Could the University be planning to replace its beloved mascot, Oregon Duck, aka Donald Duck?

According to University personnel, that idea is just plain goofy.

Yes, the University has a new, futuristic-looking mascot that parallels the Oregon uniforms and logo. Yes, athletically speaking, the new duck can do things Donald can only dream about. And yes, the new duck was designed by Nike, the largest sports apparel producer in the country and a substantial donor to the University.

But rest assured, Donald is here to stay.

“As far as the mascot itself goes, I don’t think we’ve ever looked at replacing Donald,” Merchandising Director Matt Dyste said. “I don’t think anyone would want to change that.”

In fact, the University and The Walt Disney Company, which owns the rights to the Donald Duck character, are close to reaching a long-term contractual agreement that is much to the University’s liking, Dyste said.

The contract should be finalized within the next couple weeks and, with its completion, the University will be able to market the Donald character across the nation. Currently, Donald items can only be sold in Portland and Eugene.

“We went back to them and said, ‘Well, we’ve got a broader audience and we’d like a broader area to sell in,'” Dyste said.

Office of Trademark Management
Sporting Oregon jackets, circa 1948, (from left to right) Ed Crowley, Phil Harris, Leo Harris and Walt Disney befriend “Puddles” the duck.

In the meantime, the University has continued efforts to expand its fan base. The new duck, which was designed as part of the University’s apparel contract with Nike, was created to appeal to and excite a younger generation.

“It’s not a statement we’re trying to make,” said Jim Bartko, assistant athletic director for community and corporate relations. “It’s just a way to create a buzz around the games.”

As the story goes, the idea behind the new mascot, which Bartko and other athletics officials call “Mandrake,” spawned from a spring basketball game. When Oregon was in Sacramento, Calif., playing Montana in the NCAA Tournament, athletic officials noticed advantages of having an agile mascot.

“Mandrake” will make his final appearance of the football season Saturday, when Oregon plays host to the Huskies. After that, Bartko said the new duck — which students will likely have the opportunity to name — will show up during key basketball home games.

But it’s quite possible, and probably likely, that “Mandrake” will be seen on a larger scale.

With the Donald character, the University splits its royalties with Disney. The new duck, however, is owned by the University, meaning that all “Mandrake” royalties will go directly into the University’s pocket.

“We didn’t go in saying we could sell more items,” Bartko said. “But if it helps out, sure.”

Photo by Mark McCambridge Emerald

The University’s relationship with Disney hasn’t always been so good. One day in the early 1970s, former archivist Keith Richard received a call from the Athletic Department: The Walt Disney Company wanted to see the contract that gave the University permission to use Donald’s likeness. As it turned out, no such contract existed. A black-and-white photo of Walt Disney, adorned in an Oregon jacket, stood as the University’s only proof. From that point on, the University and Disney created a written agreement with certain stipulations.

But despite the Disney contract and denials from the administration, some people associated with the University aren’t so sure the appearance of “Mandrake” is benign.

Part 2 (click to view).