When did the Border War begin?
Rich Linde, 24 January 2010
In my opinion,
War -- 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
sportswriters who wrote about 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
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, this its only victory in the Rose
Bowl, which is a source of torment by Washington fans, especially after
the Ducks' loss to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl. You know, 93 years
As the series between the Huskies and Ducks evolved, another shot in the
feud occurred 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
To substantiate my historical claim, here are some notable events that
occurred in the feud's early history:
1908: Gil Dobie is hired at Washington.
Dobie fires first shot in feud, blanking Oregon 15-0, and Oregon
hunkers down for the next nine years.
1911: The Legendary Dobie Bunk Play.
UW wins 29-3 in Portland, using a trick play orchestrated by UW
quarterback "Wee" 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 30-14. [Borland].
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. Dobie schedules Cal (home-and-home) and
Colorado in their place.
It is said that Dobie 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, 1916].
Ninety-three years and counting.
In 1917 Oregon posted its only victory in the Rose Bowl, a 93-year-old source of
reminding and chiding, with the virtual hook thrown in.
Spinning tales by the fireside. While there is a
32-year span of inactivity from 1917 to 1948, 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.
1948: The white uniform.
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 1949 Rose Bowl in lieu of an expectant Oregon team.
Oregon goes to the Cotton Bowl, losing to SMU 20-13.
[Borland]. Borland, Lynn, "Gilmour
Dobie: Pursuit of Perfection," Preliminary Manuscript, January 2010.
(Not yet published).
[Dorpat]. Dorpat, Paul, "Hooked
on football," Pacific Northwest Magazine, 6 October 2002.