The Oregon Duck (also known as the Fighting Duck, Donald Duck, or simply The Duck) is the mascot of the University of Oregon Ducks athletic program, based on Disney's Donald Duck character through a special license agreement. The mascot wears a green and yellow costume, and a green and yellow beanie cap with the word "Oregon" on it.
Oregon teams were originally known as Webfoots, possibly as early as the 1890s. The Webfoots name originally applied to a group of fishermen from the coast of Massachusetts who had been heroes during the American Revolutionary War. When their descendants settled in Oregon's Willamette Valley in the 19th century, the name stayed with them. A naming contest in 1926 won by Oregonian sports editor L. H. Gregory made the Webfoots name official, and a subsequent student vote in 1932 affirmed the nickname, chosen over other suggested nicknames such as Pioneers, Trappers, Lumberjacks, Wolves, and Yellow Jackets.
Ducks, with their webbed feet, began to be associated with the team in the 1920s. Journalists, especially headline writers, also adopted the shorter Duck nickname. Beginning in 1940, cartoon drawings of the mascot in a student publications began to resemble Donald Duck, and by 1947, Walt Disney was aware of the publication. In 1978, a student cartoonist came up with a new duck image called Mallard Drake, but students chose Donald as the official mascot by a 2–to–1 margin.
Relationship with Disney
Capitalizing on his friendship with a Disney cartoonist, Oregon athletic director Leo Harris met Disney and reached an informal handshake agreement that granted the University of Oregon permission to use Donald as its sports mascot.
When Disney lawyers later questioned the agreement in the 1970s, the University produced a photo showing Harris and Disney wearing matching jackets with an Oregon Donald logo. Relying on the photo as evidence of Disney's wishes, in 1973, both parties signed a formal agreement granting the university the right to use Donald's likeness as a symbol for (and restricted to) Oregon sports. The agreement gave Disney control over where the mascot could perform and ensured that the performer inside the costume would "properly represent the Donald Duck character."
In 2010, Disney and the University reached an agreement that removed the costumed Oregon Duck mascot from its association with the Donald trademark and allows The Duck to make more public appearances, such as at college mascot competitions. The mascot in graphic art, which is more similar to Donald Duck than the rounder head and body of the costume, is still covered by the trademark agreement.