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As I See It: A game in search of a name

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On Nov. 27, the Oregon State University Beavers will travel to Eugene’s Autzen Stadium to play the University of Oregon Ducks in a rematch of a classic football rivalry.

It will be the 125th time this series has been contested, the fifth-longest series in Football Bowl Subdivision history and the longest-standing series in the Pac-12. The likelihood of a national broadcast is high. The two teams are having winning seasons. Still, there is no signature name for this game and the yearlong series between all sports. Why?

On June 19, 2020, the two schools announced they would no longer use the term “Civil War” in reference to the game. They were forming a group to determine a new name. By kickoff on Nov. 27, 526 days will have passed, and still no name. Despite the needed conversation, compromise and consensus to determine a new moniker, no announcement has been made.

Instead, on social media posts, in fan groups and in general discussion the phrase “Civil War” and the “game formerly known as the Civil War” are still seen and heard. This reality misses a unique opportunity to position the game and the series and frame the national image of the innovation represented by both schools in a way that is a win-win for the whole state.

Historically, there is a trophy carved by an Oregon art student in 1959. It is 2 feet wide and 18 inches tall. It is the Platypus Trophy and was exchanged by the student government presidents after the big game. It is now exchanged by the two respective alumni associations. Yet there is still no name for this game and yearlong series. A great visual and storyline for a national broadcast is being missed.

These two storied universities are constantly searching for new revenue streams to support the student athletic programs. The student bodies, alumni and communities have a ravenous appetite to support their hometown teams. The naming of a rivalry series highlighted by the annual football game seems to be low-hanging fruit for a committed and decisive group of alumni, students and advocates. Still no name.

John Canzano of the Oregonian first penned the obvious name over a year ago: the Platypus Cup series. The naming task is to capture what is unique about two universities with a duck and a beaver as their mascots. These are two creatures that don’t evoke a sense of fear in the wild. They are happy, industrious and critical to the natural environment of our beautiful state.

The platypus, a docile creature with features of both a duck and a beaver, is a unique egg-laying mammal. A platypus also commonly refers to students, faculty and staff migrating between the two schools. I have many a former student who graduated from OSU and then attended the University of Oregon. Also a number of my OSU colleagues now call U of O their home — all proudly referring to themselves as platypuses.

Perhaps it is time to just have some fun with this Platypus Cup series idea and bring some humor to our world. Given the angst and anger we experience on a daily basis, wouldn’t a dose of good clean fun be a welcome relief? The student athletes will still have as much passion and pride to win the contest. The fans will still have a fertile field for attire and chants.

I think it is an idea whose time has come. Embrace the obvious. Ratchet up the laughs and enjoy the national spotlight … 526 days and counting.

Bob Kerr has lived in Corvallis since July 2000. He is a retired faculty/staff member of Oregon State University serving as coordinator of Greek life. He is also a published author and speaker. He has been a longtime fan of Oregon State athletics. He previously published a piece on how the “Civil War” label was a negative image and not representative of the values of either university.


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