Let’s clear up any confusion: The city of Oregon will not be rooting for the University of Oregon Ducks when they play Ohio State on Jan. 12 in the College Football Playoff championship game.
A petition published Friday by two Oregon natives calls for the city to change its name temporarily in support of the Buckeyes in the title game. Started by Matt Squibb and Mark Rabbitt, the petition had garnered nearly 400 signatures as of late Friday, many with accompanying messages of “Go Bucks!” and “O-H-I-O!”
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The men, who both teach at Whitmer High School, are sports fans, though neither normally cheers for the Buckeyes. Mr. Squibb, who lives in Sylvania, is a soccer fan and follows Manchester United. His dad, Dick Squibb, is his family’s Ohio State fan.
Mr. Rabbitt is — gasp! — a Michigan fan.
The petition also calls for Clay High School, the alma mater of both Mr. Squibb and Mr. Rabbitt, to temporarily change its colors from the green and yellow it shares with That School Out West. The idea began while the pair discussed who they would like to see in the title game.
When Ohio State beat Alabama on Thursday night and qualified to play Oregon, they recognized the dissonance between the name of their hometown and the football fandom surrounding it.
“I don’t want people to be confused [about] who we’re rooting for that day,” said Mr. Squibb, who calls himself a “fan of football of all kinds.”
City officials are well aware of the online attention. After the petition hit the Web, the city received several calls on Friday.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” said Mayor Mike Seferian. “We’ve got some very dedicated sports fans.”
Mr. Seferian said the city is working on a proclamation and will issue it soon. He wouldn’t go so far as to say the name will definitely be changed, as to not draw potential ire from equally passionate Michigan or Notre Dame fans, but said the city will officially declare itself distinct from Ohio State’s opponent.
Mr. Seferian and City Administrator Mike Beazley were quick to point out that their community has had its name since before Oregon’s 1859 statehood.
Oregon Township, Ohio, was established in 1838, Mr. Seferian said, and was named by Pierce Irving, nephew of American author and diplomat Washington Irving, whose works included Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The Oregon name was meant to tie the township to the Oregon Territory and the fur-trading industry, the mayor said. The elder Irving’s book, Astoria, chronicled the life of fur-trading magnate John Jacob Astor, who owned the land where the city of Oregon now stands. The book covers Astor’s trade out West in the Oregon Territory.
Pierce Irving succeeded in linking two areas in name, and the University of Oregon held its first classes in 1876. The Oregon Territory also originally included what is now Washington state.
Oregon, Ohio, incorporated as a city in 1957.
Despite his lifelong allegiance to Michigan, Mr. Rabbitt said success for Ohio State is good for the Big Ten Conference because it makes it more competitive.
“Any success at Ohio State not only helps Michigan but anyone else who plays them,” he said. On Jan. 12, he plans to root for the Buckeyes.
Mr. Rabbitt said he would welcome anything from the city. Ribbon cutting? Sure. Fireworks? Even better.
Mr. Squibb said he doesn’t have a particular replacement name in mind. In the petition, Buckeye Town, Ohio City, and Brutusville are all mentioned as possible options.
“Call it ‘East East Toledo,’ ” he said. “Call it anything but ‘Oregon.’ ”