Have the athletic teams at the University of Oregon always been known as the Ducks? It seems like an odd name for a big-time college. Just asking.
— J.S., Medford
Just guessing, but we suspect you may have attended a university located in Corvallis, J.S.
But since we love the Ducks and Beavers equally here at SYA, we shall endeavor to find the answer.
Never mind that we have one Duckville alumnus who sniffs the question suggests the Duck mascot is a featherweight.
Going back as far as the 1890s, the U of O athletes were generally known as the Webfoots, a name that was shared with Oregonians in general.
In 1926, The Oregonian news editor L.H. Gregory came up with the idea of a naming contest, and Webfoots won out. It was also the name chosen during a student vote in 1932.
But, humans being what they are, people kept referring to the Webfoots as simply the Ducks early on. There also was a live white duck named "Puddles" who appeared at games.
Cartoon drawings of Puddles began to resemble Donald Duck, prompting a fellow named Walt Disney to step into the picture. However, U of O athletic director Leo Harris was a friend of Disney's and the two worked out an informal agreement, sealed with an handshake, that gave the university permission to use Donald as its sports mascot. In 1973, a formal agreement was reached between the U of O and the Disney company regarding the use of Mr. Duck.
Meanwhile, we figure a duck and a beaver both serve the state well.
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