I had conflicting emotions this evening as I watched the Oregon football team defeat Oregon State 31-7 in what I've always thought of as the Civil War game, but now is the more politically correct Rivalry Game.
The traditional name sounds more fitting to me, because I'm so used to it.
But so does the longstanding tradition of the Pac-12 conference, which has been around in one form or another since 1915. That's 108 years of athletic history about to end, thanks to every school except Oregon State and Washington State departing for other conferences.
Since I moved to Oregon in 1971, I've enjoyed the annual football rivalry between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. I'm an avid fan of both teams. Now, though, the Oregonian reports that there's no firm commitment for those football teams to play each other in future years.
There is no scheduled game beyond Friday’s 127th in the Ducks-Beavers series, which began in 1894. The schools continue to talk about playing a game as soon as 2024, but nothing official has been announced heading into the weekend.
This feels sad and wrong. Also, unnecessary.
After USC and UCLA announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, it seemed like the Pac-12 could continue on with minimal disruption. However, the Pac-12 fell apart when a media rights deal with Apple was rejected by several schools who wanted more than the $30 million or so annual payment per school that the deal provided.
Now it turns out that $30 million is close to what Oregon and Washington are going to get in the early years of their move to the Big Ten conference, leaving me and many other frustrated people to wonder, was a somewhat imperfect media rights deal really a reason to kill the Pac-12 conference?
Regardless of the answer, the reality is that today's game was the last in the Oregon-OSU Pac-12 series, and nearly the last football game to be played in a Pac-12 regular season, aside from the upcoming conference championship game.
That's what made the game so filled with conflicting feelings for me.
I wanted Oregon to win, because their sole loss of the season was to Washington and a tantalizing rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 championship game next Friday in Las Vegas was in their future if they beat Oregon State. Which happened.
So I was happy that Oregon won in a convincing fashion. This keeps quarterback Bo Nix in the hunt to win a Hesiman Trophy, and it keeps alive Oregon's chance to play in the four-team national championship playoff if they beat Washington and become the Pac-12 champions.
All through the game, though, I found myself rooting for Oregon State to make a comeback. It just seemed fitting that OSU's last game with Oregon as a Pac-12 rival be as evenly fought as possible. Yeah, I realize that this conflicts with what I just said about being happy that Oregon won in a convincing fashion.
That's the way conflicting feelings work: they aren't logical, but emotional.
Oregon simply was the better team. No doubt about it. Oregon State will play in a bowl game, but otherwise the future of OSU football is uncertain. Will Coach Jonathan Smith stay or leave? Will the current Pac-2 be able to add more members to the conference? If not, where will Oregon State and Washington State end up?
I admired the fight shown by Oregon State, which was without some key players due to injuries. The running game, normally the strongest aspect of their offense, was held to only about 50 yards. So not only did Oregon State lose, this game didn't show them at their best.
That disappointed me.
Still, Oregon State had a good season. losing three games by just a total of eight points, with this 31-7 defeat the only blowout. Now I'm hoping Oregon defeats Washington next Friday. That will take some of the sting out of the Pac-12 conference's demise. Not all of it, though. That will hurt for quite a while.