The border war
Richard Linde, Updated November 2003, November 2006, October 2009, October
To their fans, the bitter
rivalry between Washington and Oregon is unparalleled in college
football; for them, winning the annual game can make or break a whole
Over the years, the border battle has been symbolized by a college town dressed in green,
a white uniform, a wooden
hook, dog biscuits, a trick play, and a purple and gold bridge.
The conflict is marked by vituperations exchanged between opposing coaches, the fans and
players, all of whom, in the past, have been singed and burned by the
heat of the conflagration.
But when did the off-field hostility and intense gridiron battles begin?
Mark them, three eventful years that rhyme with
hate: 1908, 1948, and 1958.
1908: Gilmour Dobie
my opinion, the intense feud between Washington and
Oregon had its strident start in 1908 when Gilmour Dobie replaced
Victor Place as Washington's head football coach.
In nine-years' time, by simply being
the best he could be, Dobie fomented the first of the bitter feelings now entrenched,
which have been layered upon over the years.
He was the undisputed czar of west coast football,
he never lost a game, he developed a legendary trick play, and on
occasion, he dictated the time and place of games against his opponents.
The cigar-smoking martinet was accused
of cursing his players in practice and signaling in plays from the
sidelines, the latter criticism never substantiated, the former readily
validated by historical accounts. [Borland]. In his early days at
Washington, the contentious Scott almost duked it out with the mayor
A dominating force on the gridiron, his
teams won eight Northwest Conference championships and the very first
Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) championship in 1916, much to the chagrin
of his rivals. His teams were likened to finally-tuned machines by the
reporters who covered them.
He accumulated a 59-0-3 record at
Washington, according to biographer Lynn Borland, who has laboriously
traced Dobie's days with the Purple and Gold and admirably corrects the
official record, formerly 58-0-3.
[Borland]. Also reference Meet the Real Gilmour
Dobie. Are you listening UW?
Starting the 1916 season, coach Dobie was "vastly unpopular" in the state of Oregon,
having posted a 6-0-0 record over the Web feet. Prior to that season, Oregon
men (claimed) he (had) purposely avoided dates with them that would have
meant his defeat. Oregon had its way with Washington before the Dobie
holding a 4-1-1 advantage over the Purple and Gold in a period
extending from 1900 to 1907.
UW and Oregon went unbeaten in 1916, having played each
other to a scoreless standstill; the Purple and Gold were crowned PCC
champions because of an ineligible player Oregon had used during the
season. [Borland]. However,
Oregon went to the 1917 Rose Bowl because of traveling cost
considerations; reportedly, it was $215 cheaper to travel to Los Angeles
from Eugene by train than it was from Seattle. Oregon defeated
Pennsylvania 14-0 in the Rose
1948: The Rose Bowl
the bitter feelings between the Huskies and Ducks temporarily put on hold -- between
1918 and 1947 -- the feud erupted again in 1948, the putative date of the rivalry's beginning, when California and Oregon tied for the Pacific Coast Conference crown.
To determine the Rose Bowl representative, a vote of the conference
schools was taken to break the tie. It was
assumed that the four California schools would vote for California and
that the six northwest schools would vote for Oregon. Washington voted
for California and encouraged Montana to go along with its vote.
California went to the 1949 Rose Bowl, only to lose to Northwestern
20-14. Norm Van Brocklin, one of the greatest quarterbacks and coaches
in NFL history, quarterbacked the Ducks in 1948, and Oregon fans, the
older ones, feel it's a darned shame he never got to play in the Rose
The war escalated on the
football field when Oregon beat Washington 63-6 in 1951 and Washington beat
Oregon 49-0 a year later.
1958: The dissolution of
Then in 1956, after he was
fired, Washington Coach John Cherberg revealed that Washington football
players were being paid by a downtown “slush fund," called the Washington
Advertising Association. Cherberg's revelation led to a two-year probation
for Washington in 1956. It was determined that 27 Washington players
received an average of $135 per month, instead of the allowed $75. The PCC
banned post-season competition for all of its athletic teams. A domino
effect followed in Los Angeles, when UCLA and USC were placed on probation
for slush fund irregularities.
