Monday, February 13, 2012

Autzen's Magic


Its been said that Autzen stadium is a place of mystical proportions.  A place where good teams go to die.  It is the magic of Autzen stadium.  You hear about it, you read about it, opposing teams feel it before even setting foot on the field – almost like the gladiators must’ve felt before setting out in the Roman Coliseum, to be served up as sacrificial lambs for the entertainment of its spectators.

With a capacity officially listed at 54,000, it’s not even close to being the biggest stadium in the country.  And yet it is one of the loudest.  Duck fans are a proud bunch, whom are very passionate about their team.  They go to games; many of them – 81 straight sellouts to be exact – overflow the place: despite its listed capacity, Autzen averages around 57,000, and even reached the 60,000 mark on October 15th, 2011, against Arizona State.

They show up to make noise, and uphold its tradition of being one of the loudest stadiums in the country.  Its led people like ESPN’s Lee Corso to say “per person Autzen stadium is the loudest stadium I have ever been in my entire life.”  A Michigan columnist once wrote, after his Wolverines lost at Oregon, 31-27, on September 20th, 2003, “Autzen's 59,000 strong make the Big House collectively sound like a pathetic whimper. It’s louder than any place I’ve ever been, and that includes The Swamp at Florida, The Shoe in Columbus, and Death Valley at Louisiana State. Autzen Stadium is where great teams go to die.”

Numerous college football polls in magazines and other publications have Autzen as one of the loudest and toughest places to play in college football.  The Sporting News listed Autzen as the most intimidating place to play in the nation, in 2006.

Other stadiums have their fans and traditions: Oklahoma has boomer sooner, Texas has ‘hook em’, there’s the shoe in Columbus, the swamp in Florida.  Autzen has its traditions too.  Its fans – known as the Autzen zoo – set a record for the highest recorded decibel produced by human noise of 127.2 decibels, in a game against USC, on October 27th, 2007.  The Ducks won that game 24-17. 

The Autzen zoo is a tough bunch.  Many people describe Oregon as being college football’s version of “the black hole,” a reference to passionate fan base of the Oakland Raiders.  Maybe it’s the six months of constant rainfall that gives Oregon fan such a hostile edge to visiting teams?  Whatever it is, it works. 
Autzen Stadium – like its fans – are also kind of quirky bunch.  Maybe that whole “keep Portland weird” thing extends to Eugene?  You see part of the tradition of Autzen has been its quirkiness.  Although recent renovations and upgrades have changed it, it used to be known for its multicolored turf, which was so hard, opposing players described it as playing on concrete.  For Oregon players this was an advantage because, they were already used to it.  For visiting teams, it was already in their head before the game even started. 

There’s legendary PA Don Essig, who proclaims, “it never rains at Autzen” before every kickoff, despite the fact that it has rained several times at Autzen!  Duckvision gets the crowds whipped up into a frenzy just before the team takes the field, with a motivational video.  The videos change every year, and sometimes, from game to game, but one thing has remained the same since its inception: the showing of “the pick,” which is a different story for another time.  Just before the fourth quarter, the song “shout” is played in a similar way Wisconsin plays Jump Around.  But there’s history here: Autzen stadium served as Faber college football stadium, in the 1978 movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House.

The stadium’s field is named after Rich Brooks, the winningest coach in Oregon history, despite having an overall record at Oregon below .500, and other coaches have come along since, achieving greater heights than Brooks ever did.  However, when you guide a program to its first Rose bowl before man even landed on the moon, you deserve to have your name anywhere on the field!

I’ve been to so many games (went to my first in ’93 vs. Cal), and there’ve been so many memorable moments, there’s too much to list.  I can’t just narrow it down.  Some of the ones that stick out the most to me are: 
In 1995, nationally ranked Illinois came in, with Simeon Rice and company, and lost to the Ducks, 34-31.  Till this day, that was one of the loudest games I’ve ever been to at Autzen, and that was before the expansion.  The beat down of Michigan State in 1998 (48-14) on a perfect day for a football game in September.  That game marked the debut of Duckvision.  ESPN’s College Football Gameday made their first ever visit to Autzen Stadium in 2000, in a game against #6 UCLA.  The Ducks won 29-10.  A week later, they beat the new number six team in the nation, bitter rival, Washington, 23-16.  As noted earlier, there was the win over #4 Michigan in September of 2003, also in 2003, the game in which the lights went out in the fourth quarter, delaying the game for 20 minutes, allowing Oregon to rest up.  They came out of the break, and rallied from a 17-7 deficit, to win 21-17.
The dramatic win over historic power Oklahoma in 2006, 34-33, and many, many more.

With the success of the Oregon football program, the stadium has undergone many upgrades.  No longer just a hole in the pit, the stadium is one of the nicer facilities in the country.  But the old school charm is still there.  The tradition of being loud gets passed down from generation of Duck to generation of Duck fan.  The demand for Oregon football has already brought about one expansion, and there are talks of further expanding it in the future, which would give it its original bowl shape.  Another expansion would also make one of the loudest stadiums in the country, even louder!  More fans also means more people creating that “Autzen magic.”  It will continue to be a place, where good teams come to die.

7 comments:

  1. Don't forget that Autzen Stadium has hosted more than football games. Back in the day when the football program was not as succesful and the Athletic Department needed money, big name rock bands played in Autzen. The Grateful Dead numerous times over several years, U-2, Santana, The Outlaws and even that hot ticket Eddie Money! (Remember "Two Tickets to Paradise") I remember as a student at UofO going to listen to Rock and Roll at Autzen. Football games later where louder!!

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  2. Absolutely. Maybe they should start looking into doing more of that again, with all the upgrades to the facility, it's nice enough you would think it could attract a lot of top notch acts. But those would've been some good shows I bet, especially U2. And of course I've heard of Eddie Money! Don't forget "take me home tonight!"

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  3. I saw The Grateful Dead In Autzen in '77 :-D My Senior Year.

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  4. Awesome article! I love it.

    I was trying to explain to my son that it never rains at Autzen. He said dad it's raining now. I said no its not. It never rain at Autzen stadium. He thinks I'm crazy. But now he believes it too!

    Hey send me a pic of your WTD shield

    If you can

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    1. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=212626722103342&set=a.101251006574248.2812.100000680480159&type=3&theater

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  5. Linda Freimark FisherApril 11, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    wish I'd lived in Eugene for this..

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