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October 15, 1960 – Washington State at Oregon (Homecoming)

click to embiggenThere was a time when Homecoming was a big deal.

For years the Homecoming game was the excuse for alumni to return to campus, festooned in yellow and green finery. They would stay in spare dorm rooms, in their old frat houses, with friends and family and professors. There would be pep rallies all week, campus tours, a Homecoming Queen would be selected (invariably female), a Friday night bonfire torched off after being guarded all week by frat members against unauthorized ignition by OSC interlopers.

By 1960 there were signs that the Homecoming traditions weren’t exactly being passed on with exuberance to the current student body. The student rallies were casually attended. The traditional variety show didn’t feature the usual slapstick. And the featured musical event, a McArthur Court concert by pianist Roger Williams, seemed to have little to do with either football, homecoming or even the University itself. But it was still Homecoming, one of those things that just “was”.

Eventually it all became a little passé, and – like anything else traditional in the Sixties – perceived as “establishment.” One year the Homecoming festivities were pushed back a week to avoid conflicts with Vietnam war protests. The city of Eugene banned open burning, killing off the bonfire tradition.

And for a few years, roughly from 1975 to 1982, there was no official Homecoming activity of any kind. The Greek system did what it could to keep it going, but the general attitude was of a kind with the way the Seventies had gone in general; the football team wasn’t worth coming home for, and the most famous Homecoming parade associated with the campus in that era featured the Deathmobile and was filmed in Cottage Grove.

Still, back in the day, homecoming meant something. For years at Oregon, when the Civil War was scheduled in Corvallis, it meant a late October game against Washington State, a potentially beatable team to please the old grads back in town for the party.  In 1960 Len Casanova’s squad had wins over Idaho, Utah and San Jose State to offset a stinker at Michigan. Because the Ducks were now without conference affiliation, they could be considered for post-season bids, and the schedule was favorable to developing a record impressive enough for the Eastern bowl organizers. Get to seven wins and they’d have a shot at a bowl.

But first they had to eliminate one of those homecoming traditions. The Webfoots hadn’t won a homecoming game since 1955. And the incoming Cougars, after four weeks, were the nation’s #1 passing team, featuring #1 receiver Hugh Campbell. For the first fifty-four, minutes of the game it looked like another loss; QB Dave Grosz had only completed one pass, the Ducks had blown numerous opportunities in WSC territory, and they trailed 12-7. Then, within 42 seconds, everything changed. First Grosz hit end Lew Burnett for a 32 yard touchdown with six minutes left to take the lead 13-12. The PAT was missed, but on the first play after the kickoff, Duck halfback Mike Rose took a 29 yard pick-6 from WSC QB Mel Melin, giving Oregon a 21-12 lead that held to the end of the game.

The 1960 Ducks parlayed later wins at Cal and over Stanford and West Virginia, along with a Civil War tie, into a 7-2-1 record and did get that bowl bid. It wasn’t exactly the dream postseason date, a game in the snow in Philadelphia against Penn State, but it was a bowl, and only the fifth Oregon appearance in postseason play.

Program Notes –

  • This issue of Oregon Varsity Review is notably green; not in the current organic sense, but literally printed with green ink, in some kind of a style statement that (fortunately) only lasted one season.
  • Curious that the first program advertisement for a color TV is on a monochrome page. The roughly 19” set listed on the inside cover sold for $495 – over $3,600 in current dollars. No remote included.
  • There was a time when Advanced Placement was a new concept. That time was around 1960, and a program feature on page 6 touts Oregon’s AP programs. “If a student can complete some of his college work in high school, why ask him to repeat it in college?” (I can think of a few reasons..)
  • For once, the center “roster spread” isn’t sponsored by tobacco. Instead it’s the 1961 Studebaker Lark, a sporty convertible, inappropriately festooned in orange, which you apparently had to drive to believe.
  • It was the 10th year at Oregon for Cas and assistant coach Jack Roche, and a feature on page 16 wishes the pair a happy anniversary. Oregon AD Leo Harris: “Cas and Jack.. are fine gentlemen who helped us conduct an honorable athletic program through their fine leadership of the young men who have played here. I am sure we all wish them well in the future.”
  • The 1960 “Voice of the Ducks,” John Tasnady of KUGN, contributes #9 in the “A Game To Remember” series, the Halloween 1953 victory over USC in Portland. “With the majority of the fourth quarter left to play, the fans watched in wild amazement as the Ducks, with one of the year’s major upsets in reach, fought to maintain their lead…”
  • Only one tobacco ad in the 1960 program, on the back cover, but it’s way out, man. Check out those turntables. The guy on the left is obviously squaresville, with his Sibelius and Beethoven and all those other longhairs. No match for the bohemian vixen at right, in the sunny colored booth, with Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, and Ella, showing off the length of her unlit smoke while batting her eyes behind Buddy Holly glasses. Almost makes me want to fire one up. Not really.