In part, the harshness of the
punishments led to the dissolution of the PCC and the formation of the AAWU
(1959-1968), which excluded the so-called "cow colleges" (WSC and OSC) along
with Oregon and Idaho. Note that Montana left the old PCC in 1950.
that all of Washington’s athletic teams were placed on probation, rather
than just the football team, was the center of contention. Although most of
the conference members voted for the sanctions, Orlando Hollis, dean of the
Oregon law school, was the chief prosecutor in cases against UCLA, USC,
California and Washington. He was particularly disdainful of the corrupting
climate of southern California, and he was a target of the local media in
Los Angeles and Seattle.
During the border
war’s long history, some notable incidents have occurred:
- 1908: Gil Dobie is hired
at Washington. Dobie fires first shot in feud, blanking Oregon 15-0 at
Kinkaid Field. Although the weather was not a factor, the field had been
covered with 4 to 6 inches of sawdust. Dobie blamed Oregon's track coach,
Bill Hayward, who was a trainer for the football team, for the incident,
fearing the slow field would intimidate his freshmen dominated team. Later,
quarterback "Wee" Coyle would credit Dobie for the team's victory. “Boys,
you’re going out and get licked, and I can’t help you, but I’ll be ashamed
of you if you don’t go out and fight ’em and fight ‘em hard," were Dobie's
- 1909: The triple pass play.
Washington surprises Oregon in a 20-6 victory, using a triple pass play (Dobie's
version of the modern-day flea flicker) to
score two touchdowns, both of them ending up in the hands of left end Warren Grimm.
In 1909, an incomplete pass of less than 5 yards resulted in a turnover.
- 1911: The Dobie Bunk Play.
UW wins 29-3 in Portland,
using a trick play orchestrated by Coyle, who pretends
his leather helmet is the football. All of Oregon's defensive players chase
the helmet-lugging Coyle, while on the opposite side of the field, a
lonesome Wayne Sutton carries the real pigskin over the goal line.
Washington Hook. UW yell leader Bill Horsley introduces the
a 10-foot by 3-foot wooden replica of a hook --
Washington fans carry to every game as a symbol of its dominance in
football. It was first carried to Portland at the end of the 1911
season. Its appearance at games and in downtown Portland antagonize
both O. A. C. and Oregon fans alike. [Dorpat].
- 1912: Touchdown under the
bleachers. UW blocks a punt, the ball going behind the Oregon end line and
coming to rest under some temporary bleachers. The ball is recovered by
Washington and is ruled a touchdown under the rules of the day. UW wins
- 1915: Attempt to derail
dynasty. Oregon and the cow
colleges (Oregon State Aggies and Washington State Aggies) refuse to schedule Washington in hopes of ending
Dobie's unbeaten dynasty.
- 1916: The moral victory.
It is said that Dobie (59-0-3) meets his match
when Oregon holds his charges to a scoreless tie on a field (in Eugene) that
resembles a lake. Oregon covers herself with glory and mud, and her students
that night celebrate a "victory" in Portland, lauding the heroes who
hold Dobie's eight-year champions to an even break and foretell his fall "as
undisputed czar of football in the Northwest." [Oakland Tribune, Nov 4,
- 1917: Rose Bowl. Oregon beats
Pennsylvania; taking 95 years to win another RB is a source of catcalling by
Spinning tales by the fireside. While there is a
29-year span of inactivity from 1918 to 1947, undoubtedly the old
folk kept the rivalry alive in that
interval, still feuding, fussing and fighting among themselves, while
retelling their bitter stories to all the attentive young ones sitting
by the fireside.
The White Uniform, a Symbol of Dominance and a Reminder.
In a game played at Husky Stadium on a field that resembles a quagmire,
Norm Van Brocklin leads Oregon to a 13-7 victory over Washington. Standing
out among Oregon's muddied uniforms, the pristine white uniform of the
"Dutchman's" stays spotless throughout the rainy day.
- 1948: The Rose Bowl vote. Cal
goes to the Rose Bowl in lieu of an expectant Oregon team.
1951: Escalation. The war escalates on the
football field when Oregon beats Washington 63-6 in 1951 and Washington beats
Oregon 49-0 a year later.
- 1956: Orlando Hollis. Orlando Hollis, dean of
Oregon law school, is chief prosecutor in slush-fund cases against Washington, USC and
- 1958: AAWU. Formation of the AAWU,
to the exclusion of Oregon, among other PCC members.
1962: Larry Hill incident. Washington fans, who rush onto the field, tackle Oregon's Larry
Hill who is attempting to catch a pass in the end zone to win the game.
1973 and 1974: Piling it on.
