There is nothing much civil about it.
The battle for bragging rights and state supremacy.
There's college sports rivalries across the nation: The Red River Showdown, The Backyard Brawl, The Holy War, Tobacco Road, World's Largest Outdoor (Cocktail) Party, Bedlam Series, The Iron Bowl.
So, how did the Oregon-Oregon State series get its name?
The term “Civil War” first appeared in newspapers way back in 1929 -- when an Oregon coach equated the game’s importance in the state to the Civil War -- and it caught on. In just a few years it came into general usage. That’s because, just like the actual Civil War did in border states, the rivalry is something that has divided the state, often pitting brother against brother and caused families to choose sides.
Or, in these games, it’s often been husband vs. wife in allegiance to one school or the other.
With the football games, it’s not as obvious as North vs. South. The enemy is more stealth.
One-time OSU head coach Dee Andros once famously said that the game is “for the right to live in the state of Oregon.”
And sometimes, allegiances can be complicated.
The voice of the Beavers, Mike Parker, is actually a graduate of Oregon. Don Essig, the long-time public address announcer for Duck football and basketball, is a graduate of Oregon State.
But one man stands above everyone else in terms of seeing both sides of the series of games between Oregon and Oregon State and he is Rich Brooks -- someone who competed, with great success, on both sides of the fence..
Brooks played at Oregon State and then later served as an assistant coach there. But then he became head coach at Oregon, where he won more games against the Beavers than any other Duck coach. When you step on the playing field at Autzen Stadium, you’re standing on “Rich Brooks Field.”
Attempts have been made to dump that Civil War moniker, but it’s seemingly just too ingrained now. Sports columnists and editors over the years tried in vain to ban the reference, but it just won’t go away.
There has never been a long-lasting trophy given to the winner of the game, although there was one carved out of maple in 1959 that was given to the winner for a few years. Called the “Platypus Trophy,” it was in the image of the animal with a duck-like bill and a beaver-like tail. The trophy was lost for more than four decades before being found in a closet at McArthur Court and is now reportedly exchanged by booster clubs for the schools.
But it isn’t something that’s become an icon for the winner, who after all, gets to live in the state for another year.