory! https://www.google.com/search?q=duck+fights+cougar+mascot&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

Which brings me to a ponder point to ask the learned readers:

When did the Duck start doing push-ups after the Duck scores?

I know I didn’t notice it til the Kelly years when the Ducks were scoring at a breakneck pace.

Annie

Mandrake should stay retired.

Not to be picky, (well, okay, to be picky) The Duck is The Duck. Not Puddles.

Jon Sousa

I’m afraid that those who do not like the name “Puddles” are going to be horribly disappointed and should move on.

The name is going to stick. A few years back when the Ducks played in the Alamo Bowl (I believe), there was a “roving reporter” trying to see how much fans knew about Oregon. One of the central questions asked was “What is the name of the Duck?” The fans who “knew” answered “Puddles”. Which was the answer they were looking for.

Puddles is a cute name. The Duck is a cute duck. People like the name and it will not go away.

P.S. I don’t have a horse in this race. I’m making an observation. If I had to name him, I would probably call him Donald because that’s who he is modeled after and every time people saw Donald Duck they would think of the Ducks… a good marketing strategy since Disneyland / World is so popular.

Annie

I’m not, as you have probably figured, a fan of the name Puddles for The Duck. More than once at Daisy Ducks meetings The Duck was a guest, and each time when the person who inhabited the costume spoke out-of-costume (The Duck never speaks), he would be adamant that The Duck was The Duck, and *not* Puddles.

Yes, I think Puddles is a cute name for a real duckling, but not for the full-grown Oregon mascot. :) Donald, of course, can not be used, at least not officially, since Disney does not allow it.

DonealDuck

seconded

Haywarduck

I’m pretty sure the guy who designed Mandrake came back and designed a couple of the 2016 uniforms. I hope he never gets another job designing for Oregon.

Drake

There is room for only one Mascot. Puddles is safe.

I remember several years back watching Puddles standing on the back bumper of a golf cart that was racing to get in front of the Marching band in the Autzen parking lot. Poor Puddles was not ready for an abrupt turn and “flew” headfirst into the gravel. Fans and band members gasped…Puddles, with head askew, bounced up and prompted the band into playing the fight song. Fun memory.

Puddles has survived more threats than the Robo Duck.

Go Puddles

Jon Joseph

I think Mandrake went on to be Larry Scott’s financial adviser?

30Duck

Mandrake is the, “New Coke” of mascots.

Orwas

Bringing back Roboduck would be the crowning achievement of 2020. The year where everything went sideways.

BigDucksFan

Matt, you say The year where everything went sideways, yes that is so true. Now the question is how long is it going to last ?? Will it be over by the 2021 season ?? What about the spring game for 2021 ?? Will there be fan’s for the spring game ??

Last edited 1 month ago by BigDucksFan
Jon Joseph

Will there be fans for the Fiesta Bowl? Puddles likely post-season landing spot.

Unless there are a huge # of games cancelled across the land, a 7 game season will not get the Pac-12 champ to the final 4.

BigDucksFan

A 7-0 season would if you were an SEC school.

30Duck

The saying goes, “You’ll miss it when it’s gone” does not apply to the Pac-12 when it comes to the “SEC/Dr. Pepper/ESPN Invitational”. In a signal of strength & fortitude the Committee made it clear months ago the “Invitational” would proceed on schedule”.

What is really being identified is that whether the Pac-12 is playing or not is irrelevant to the 2020 football season. “Pac-12 After Dark” was not just what the games were referred to in a joking manner, they were the scraps picked up when all the games were done.

There wouldn’t even be any Playoff if the SEC wasn’t able to participate. The 2020 season would be deemed illegitimate and ESPN would fill their programing schedule with Cornhole coverage.

BigDucksFan

Interesting insight 30Duck, thanks

Last edited 1 month ago by BigDucksFan
Jon Joseph

Not Vandy. But Vandy isn’t going 7-0.

BigDucksFan

We all have our yoke

BigDucksFan

Some ideas are good and some ideas are bad. Mandrake was a bad idea and still is a bad idea. With a look of malice and horror the “thing” is dead and needs to remain dead. With the look of a child’s nightmare, its creation should never have happened, nor be remembered.

Jon Joseph

Do you recall: The Edsel? Would have been the perfect set of wheels for Mandrake.

BigDucksFan

I do, and I can see him now in the convertible, seated high on the back.

Last edited 1 month ago by BigDucksFan
Quackanadian

The Mandrake! Bring him back! He and Puddles could Tag Team beat on Brutus and all the other “clowns” in the league!

Haha.