Team Traditions: Oregon
Calling Autzen Stadium, the home of the University of Oregon Ducks, " The Zoo" is a bit of a misnomer, and a missed opportunity to boot.
"Autzen Aviary" would make more sense given the Ducks nickname, but that hard "Z" sound coupled with the cacophonous atmosphere makes this one of the craziest stadiums in the country.
The stadium is named for lumber magnate Thomas J. Autzen, an Oregon State grad (seriously) who was a key business figure in the Portland area in the early 1900s. Construction on the facility began eight years after his death in 1958, and the stadium opened the next year.
In contrast to some of the massive capacity stadiums in the Big Ten and SEC, Autzen is comparatively tiny at about 54,000 seats. The building opened in 1967, and it wasn't until Week Six that Oregon secured its inaugural home win, a 31–6 drubbing of Idaho. That was the Ducks' lone home win that season, which included a demoralizing loss to No. 8 Oregon State in the first Civil War matchup at the new stadium.
A lot has changed since that first season. The Ducks claim a huge home field advantage, with the team decked out in some of the craziest uniforms in all of organized sports. Last year's shocking home loss to Arizona was the first Oregon home defeat since 2012, and just the program's 16th home loss of the new millennium. That cements them as one of the toughest teams in all of college football at home, despite the fact that schools in their own division have stadiums that fit nearly twice as many fans.
And despite what you've heard about the weather in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon fans will loudly remind you that it never rains in Autzen Stadium. "Loud" is an understatement: Due to some quirks in the building and some truly devoted fans, game day at Autzen is one of the loudest places on earth. Various measurements have put the noise level at greater than 125 decibels, which is more than a pneumatic riveter but slightly below a jet taking off next to your ear.
If fans can barely hear themselves think, imagine what it's like for the players. Former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, who finished fifth in Heisman voting in 2007, still hears "DuckNation" ringing in his ears.
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"It's so surreal," he says. "You couldn't wait to come out of the tunnel to see all the green and yellow screaming 'Go Ducks!'"
Several years removed from his playing days, Dixon has returned to Autzen as a fan, and says he was happy to see the fanaticism has only increased. "I see why game day is so special in Eugene," he says, "and I love it. The fans, and how loyal they are—they make playing in that environment worthwhile."
The noise level can rattle even the most composed visiting team, like when the Ducks bested No. 7 Michigan State last season in Eugene. Dixon says his favorite Oregon tradition comes at the start of the fourth quarter, when the entire crowd joins together to sing The Isley Brothers' "Shout." The song was made iconic in "Animal House," which was filmed in Eugene and at Autzen Stadium. All of that is an excuse to show you this, which features Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in a toga.