October 12, 1957: San Jose State at Oregon

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In Oregon’s first Rose Bowl season since 1920, the big story of mid-October wasn’t the heady play of the Oregon backfield. It was the controversy caused by the disclosure that admission standards at Oregon for out-of-state students were being raised without regard for the needs of the athletic department.  Up the road, OAC did not differentiate between locals and imports with regard to qualifications, and as a result the Beavers were said to be poaching athletes – primarily football and baseball players – who wanted to attend Oregon but couldn’t qualify, because of an arbitrary decision by the admissions department. This, as could be expected, did not sit well with the alumni, nor with local scribes:

“.. in addition to the loss of university prestige and the revenue needed to make the athletic department self-sustaining, there is always the matter of putting the coaches in the position of playing in a highly competitive league without the tools to compete. In view of the high caliber of men currently coaching the Oregon teams, it seems  unfair to handicap them in this matter.” – Dick Strite, sports editor, Eugene Register-Guard

The admissions department eventually backed down after negotiations with UO president Meredith Wilson.

The ’57 Ducks didn’t do a lot of backing down on the field. Coming into week 4 off a shutout of UCLA, and with their only loss to a Pitt team that went on to whip USC and blow out Nebraska, Len Casanova’s best team so far had only allowed 12 points over three games. For the first of only three games in Eugene that season, the townies were treated to a puff pastry in San Jose State. The passing attack that would prove so effective later in the season had yet to be fully developed, and the Webfoots ground out a 26-0 victory with a decidedly unbalanced attack – 59 runs and 11 passes. But two of Oregon’s four touchdowns came via air; one from halfback Charley Tourville to a wide-open Jim Shanley for 16 yards, the other a two-yard flip from QB Jack Crabtree to end Jay Wheeler, after Shanley opened the 2nd half with a sensational 61-yard kickoff return. Shanley added a 58 yard run off tackle, and nose tackle Bob Peterson blocked a SJS punt into the end zone and recovered for the game’s final score.

Later, in a season where Washington, UCLA and USC were declared ineligible for the various hijinks that eventually led to the distintegration of the old PCC, Oregon beat USC 16-7 behind the then-record 211 rushing yards of Jack Morris in its penultimate regular-season contest to clinch a tie for the conference title. The Webfoots lost the ’57 Civil War, but earned the Rose Bowl bid anyway thanks to a no-repeat clause, OSC having won the 1956 title.

Program Notes –

  • The generic covers by “R. Vrooman” continue, with costly period oils and watercolors eschewed for something you could slap on the front of a thirty-five cent magazine. This cover appears on several other college programs of the period.
  • The advertising mix is interesting: KitchenAid dishwashers, Lady Sunbeam Shavemasters, Longines wristwatches spoke to an odd demographic. Maybe the publishers thought the ladies would be spending more time staring at the program than at the action – and, judging by the Cracker Jack ad, where the girl is staring at the prize while the guy watches the action on the field, they might have been onto something.
  • Going along with the apparent appeal to the distaff fan, page 18 has an un-bylined feature, “Try Something New”, that implores the reader to “take your attention off the ball carrier for a couple of plays and watch some particular lineman do his job” for a “new football thrill.” It’s non-generic, current (“the replacements have come along nicely and have helped ably in each of the first three games”) and well written.
  • For once something other than tobacco shares the color sections, with only the center roster spread and back cover bearing cigarette ads.