Washington 58-0 in 1973 and Washington beats Oregon 66-0 a year later. Not only
are the 66 points a modern school record, but the swing of 124 total points
is believed to be the largest in consecutive games of a series by any team.
- 1968: Recruiting war. Bobby Moore (Ahmad
Rashād), out of Tacoma,
enrolls at Oregon, as the story goes, because a relative of his (Donny Moore,
1965, ‘66) was dismissed from Jim Owens' football team. This further
inflames the rivalry. According to Oregon’s official website, the Seattle
Times ranks Bobby Moore as Washington State’s fourth greatest running back
of all time. Ironically, the Seattle Times ranks Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart,
out of Lacey, as the state’s fifth greatest running back of all time.
Stewart, who enrolled at Oregon in 2005, could have been soured on UW, in
part, by the clouding miasma of the NCAA investigation of 2003, which
eventually cost the NCAA $2.5 million in a lawsuit settlement it made with former UW
coach Rick Neuheisel. UW fans wonder if the snitch, who anonymously refers
to himself as Peter Wright and who emailed the NCAA about Neuheisel’s
auction activities, is an Oregon fan.
Rock pelting in the 80's.
"You're utterly defenseless when both hands are on your
horn and you're focusing on playing music. A Duck fan randomly pelted
me with a rock, while I was in the band back in the 80's. I was completely
shocked because I thought things like that were only done by preschoolers
who didn't know any better," says a former UW band member about her first
trip to Autzen.
1994: Kenny Wheaton touchdown.
Dan Raley of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes, "Emotions boiled over and competitive lines blurred in '94,
spiking the rivalry. That season, redshirt freshman Kenny
Wheaton's last-minute 97-yard interception return for a
score off UW quarterback Damon Huard secured a 31-20 victory
at home and propelled the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl in
"The combined quacking and woofing -- or was
that bleating and whimpering -- had never been louder.
Wheaton's play was immortalized on Autzen's big screen and
in an oversized photo hanging in the lobby of the Wild Duck
Restaurant. Huskies had to live with it." [Raley].
1995: Jim Lambright's lobbying. Washington's head coach Jim Lambright lobbies for his team's selection in
the Cotton Bowl instead of the Ducks. He is unsuccessful; however, Seattle
Post Intelligencer columnist Bud Withers writes that Lambright's actions
"invited a least another half-century worth of bile from Oregon fans."
Washington coach Rick Neuheisel, who coached Colorado at the time, calls
for a fake punt against the Ducks in the Cotton Bowl, with the Buffs leading
1998: The facilities war. Oregon formally dedicates the Ed Moshofsky
Sports Center in August 1998, an indoor practice facility. Washington's
Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility opens in September 2001. In 2002, UO
finishes its $90 million renovation of Autzen Stadium. Husky Stadium's $280
million renovation was completed for the opening game of the 2013
1998: Death threats. According to the mascot's
owner, Washington's AD puts out a memo
forbidding his mascot, (Prince Redoubt), from attending games in Eugene due to
multiple death threats.
- 1999: Quiet-day violations. Husky fans believe that Oregon turned Washington in
for the quiet-day rules' violations that occurs in 1999 when Rick Neuheisel
takes over as its head coach. [Smith].
- 1999: The Mike Bellotti factor. After the quiet-day visits in 1999,
Gary Barnett and several other coaches, as reported by the press, sign a
letter "protesting what the punishment might be for Washington." Barnett is
quoted as saying they "petitioned the NCAA to make this punishment fit the
crime, because it won't. They'll get their hands slapped and they'll be
reinstated. That's just the way it's done. I just think that's ridiculous."
Later, two of the coaches reportedly signing the letter deny doing so. The press had mistakenly reported that Mike Bellotti,
Oregon's coach, was one of the coaches signing the letter. The fact that he didn’t
sign it doesn’t
mollify Husky fans; the whole thing was unfair in their minds.
1999: The throwing incidents.
In addition to throwing dog biscuits at them on a yearly basis, Duck fans
throw cups of urine and dog feces on Husky players at Autzen Stadium in
1999, this according to a Husky staff member. [Smith].
2001: Jumbotron incident.
With potential Washington recruits in the house at the Oregon/Oregon State
football game (Eugene, 2001), a video clip of Rick Neuheisel is juxtaposed
with a scene from the movie "Airplane" that shows a woman vomiting. It is shown six times on the Jumbotron.
