Canzano: Digging up a Civil War debate
Got time for a story?
ALBANY — The grave marker in plot “11w” of Riverside Cemetery looks like a lot of the others in the old city burial ground.
Its granite base measures two feet in length by one foot in width. A modest second-tier stone with a slanted face sits on top. Six letters etched into the granite announce the last name of the husband and wife buried six feet under — “EAGLES.”
Got time for a story today?
The grave has one to tell and I’m convinced we need to hear it. Because the 127th meeting of Oregon State and Oregon will take place on Friday. And it’s happening at a time in which the future of the Civil War rivalry is murky.
Just like it was in 1911.
Amy and William “Billy” Eagles are buried in that plot. Amy was born in Ireland. Billy grew up in San Francisco, and later, Baker City. They met in Portland and were married, both just 19 years old, in a ceremony in the late 1800s.
They had football in common.
Billy loved the game. He worked at a downtown-Albany cigar shop. The store was owned by a man named Julius Joseph, who manufactured and sold his own cigars. After Joseph died, Eagles bought the operation and ran the store on West First Ave. for years.
Amy’s brother, Sam Dolan, played football at Notre Dame. After graduation in 1909, he came back to the Pacific Northwest and found Oregon State didn’t have a head coach.
People fall in love, get married, raise children, age, and die. That’s how we summarize a good life in one concise sentence. But it’s more accurate to say that a person’s life is made up of a series of often unremarkable, nondescript events that amount to so much more.
It’s like Ernest Hemingway wrote: “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
The 1910 football season provided a pivot point in the lives of Amy and Billy Eagles. Also, for that ex-Irish football player, Sam Dolan. Because the Civil War game in Corvallis turned ugly that season.
Oregon won the game 12-0.
News accounts included reports of spectators pelting opposing fans with ears of corn and insults. One newspaper described it as: “rowdy hat-grabbing behavior.” The aftermath of the game was apparently even worse. A verbal argument between opposing fans escalated into a riot as Ducks fans returned to the train station for the trip back to Eugene.
It was “hooliganism” reporters were told. UO’s public relations department embellished those reports, OSU later claimed. Students in Corvallis were so ticked off by what they viewed as a back-stabbing propaganda campaign that they voted unanimously to sever ties with the University of Oregon. Not just for football — but for all sports and every student activity.
The Ducks and Beavers were done with each other.
Billy Eagles didn’t see it that way. Neither did his wife, Amy. And Dolan, fresh off his collegiate playing career in South Bend, was hired as the head coach at OSU for the 1911 season. He had a team, and players, and games against Washington and Washington State, but what Dolan didn’t have was a game with an in-state rival.
The Eagles family aimed to do something about that.
Billy negotiated a truce between the schools in front of the 1912 season. He hatched the idea to play the game on Nov. 23 that season at a neutral site — Albany. Carpenters scrambled and built a grandstand at what became known as Hudson Field.
Police officers ushered students and fans from both sides into the stadium. Nobody was allowed to congregate in downtown Albany before or after the game. The Ducks won 3-0 in front of 7,000 fans. And there were no altercations.
The rivalry was back on.
The series would get interrupted by World War II (1943 and 1944). But I’ve often thought about the role that Billy and Amy Eagles played in bringing those two football programs back together. It’s a gift, that series. One that now threatens to tear apart at the seams.
Oregon is leaving for the Big Ten next season. Oregon State will play as the “Pac-2” alongside Washington State. There are bad feelings. The Beavers and Ducks will play on Friday at Autzen Stadium in a game that promises to be filled with emotion, but there are no future scheduled games.
The series again needs to find a path to continue.
Who is the “Billy Eagles” in 2023? Who is “Amy Eagles”? Is there a “Sam Dolan” around? I can't decide if it’s the athletic directors at the schools, the university presidents, or you and me. Or maybe it’s the college football schedule makers and the folks at Boise State and some other places.
Oregon’s non-conference schedule in the next two seasons is booked. That’s problematic. But I’ve previously reported that the Ducks are in ongoing conversations with Boise State about opening the Sept. 14 date on next season’s schedule. UO is scheduled to host the Broncos that Saturday and then travel to Boise for a non-conference game in 2025.
“The Civil War is still on the table,” an involved source told me.
The sides have talked at least twice this week, I’m told. It may require additional shifts in the schedule. And the negotiations are complicated by the fact that the Big Ten plays a nine-game conference schedule, meaning the Ducks will play a non-conference road game only once every other season.
“Both Oregon State and Oregon want the Beavers to be that game,” the source said.
It makes the scheduled road game in Boise (2025) a difficult date for Oregon. A home date vs. a Big Ten opponent is a huge draw for the Broncos. There has been discussion about Texas Tech (on the schedule in 2024 at Oregon) possibly playing at Boise State.
Another idea floated between the parties was to have Washington State make the trip to Idaho in place of the Ducks in 2025. But given that the Cougars are likely to play Boise State anyway in 2024 or 2025, that suggestion was met with lukewarm enthusiasm.
What I’m saying is, this conversation is fluid.
Oregon may need to write a six-figure check and buy its way out of the return game in 2025. Or Boise State may have to take a promise of a home game from Oregon at some future date. Or it may be that the rivalry really is in jeopardy of another interruption. That’s where things stand.
Call me a “Civil War monger” but this game needs to live on. Not because it guarantees Oregon a regional non-conference game every season. Or because it means OSU will play at least one non-conference game vs. a “Power 4” opponent at Reser Stadium every other season. Or because the Beavers will control the media rights revenue for those home games.
Rather, it should continue because the rivalry is part of the fabric of the state.
We should never want to bury that.
I appreciate all who read, support, subscribe and share this new, independent, endeavor with friends. If you’re not already a “paid” subscriber, please consider a subscription so you don’t miss a thing:
If you’d like to give a gift subscription to a friend or family member: