Throwback Wednesday: The story of the Platypus Trophy, Oregon State/Oregon rivalry

The Oregon State offense lines up against the Oregon defense in their annual Civil War game. Photo from Orange Media Network archives.

Thomas Salgado De Almeida Leme, Sports Contributor

With sports now officially returning for the PAC-12, the Oregon State Beavers and Oregon Ducks will renew their rivalry soon, and the football game between the two teams will decide who gets to house the Platypus Trophy. 

With a duck beak and a beavertail, the platypus shared two defining characteristics from each school’s mascot, making it the perfect animal to base the trophy for the rivalry on. The trophy’s story, however, is far from perfect. 

The rivalry itself is long and historic. The Beavers’ and Ducks’ football teams have been facing off against each other since 1916. This has led to 103 meetings to date, the fifth most between two teams in the history of the sport. Oregon currently leads the series with 53 wins, compared to 44 for Oregon State. The remaining six games ended as ties. 

T-Mobile Ad about 5G coverage and value

In men’s basketball, the rivalry is even bigger. The teams have played each other 354 times since 1903. The most between any two teams in the country. The Beavers’ 189 wins over the Ducks to lead the rivalry are actually the third most by one opponent over another in all of college basketball. The rivalry extends beyond sports programs like football and men’s basketball as well, although the history between the school’s other programs does not date back as far as those two sports. 

The Platypus Trophy is currently presented to the winner of the annual college football matchup between the two schools, a sport filled with many historic and revered trophies. Just further north from Oregon, the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars play for the Apple Cup. Further south from Oregon, the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal play for The Axe. 

Those are just the trophies for the other bitter rivalries in the PAC-12 North division that Oregon and Oregon State play in. There are many more famous examples from around the country that fanbases hold great pride in winning for a year. Yet, the Platypus Trophy, which represents a rivalry over a century old, has only been exchanged after the end of the game in any way 15 times in the game’s history, impeding it from gaining as much prestige as the other well-known trophies in the sport. 

The trophy was first made by the then-Oregon student and sculptor Warren Spady before the game in 1959. Spady made the platypus figure from wood and was not even able to fully finish the piece before the first game, the feet being left unfinished to this day. The Beavers took the trophy in an upset win that year, thus robbing Spady of the opportunity to finish it and the Ducks of an opportunity to play for the Rose Bowl. 

The trophy was then allegedly stolen by Oregon students, who kept it even after the 1960 rendition of the football rivalry ended in a tie. Oregon State then won it back the following year. After that, the trophy went missing. 

To this day, there has been no word on exactly what happened to it. All that is known is that the Ducks water polo team had it for a time, as they are engraved on it for the years of 1964 through 1968. After that, it is reported that Spady spotted it on the Oregon campus in 1986, but neither school seemed to be interested in reviving it as an award. 

The trophy’s story then resurfaces in 2004, where an article was written in the Oregonian by John Canzano about how the Ducks and Beavers should have a trophy like other big college football rivalries. Spady then informed Canzano that the teams did have a trophy, it just was not used anymore. A search was then started for the Platypus trophy, and it was found once more in the Oregon campus just in time for the 2007 edition of the game, which Oregon State won. 

Since then, the trophy has been used over the next 13 meetings of the game. However, it is only exchanged by the Alumni Associations of each school, not the Athletic Departments themselves. 

The Oregon-Oregon State rivalry is currently in need of a new name after the two universities decided to drop its previous title. However, with less than a month until sports return and the two teams play each other again, there has been no news about a new name for the game. But while the game itself does not have a title as of now, the Platypus Trophy remains as a representation of a historic rivalry. 

The Beavers will be hoping to win back that Platypus Trophy for only the third time after its reappearance when they play the Ducks during Thanksgiving weekend on Friday, Nov. 27th.