The Polite War – Oregon Vs. Oregon State

Oregon is a nice state, full of nice people. There are nice universities with nice rivalries. 

Since both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University have agreed to drop the outdated “Civil War” label for their rivalry, people have been casting about a new name for it.

Perhaps we could call it The Polite War. It reflects our general nature here in the Pacific Northwest. Tall trees. Beautiful coastlines and waterways. Mountain ranges that never end. Friendly people. Good beer.

Call it what you like, but Oregon and Oregon State are experiencing a new, more competitive phase of their rivalry.

Why does it feel this way?

Perhaps because the Oregon State men’s basketball team just pulled off a Pac-12 Tournament Championship upset over better-on-paper Colorado, which gives them bragging rights and lets them parade up and down the I-5 corridor like the tall trees that they are.

Sure, tournament championships aren’t the same as regular-season conference titles, which the Oregon Ducks accomplished this year.

See what I mean about the rivalry heating up?

Given the somewhat parity between the two basketball programs, let’s dig a little deeper.

In face-to-face matchups, the Beavers beat the Ducks two out of three regular season games this year. However, the Beavers are only 8-18 against their rivals, going back to 2016.

As further fuel for the Beavers’ fire, OSU hasn’t won the conference in the regular season since the 1989-1990 season, long before the current players were born. The last major heyday for the Beaver men’s team was in the late 1970s, and early 1980s, which took place in the vacuum left behind by the ‘70s, John Wooden’s best conference team UCLA squad.

As for the Ducks, they have now won the regular-season title for two years running. They’ve also won the Pac-12 in four out of the last seven seasons. Add on to that two Pac-12 Tournament championships in the last five years, and Oregon has amassed quite the resume for the Beavers to try and live up to.

And if you want to look at football, the picture gets rosier for Oregon. They won eight straight matchups against OSU from 2008-2015, plus 2017-2019. The Beavers did win in 2016 and the overtime victory last year in 2020, so they have some recent success to build on.

Where does the war go from here?

Into March Madness, of course!

Like two brothers tired of beating up on each other all the time, both schools head out into the national landscape that is the men’s NCAA tournament, which kicks off this weekend, to see who else they can square off against.

The Beavers are a 12 seed and open against a dangerous Tennessee team. That matchup, should they survive, should tell us whether last weekend’s Pac-12 Tournament win was a fluke or the beginning of a deep run.

The Ducks, with their better regular season record, open as a seven seed and play against an equally dangerous 10 seed VCU. Should they pass that test, it will likely be a red-hot Iowa team with a national player of the year type guy in Luka Garza. That is a tall order, but that should tell us whether Oregon is build for April or not.

No matter what happens, don’t expect events of the immediate future to dampen this war one bit. Oregon State is tired of being the little brother. Oregon is not ready to give an inch. Game on. Battle on. War on.

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About Paul Redman 122 Articles
Paul Redman is a writer and chef in Seattle who grew up in the Midwest. His work has appeared in print and online, including San Francisco magazine, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Contrary. He eats too many chicken wings and cracks way too many dad jokes and food puns. Follow him on Twitter @predman.