By John Walters
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During a recent 23-game winning streak the Ducks averaged 106% capacity at Autzen Stadium.
Now wa-a-a-a-ait a minute...Food fights, toga parties, double-secret probation, Shout! and, yes, even the road trip itself. What would college be without Animal House? And what would Animal House have been without the town of Eugene and the University of Oregon? In 1977 the school's president, William B. Boyd, graciously -- and perhaps naively -- permitted the X-ploits of The Delta House to be filmed on campus. No Dean Wormer, he.
The truth is that Eugene has always welcomed iconoclasts, whether your GPA is 0.00 or your mile time is sub-4:00. This wooded, emerald haven on the banks of the Willamette River is also Track Town, U.S.A. It was here that Steve (Pre) Prefontaine -- who at the time of his untimely death in a car crash in 1975 held every American running record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters -- burnished his legend.
"I like to make something beautiful when I run," said Pre, who died just a mile east of the Hayward Field track that was his stage. "I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.'"
People did say that, and around here, they still do. "There was no one like Pre," says Pete Peterson, who has cut hair at Red Rooster Barber Shop, just across East 13th Street from the campus bookstore, since 1970. Peterson not only cut Pre's hair, but he also may have shaved a second off those record times. "I cut Pre's hair so that he didn't waste time flipping it out of his eyes," Peterson says. "I was as cocky a barber as he was a runner."
That kind of gumption has always been a way of life in Eugene. The U of O alumni register is peppered with iconoclasts -- such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey, whose mind-bending acid test involved Kool-Aid but no studying, and Nike-onoclasts. (Phil Knight began his swoosh to fortune by selling footwear out of the back of a van here.)
A little bit louder now...Last year Sports Illustrated named Autzen Stadium the most underrated in college football. SI noted that during a recent 23-game home-win streak the Ducks averaged 106% capacity. And parking is never a problem -- if you bike. For a dollar the Duck Pen will safely corral your two-wheeler during the game. Across the Willamette is McArthur Court, an edifice reminiscent of Boston Garden that was built in 1926. The floor regularly vibrates -- games have been stopped due to movement of the rims -- with the bouncing of the Pit Crew, the student cheering section.
A little bit softer now...Between Autzen Stadium and McArthur Court lies Pre's Trail, a six-mile wood-chip running path that hugs the Willamette. The course offers a peaceful contrast to the daffy Duck fans at Autzen. The difference is like, well, Otis Day and Knight.
5 Things Every Visitor Needs to Know
1. The ducks have a fancy nest. The football team's new locker room features three 60" plasma TVs -- two with Xboxes -- and each locker has its own ventilation system. The digs cost $3.2 million -- $700,000 more than Autzen Stadium did when it was built in 1967.
2. The camping is free. Remember Matt Foley, Chris Farley's motivational speaker who lived "in a van, down by the river"? He would have liked Eugene, where Foley wannabes abound on the banks of the Willamette. The cops don't seem to care.
3. That's not Jerry Garcia. That's "Frog" (a.k.a. David Miller, below, right), who peddles his homemade joke books outside the university bookstore for $3 per signed copy.
4. The Pacific Northwest ain't all like Seattle. Rain? What Rain? Yes, it'll drizzle in the Eu-gizzle dizzle, but it rains less here (46.6" annually) than in Miami or New York.
5. They paved paradise. And put in a parking lot and office plaza. The famed Delta House (755 East 11th Ave.) is no more.
The 48-Hour Guide to Eugene
8:56 P.M. Rennie's Landing From food to booze to billiards, they've got just about everything -- and it's just a short waddle from the heart of campus.
8:51 A.M. GJ's Family Restaurant "We don't count eggs," says coproprietor Gary Sweet. Entire henhouses go into an omelette ($6.95).
12:30 P.M. Oregon vs. Michigan The Wolverines will be the most anticipated non-Pac 10 opponent since Notre Dame visited in 1982 and left with a 13-13 tie.
4:27 P.M. Pre's Trail Get your jog on. Take a run along this 10K riverside path, then cross the Willamette via one of the town's four footbridges and visit Pre's Rock.
9:01 P.M. Tracktown Pizza Carbo-load at the pizzeria whose walls are festooned with photos of the many world-class athletes who have either run or lived in Eugene.
9:19 A.M. The Glenwood The best eats in town. The chile verde brunch burrito ($4.95) is worth getting out of bed early for.
Best lodging: Phoenix Inn Suites, just west of campus.
Best music: Max's Tavern, a cozy place with an eclectic mix.
Best weekends: Oct. 25 vs. Stanford; Nov. 22 vs. Oregon State
Distance from: Corvallis, Ore.: 47 miles; Los Angeles: 859; Seattle: 283
Next Week's Road Trip: Knoxville, Tenn.
Issue date: September 23, 2003
Sports Illustrated On Campus,
a new magazine covering college sports and collegiate lifestyles, is available as an insert in 72 major college newspapers across the country every Thursday throughout the school year. Click any of the links below to see selected content from the latest issue:
• Cover story: Big Men on Campus
• Scorecard: We Got Questions
• Road Trip: Eugene, Oregon
• The Final: For Your Viewing Pleasure
• Previous week's issue: Sept. 16, 2003
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