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

Zeke Lerner-Wood Editorials

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 Volunteer editor for this article, is a land conservation attorney in Central Oregon.

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