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October 15, 1955 – California at Oregon

By 1955, Len Casanova should have had the Ducks going his way. Coming off the team’s first winning season since 1948, Oregon had a solid roster of athletes, but a daunting schedule – opening with road contests at Utah and USC has never been easy – and an unusual degree of attrition, with just 36 players on the roster for the opening game, led to more uncertainty than any coach could handle comfortably.

But Cas liked the intelligence of the players he had. And there was some high football IQ on the ‘55 team:

  • Guard Reanous Cochran would go on to coach at Thurston High in Springfield for decades.
  • Halfbacks Dick James and Jack Morris both starred in NFL backfields, with Washington and the Rams respectively.
  • Center Norm Chapman coached at Springfield High and was an assistant at Oregon under Jerry Frei.
  • End Bill Tarrow was hired by Rich Brooks as an assistant coach and stayed for 20 years.
  • John Robinson won a national championship at USC.
  • Tackle “Captain” Lon Stiner’s father had coached at Oregon State for 14 years and won a Rose Bowl.
  • Spike Hillstrom was a longtime assistant coach at Air Force (and interviewed for the Oregon job after Frei resigned).
  • Guard Harry Mondale coached for years at Phoenix High in southern Oregon.
  • And of the assistant coaches, John McKay would go on to some success.

So, there were three future members of the College Football Hall of Fame on Oregon’s sideline in 1955. None of this future football career trivia meant a lot in the autumn of 1955, of course, and by the middle of October, Cas was frustrated enough to call off a “Cal week” practice early, because the players showed little interest in concentrating on the task at hand. But by game time the players had pulled it together, and under the lights at Multnomah Stadium – California’s first night game ever – the Ducks beat Pappy Waldorf’s Bears soundly, 21-0. The team that couldn’t make it through a full practice held Cal to 145 yards.

In Berkeley, students with a short memory – they’d been to three straight Rose Bowls recently – hung Coach Waldorf in effigy. His administration gave him a vote of confidence, but his teams would win just four more games through 1956, when he finally retired.

Oregon’s victory stopped a three-game losing streak. The Webfoots would go on to win five of their last six games, including a 28-0 stomping of Oregon State in the Civil War.

Program Notes:

  • Another nice Howard Brodie cover; this one takes the same concept of the Gillies 1945 OSC cover, only here the player is autographing a program for a boy, and the program has on its cover an image of a player autographing a program for a boy, etc.
  • Page 5 has the requisite opponent’s outlook, usually provided by the other team’s athletic department, but this year it’s uncredited, merely titled “The Bears are coming”. But there is some classic filler included. The Bears “played a thrilling 20-20 standoff with the Washington State Cougars. Thus, while the Californians have yet to taste the fruits of a PCC victory, they also have not met defeat in league competition.”
  • Also without a byline is an odd piece on the inside cover, concerning the importance of the alumni to the University. “No man was placed on earth to be a pure parasite…” OK.
  • As usual, the only color outside the cover is cigarette advertising, including the center roster spread (“Only Chesterfield is made the Modern way – with AccuRay”, whatever that meant). But there’s a great DeSoto ad on page 6 (“the only car in its price class with the exciting Forward Look.. the newest idea in automotive styling… giving DeSoto its lithe look of power and motion even when standing still.” Uhh, yeah.)
  • The last player photo included for Cal is of one Remo Jacuzzi. Yes, he’s from that Jacuzzi family, who invented what we now know as the hot tub. Remo was president of Jacuzzi for a while and now is president of spa manufacturer Jason International. “Jason” is a portmanteau of “Jacuzzi” and “son”.. clever, eh?
  • A tribute to the NCAA, on the occasion of the association’s 50th anniversary, includes a photo montage of head shots of the Tall Firs, Oregon’s 1939 national champion basketball squad. Laddie Gale bears a resemblance to John Travolta, Bob Hardy and Christian Slater could have been separated at birth, and the part of Slim Wintermute was played by Al Pacino.


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