In recent years, the Oregon Ducks football program has garnered enough headlines to make just about any school green with envy. While four appearances on the BCS circuit, including back-to-back wins in the 2012 Rose Bowl and 2013 Fiesta Bowl, certainly turned some heads, what really gets the country talking is the seemingly endless array of fashion-forward uniforms that the team trots out on any given Saturday. Not only do they win the big games, but they look awfully good while doing it, too.
To understand how the school in Eugene got to this point, you don’t have to travel far. In the closing seconds of a hotly contested 1994 battle with Pac-10 foe the Washington Huskies, defensive back Kenny Wheaton intercepted a pass and sprinted 97 yards for the game-winning touchdown. “The Pick,” as it's now known, awoke a sleeping giant, as the Ducks marched all the way to their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1958. While the school had qualified for bowl games in 1989, ‘90 and ‘92, the string of consistent success was still foreign territory for newer fans: the last time Oregon qualified for the postseason multiple times in a ten-year span was during the ‘60s.
The university put together its first football team in 1894, and in 1917, booked its first trip to the fabled Rose Bowl. After that, there were decades of trying times for the Ducks. All-American quarterback Norm Van Brocklin earned national attention for his on-field exploits in 1948, but true team success remained out of reach for Oregon. Coaches Len Casanova (1951-66) and Rich Brooks (1977-94) would try their hand at revitalizing the program, but aside from a few scant bowl games, it all pales in comparison to what Mike Bellotti accomplished once he took over in 1995.
Over the course of his 14 years with the Ducks, Bellotti would guide the school to 12 bowl appearances, two Pac-10 conference championships, and one huge win on the national stage at the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. In 2014, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Much like the fast-paced offense that he’d install, Chip Kelly assumed control of the program and promptly led the school to the BCS in 2010, ‘11, and ‘12.
At Autzen Stadium, you can find fans in green, yellow, white, black, and futuristic silver. They erupt into ecstasy when The Duck, the team mascot, storms the field while seated on a motorcycle. When the third quarter ends, the Ducks Nation bands together to belt out “Shout,” the song made famous by Otis Day & the Knights in the classic film “Animal House,” which was filmed on the Eugene campus.
Some schools are forever trying to live up to the accomplishments that occurred before them, but Oregon has opted for a different route. In their practice facility, a sign reads: “Tradition never changes. Champions do.” As far as they and their fans are concerned, Ducks history can’t be repeated because it's still being written.