Of course, the partisan crowd whoops it
up each time. The
Oregon athletic director apologizes for the incident. [Seattle Times].
2001: Recruiting trip. Former Washington DE Donny Mateaki attends the "vomit"
game, as an intensely pursued
recruit out of Hawaii.
"Coaches call you, and they
bad-mouth the other coach," Mateaki tells a local television station. "I
almost didn't take my trip to Washington because I went to Colorado and
Oregon, and all they did was bad-mouth Neuheisel."
"The complaint against Oregon as an
institution was fine. The implication that its coach, Mike Bellotti, was
only recruiting players after Washington identified them, that Bellotti
did something wrong in getting Albert Toeaina and Chris Solomona away
from the Huskies at the last minute seems inappropriate," Blaine Newnham
of the Seattle Times writes. "No college football coach has enough
credibility to obliquely criticize others."
Also, see our spoof on the recruiting wars that takes place in 2001/2002, "A
day at Castle Pacifica."
See the article describing our experience at Autzen Stadium, "A
din of inequity."
2003: Celebration ploy.
Preceding the 2003 game, stories in the local press make mention
of the Huskies’ prolonged, 30-minute celebration after they thrash the
Ducks 42-14 at Autzen Stadium in 2002.
Visages of that raucous party haunt Oregon’s players and coaches all
week, according to a mini-hurly-burly raised in the press.
During the week, there are quotes from several Oregon players. "It wasn't
... how would I say this?" QB Kellen Clemens said. "I don't know. We will use
it as motivation. It wasn't something that showed a whole lot of class."
Oblivious to the proverbial bulletin board material, Oregon free safety
Keith Lewis takes some swipes at a number of Huskies and essentially
guarantees his team will be dancing on Husky Stadium's midfield "W" at the end of the game. Reiterating his comments
about QB Cody Pickett from the past season, Lewis says, "Anybody can
have one good season. Cody Pickett was overrated, bottom line, in my
opinion." He goes on to say that no
one knew about Charles Frederick until after his game with OSU and, in the
past, he had called UW's WR Reggie Williams slow.
Along with Lewis, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti adds his
two-cents during week, saying he thinks the Huskies' behavior in last
season's game was in "very poor taste."
the 2003 game, which the UW wins 42-10, Husky players dance on their
- 2004: Blame it on Ngata. Oregon's mastery over
Washington, its current 9-game winning streak, begins in 2004, not coincidentally with the emergence in
the rivalry of
defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Was skullduggery afoot in the recruiting process? [Linde]
- 2009: Spring games. Chip Kelly,
Oregon's new coach, apparently takes a shot at Washington at the conclusion of the 2009 spring
game. The following is taken from Ken Woody's blog in the Eugene
Register-Guard. "Kelly went on the describe the
spring game: 'We’re not going to line up our best against the rest like the
Huskies did in their spring game. They ran their number one offense against
the number two and three defenses so Jake Locker could go 16 of 18 with two
drops. And they had their number one defense up against the second and third
offense so they could shut someone out. We’re going to compete. The number
one offense will go against the number one defense. That’s the way it’s been
all spring. Walter Thurmond III (starting corner) will be lined up against Jamere Holland (starting receiver), head to head and we’ll see who comes out
- 2009: Autzen factor. ESPN's Ted Miller ranks Autzen Stadium as the toughest
place in the Pac-10 to play in 2009, based on the facts that the elements
will be ideal for the home team and the quality of the team matters. "It's loud. And with all due respect, Ducks fans
can be obnoxious. It's as if they know Autzen Stadium's reputation and they
are willing to step outside of the rules of decorum by which they live all
their other days to make sure all visitors understand that reputation isn't
- 2009: Morrison Bridge. Although it's been five years since the Dawgs have
beaten the Ducks, Washington fans bridge the gap by lighting up the Morrison
Bridge in downtown Portland with purple and gold colors. ("Huskies
hope to light it up against Ducks...")
"Scoreboard, baby." "This week it was Boulder, where the fans would chant
'Ri-cky, Ri-cky' ever time his team screwed up ... After that it would be
Eugene, where fans would throw duck (feces) at him." [Armstrong, Perry].
Huskies wonder whether the authors of the referenced book aren't Oregon
- 2010: Woodward apology.
