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Hardy fans take in both OSU, UO games

“It’s a little bit of bedlam."

That’s how Scott Gascho described organizing his “Beavs in the Big House” tailgater, which brought together more than 400 of his closest friends to a tailgate party on Saturday outside the largest stadium in the United States.

Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration: Gascho said he may have known only about 20 percent of the tailgaters.

Nevertheless, shortly after the sun rose Saturday over the University of Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor, Gascho led four buses of Beaver fans to the tailgate party at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club, south of the stadium.

About 50 people at the party were fortifying themselves for a longer day of football: After watching the Wolverines beat the Beavers, they hopped onto chartered buses to travel along Interstate 96 to Michigan State University's Spartan Stadium, where they wrapped up a long day of football by watching the Oregon Ducks play Michigan State University.

Most of the fans at the tailgater were shuttled in on buses after staying Friday night at the Greek Town Casino in Detroit, a trip of about 45 miles.

Gascho has plenty of experience at organizing football trips, although this year's excursion was complicated by the fact that it involved two games.

“I first did a trip to the Fiesta Bowl 15 years ago,” said Gascho. “There were 30 people. I’ve done an away trip almost every year. It has just spread by word of mouth: Friends tell other friends and next thing you know you have 400 people for a Michigan tailgater.”

Along the way, he picked up inspiration from other universities and their fans. For example, he said, Louisiana State University "is where I learned about what real tailgating was like. They do it bigger and better. Everything is extravagant."

Experience helps in arranging the logistics for a trip like this one, but it also requires plenty of late-night hours, said Gascho, a Canby lumber trader by day. "My wife thinks I'm crazy," he said.

“For this trip, the ideas and thoughts started two years ago,” Gascho said. “We really started planning probably 10 months ago. I expected 300 (people) but we got 400-plus. It got a little bigger than I thought it was going to be.”

Fans paid for their own airfare. Gascho finds the lodging, transportation to the game, some of the game tickets and the tailgater. The fans paid $75 for a catered breakfast with a DJ, a photo booth and several cornhole-style games.

As fans filled out of the 115,000-seat stadium and back to the tailgater after the end of the OSU-Michigan game, Gascho was preparing to lead the fans up the freeway to East Lansing and Spartan Stadium, with its comparatively intimate seating for 75,000 fans.

It's not unusual for the two Oregon schools to play away games on the same week less than 100 miles apart; in fact, it will happen again on Nov. 14, when the Beavers play at California and the Ducks play at Stanford.

But the lure of attending a game in the nation's largest college football venue and then cap it off with a highly anticipated rematch between two Top 10 teams proved too potent for several mid-valley residents to pass up.

“It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Ellie Freeman of Tigard. “Two Pac-12 games in one day is going to be like Christmas morning.”

Freeman joined her parents, Rob and Jennifer, on the bus between the games. Rob, an OSU graduate, cheered on his Beavers in the morning. Jennifer, a Michigan State graduate, cheered on her Spartans in the evening.

Another Spartan supporter and avid Beaver fan on the bus was Brian Perlenfein of Albany. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see great college football. I’m a big Beaver fan.”

“Wearing orange and black,” Perlenfein said, "we’re going to represent the Beavers all day in the state of Michigan.”

Not all the OSU partisans were in Michigan there to root against the Ducks in the day's second game.

Bob Bending, of North Albany, backed the Beavers in the morning and then went north to support the Ducks. The father of four boys said that three of his sons are Beavers fans, but one of his 6-year-old twins, Gaige, supports the Ducks.

Linn County resident Jason Carothers of Harrisburg can see the glow from Autzen Stadium from his yard but still roots for OSU.

“It will be hard to root for the rival,” Carothers said, but he admitted he was thinking of pulling for the Ducks as they played Michigan State. “We are in a Big 10 stadium, so we might have to feel that one out and see how it goes.”

Carothers, a 2002 OSU graduate, and his wife, Josie, climbed on the bus for the hour drive north after the morning game. He said his love for the Beavers started in the Ralph Miller basketball era, and said his family has had season tickets to Gill Coliseum since the 1980s.

It turns out that was about the same era when Gascho solidified his loyalties to Oregon State.

“I went to OSU in late 80s,” Gascho said. “I was actually the basketball manager and worked for Ralph Miller and was here during the Gary Payton era. I just bleed orange and black.”

And so, Gascho is thinking about his next big football trip.

"I might do Minnesota next year," he said. "I might take a year off but Ohio State is on the docket for sure in 2018."