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It's about 'respectability' for the Ducks

There was lunch, a raffle and guest speakers upstairs at Rogue Valley Country Club on Tuesday.

Had there been a best-dressed contest, Michael Ross could have been a finalist based solely on his snazzy sneakers.

Several dozen fans of Oregon Ducks football showed up for their clan's Civil War luncheon, including Ashland resident Ross and his wife Wendy.

Oregon State (3-8) hosts Oregon (4-7) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The contest can be seen on Pac-12 Networks.

The Ross couple fit right in, with the 77-year-old Michael sporting a sharp Ducks jacket and Wendy Oregon-themed earrings and a bright UO T-shirt.

And then there were those shoes: a fierce pair of green, yellow and black cross trainers with Michael's "MR" initials on the side that clashed brilliantly with his casual corduroy pants. He had them custom made at the Nike store in Eugene.

Michael, Wendy and many others in attendance showed support in their swag, enjoying the opportunity to talk quack ahead of this weekend's big game.

The stakes aren't as high as they've been in the past, says Oregon Club of Southern Oregon board member David Schott, but the contest is still very meaningful.

"The Civil War always gets a lot of people going," Schott said. "It is better if both of them are playing for a Rose Bowl berth or something like that, because there is a whole lot more interest. This year it is more of an effort to regain respectability. But it will be a fun game to see."

During the lunch, UO head football coach Mark Helfrich spoke remotely on an Internet broadcast made available to fans in Medford, Portland and Bend. Tight end Pharaoh Brown, a redshirt senior, and senior lineman Zac Morgan also made an online appearance. Additionally, Justin Hawkins — a writer for website 247Sports who specializes in college recruiting — visited to talk to the gathering for a portion of the meeting.

Helfrich said the Ducks have some good momentum going for them after beating No. 21 Utah, 30-28, last Saturday on the road. And now he and his staff are busy at work gearing up for the Beavers, who are coming off a 42-17 victory over Arizona.

"It's awesome for our state," Helfrich said of the Civil War. "We're very excited to prepare for this one. ... (It'll be about) trusting our preparation and playing with confidence."

Brown said he is looking forward to the road test.

"It's always fun to play in a hostile environment," he said.

Morgan, a transfer from Dayton, is still learning about the tradition.

"I'm excited to be out there and be a part of it," he said.

Michael and Wendy Ross are plenty familiar with the rivalry. Michael, a 1961 Oregon graduate, had an easy ticket to games when he was going to school.

"They were still playing at Hayward Field," said Michael, a Portland native who graduated with a business degree. "My freshman year, I lived in the dorm right across the street, and the games weren't well attended. I could just walk across the street right before game time."

He and Wendy (who graduated from New Mexico) have three children and 10 grandchildren. Like many other Oregonians, there are some Ducks and Beavers in the mix.

"We have a daughter and son-in-law who are Ducks and one grandson who is a Duck, and this year we now have another grandson who is a Beaver," Michael said.

The Ross family will likely enjoy the game this Saturday in Ashland, though Wendy added that there is nothing quite like being there in person.

"It's very exciting," she said. "We look forward to going to games, we like tailgating and we like Eugene."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

University of Oregon supporters listen to Duck head football coach Mark Helfrich speak during a live feed from Eugene Tuesday at Rogue Valley Country Club. Oregon travels to play Oregon State in the annual rivalry game Saturday. DENISE BARATTA/MAIL TRIBUNE
Michael Ross, of Ashland, shows off the custom-made Oregon Duck shoes he wore Tuesday with wife, Wendy, to the Civil War luncheon at Rogue valley Country Club. DENISE BARATTA/MAIL TRIBUNE