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« “Broadcasting” the 1917 Rose Bowl | Main | Dammit, Stanford. »

Wisconsin and Oregon. Separated at birth?

Unlike Oregon’s other recent Big Game opponents, teams with significant winning traditions and great pedigrees, the 2012 Rose Bowl saw the Ducks playing a team that was in many respects a mirror image of itself.

Not in the style of play or physical attributes – the differences between Oregon and Wisconsin on the field are well documented, and a subject of great debate on other sites – but in their histories, and what they’ve put their fans through over the years.

If Oregon’s dividing line between The Suffering and success is 1994, Wisconsin’s equivalent Year of Demarcation is 1993, when the Badgers, in Barry Alvarez’s third season, broke a 30 year Rose Bowl drought and a string of eight straight losing seasons.

As close chronologically as the teams respective Years of Demarcation are, their respective records during the preceding Decades of Suckitude, and subsequent Ages of Enlightenment, are also eerily similar:








1965 – 1993






1964 – 1992






1994 – 2011






1993 – 2011






It would be difficult to intentionally manipulate the performance of two teams to generate records this similar over almost identical periods.

There are so many similarities in Oregon and Wisconsin’s histories that it’s almost easier to find the differences. (There, one can start with Camp Randall Stadium, with almost twice the capacity of Autzen, and the legendary fanaticism of football fans in Wisconsin. Fan support for the Badgers is so solid that in 1968, when the team was suffering its second consecutive winless season, the stadium was still filled to 54% of capacity.  Only during the Don Morton era did attendance regularly dip below 40,000 – a major factor in his termination; he was replaced by Barry Alvarez in 1990. By contrast, during the years of abject apathy for the Ducks, in the mid-70s, the stadium was regularly half-empty, or worse… and Oregon has never gone winless once, never mind twice.)

Now, those similarities…

Separated at birth?



Modern Rose Bowl drought

37 years (1958 – 1995)

31 years (1963 – 1994)

9+ win seasons, 1945 - 1993

1 (1948)


9+ win seasons since 1993



Bowl appearances,
1900 – 1963 1



Bowl appearances, 1964– 2012



Losing seasons, 1964 – 1993



Losing seasons since 1994



Longest losing streak

15 games
(10-5-74 to 10-18-75)

24 games
(9-23-67 to 10-4-69)

Ten horrible but representative pre-1994 losses

(* = home)

1972: 68-3, Oklahoma

1974: 61-7, Nebraska

1974: 66-0, Washington

1975: 5-0, San Jose St *

1976: 53-0, USC *

1976: 46-0, UCLA

1977: 54-0, Washington *

1982: 10-4, Fresno St *

1983: 21-15, Pacific *

1985: 63-0, Nebraska

1968: 20-0, Utah St *

1974: 52-7, Ohio St

1975: 41-7, Kansas *

1977: 56-0, Michigan

1978: 55-2, Michigan St

1978: 42-0, Michigan *

1988: 24-14, Western Michigan *

1988: 62-14, Michigan *

1989: 51-3, Miami FL *

1990: 24-18, Temple *

Swan Dive Season


(6-1 start; 0-5 finish)


(5-0 start; 0-6 finish)

Immovable Force Offense


(103 points in 11 games)


(86 points in 10 games)

Irresistible Object Defense

1977 (allowed 377 in 11 games)

1969 (allowed 349 in 10 games)

Minor bowl appearances that felt major to the teams at the time, considering

1989 Independence (W)

1990 Freedom (L)

1992 Independence (L)

1981 Garden State (L)

1982 Independence (W)

1984 Hall of Fame Classic (L)

Brief period of optimism


(winning seasons with John Becker as offensive coordinator)


(three bowls in four years under head coach Dave McClain)

Setback after brief period of optimism

Probation, 1980-1982
(for various offenses under John Becker as offensive coordinator)

Sudden death of head coach (Dave McClain died of heart attack during offseason, 1985)

Coach named Don who was fired after 3 years of blowout losses and declining attendance, who won a national championship in a lower division

Don Read

(fired 1977; won D 1-AA title at Montana in 1995 )

Don Morton

(fired 1989; won D-II title at North Dakota State in 1983)

Athletic Director who replaced a Hall of Fame legend

(and damn near ruined everything)

Norv Ritchey
(replaced Len Casanova, 1969)

Ade Sponberg
(replaced Elroy Hirsch, 1987)

Athletic Director who saved the program

Bill Byrne (1982-1992)

Pat Richter (1990-2006)

AP poll appearances, 1964 - 1992

13 of 361 polls (.036)

9 of 361 polls (.025)


Celebrated 1994 conference championship by naming field after coach with losing record who bailed after winning conference championship

Celebrated 1993 win over Michigan by hospitalizing 73 fans after stampede to field

Signature win that finally ended The Suffering (or whatever Wiscy calls it)

Washington, 31-20, 1994

Michigan, 13-10, 1993

Established team as national power in his only Division 1 head coaching job, then became Athletic Director

Mike Bellotti

Barry Alvarez

Quarterback who threw for a zillion yards and set multiple Rose Bowl offensive records, despite losing

Danny O’Neil (1995)

Ron Vander Kelen (1963)

Longtime, bitter rival that has been utterly dominated for years

(14-4 since 1994)

(15-3 since 1994)

1 Oregon was ineligible for bowl games other than the Rose Bowl from 1916-1958 and 1963-1974, but was granted an exception in 1948 season to play in the Cotton Bowl. From 1959-1963 Oregon played as a “Western Independent” and was eligible for other bowl appearances. As a member of the Big Ten, Wisconsin was ineligible to appear in any bowl game other than the Rose Bowl until 1977, when the conference relaxed its postseason rules.





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Reader Comments (4)

What a fun article to read! Im so glad there are people out there who still investigate. GREAT SITE!!
12.24.2011 | Unregistered CommenterQuack in Sac
awesome, as always. GO DUCKS
12.25.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHP
Edit: should be "Irresistible Force"(Offense) and "Immovable Object"(Defense), rather than"Irresistible Object" and "Immovable Force"

Great Piece. We'll see you in Pasadena.

(editor's note -- I think you missed the point. An offense that can't score ten points a game is not an "irresistible force"; a defense that acts mostly as a gateway to its own end zone is not an "immovable object." -- bd)
12.26.2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian_X
Ahh, yes. Saving the best for last:

"Longtime, bitter rival that has been utterly dominated for years
Washington (14-4 since 1994)"

That's like savoring warm Grand Marnier.
01.12.2012 | Unregistered Commenter74Duck

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