In varsity sports, it’s called the Civil War. When Oregon and Oregon State come together, more than bragging rights are on the line. Ask Oregon State coach Mark Webber, and the same goes for rugby.
“I'm old school...It’s for the right to live in the state, basically,” he said. “It’s not as big as the Civil War in football, but it’s just as big to the kids, at least I try to envoke that in them.”
Oregon State has traditionally had the upper hand in the rivalry, but the last three years, playing twice a year, the series has been split down the middle. Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., at 9am before the gridiron Civil War, is the rubber match. And with the rugby pitch being conveniently close to the Beavers’ football stadium, its sure to draw a little more attention than the average tilt.
“We’re about two blocks away from the football stadium,“ said Webber. “The parking to go to the football game is right adjacent to our field, and of course a lot of people are walking by our field, so we get a pretty good crowd.”
Rugby Oregon, the state’s youth organization, has been in a boom over the last several years, and Webber credits more high school programs and better high school coaching with the rival Ducks closing the gap.
“Rugby’s gotten a lot better the last few years with the high school kids coming up,” he said. “It’s changed a lot in the last few years, and it’s a lot more competitive than it was for a long time.”
To add fuel to the roaring rivalry fire, a former Beaver player and coach, Duffin McShane, is now an assistant at Oregon. McShane played for Webber in the ’90s and joined his coaching staff more recently. It didn’t work out, and things ended somewhat ugly between McShane and Webber, but the OSU coach is still wishing his former pupil the best.
“He’s got a tremendous upside, he’s a very good coach, he’s a very knowledgeable coach, and I hope he does well down there,” said Webber of McShane. “I’m sure he’s really fired up to beat us. They’re going to be a good program. I’m really excited for them, because the better they get, the better we’ve got to get.”
The head coach for Oregon is Brendan Hobbs, a rather recent Duck player, and since taking over, Hobbs has instilled a new attitude in his club. You can rest assured Hobbs isn’t interested in losing to his cross-state rival, either.