Washington athletic director
issues an apology for comments he made on UW's pregame radio show concerning
the University of Oregon. "It's an
embarrassment what their academic institution is, and what's happened to
them as far as their state funding has gone," said Woodward. "In my mind,
it's a wonderful athletic facility, but they've watched it at the expense of
the university go really down.
"... Any of the rankings you look at, you watch how far (the Ducks have)
dropped because of their state funding."
Seattle Times' story on apology.
2011: Double standard? In a story that won't die, the
Seattle Times unearths a letter
(through a public
records request) sent from Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott to interim UW
president Phyllis Wise on how Wise should handle the Woodward incident. In
its story, the Times says, "In an e-mail to two members of her administration, Wise
wonder whether Larry would have pushed (former UW President) Mark (Emmert)
as hard as he pushed me.'"
Many shots have been fired during
the border war, and it’s not over. Washington leads the series, 58-42-5;
Oregon has won the last nine consecutive games.
The Bunk Play
it against Oregon in 1911. Here’s how it goes. Instead of snapping the ball
to quarterback Wee Coyle, Bevan Presley, the center, snaps it into his own
stomach, and the two guards fall down in front of him. Coyle takes off his
leather helmet, pretends it’s a football, tucks it under one arm and bolts
around end. After counting to 3, Presley turns and hands the ball off to the
end, Wayne Sutton, who scampers in the opposite direction from Coyle and
scores a touchdown. All eleven Oregon players chase Coyle. For a moment, no
one knew what happened. Dobie won the game 29-3.
A replay from the stars
This story is dedicated to the
memory of William "Wee" Coyle, who played quarterback for Gil Dobie from
1908 until 1911.
He is no longer frightened of his coach. It is said they have been seen
walking across Denny Field on moonlit nights, arm-in-arm, always smiling,
always laughing, always upbeat.
"Run it for me, kid, just one more time.
Come on, kid, just one more time, one more time for Gloomy Gil."
likenesses of Wayne Sutton and Bevan Presley in glistening form join Coyle
onto a playing field transforming into its original state. It is said that
Coyle tucks his leather helmet into his gut and runs the Dobie-Bunk Play,
while Sutton takes a handoff from Presley and runs towards an end zone that
engulfs him in its swallowing shadow.
"Sutton, Presley, once more," Dobie shouts upwards, while Coyle dons his
helmet and barks out the play that calls the slowly brightening apparitions
into formation, blank faces, too, called to the fore, their wiliness then repeating
itself until the tiring field deafened by the roar of the incandescent gathering returns to its present state.
In an infinite multiverse, there'll be another night to practice the bunk
play, for this ardent assembly of playfulness is an inexorable amalgam of
elements created by the stars.
I wish to thank Mike Archbold for kindling my interest
in researching the life and times of Gilmour Dobie. Also, Dobie biographer
Lynn Borland deserves a great deal of credit for writing THE book, a
landmark effort, that corrects all the factual errors replete in the Dobie
literature -- accumulated from 1908 until the present time -- and that tells
Dobie's real story.
[Smith]. Smith, Shelley, "Oregon-Washington: 'We
know they hate us,'" 20 April 2001. Special to ESPN.com.
[Seattle Times]. Withers, Bud, "Neuheisel
upset at recruiting tactics of some, like Oregon and UCLA," The
Seattle Times, 7 February 2002.
[Miller]. Miller, Ted, "Pac-10 Beat: Seeing purple
in the land of the green: Eugene," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
November 15, 2002.
[Raley]. Raley, Dan, "Nothing neighborly about
Huskies vs. Ducks," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 29, 2004.
[wikipedia]. Oregon-Washington Rivalry (scores)
[Condotta]. Condotta, Bob, "UW vs. UO: It's Duck eat
Dawg out there," The Seattle Times, November 14, 2002.
[Borland]. Borland, Lynn, "Pursuit of Perfection,"
Tribute Publishing, November 2010. (Gilmourdobie.com
[Dorpat]. Dorpat, Paul, "Hooked
on football," Pacific Northwest Magazine, 6 October 2002.
[Armstrong, Perry]. Armstrong, Ken;
Perry Nick, "Scoreboard, baby: A story of college football, crime, and
complicity," Bison Books, 2010.
[Borland2]. Borland, Lynn, "Legendary
Gil Dobie's only loss at Washington: his legacy," The Seattle Times,
10 November 2010.
[Linde]. Linde, Richard, "Blame
it on Ngata," 4malamute.com, 11 November 2011.
Richard Linde can be reached at