BY JEREMY HOECK
EUGENE, Ore. – With still nearly 48 hours before the University of South Dakota football team takes the field against the vaunted Oregon Ducks, I’ve had some time to play tourist in Eugene.
My impression after spending one full day in “Track Town USA”? This place loves their Ducks.
Literally everywhere you go in this town (particularly in the area where I’ve explored) there is some reference to the Oregon ‘O’ or the Ducks or something with a yellow/green flavor. Keep in mind, Eugene is a little smaller than Sioux Falls, but this city is a Division I haven.
From the basketball arena (which is directly across the street from our hotel) to the new buildings on campus and even through parts of the city I’ve seen, Eugene supports its Ducks with incredible fervor.
My wife and I made the trip – actually more of a ‘working vacation’ – to Eugene for two key reasons: Saturday night’s football game between USD and Oregon, of course, but also to take care of her storage unit from her graduate school days in Eugene.
We got here early enough to clean out her storage space (surprisingly only took two hours) and then have some free time to explore Eugene. Most of Thursday afternoon we spent walking around the U of Oregon campus, where we walked through the massive library, saw the famed Hayward Field and even got invited to a brief bible study with some students.
This is no exaggeration: You can’t walk 50 feet without seeing some reference to the Ducks: Whether it’s messages written on the sidewalks, to signs posted on bulletin boards, to campus buildings, to the vehicles plastered with the ‘O’ or students wearing Ducks shirts, this is Ducks country.
It’s not something we see much of in our area, unless you routinely attend Husker games in Lincoln, Nebraska. We don’t have anything else to this scale in our immediate area.
Looking around Eugene, this to me, is exactly how a community should embrace its athletic teams. I’m not talking to the level of a Pac-12 school like Oregon, or even what I saw last year at Kansas, but something to where the support is obvious – where it’s in your face. This is something Vermillion has been working on, I can tell you that.
For now, though, it’s already been an amazing experience to see high-level support up close.