1956 - 62 Ducks "Mel Renfro"
(Authentic Reproduction)



QB Tom Crabtree led the attack that focused on the rushing of HB Jim Shanley who totaled over 1200 yards in his first two varsity seasons. The 4-4-2 record was held back by a sluggish offense that had opened the season with an impressive upset win over Colorado that included 444 total yards of Ducks’ offense but there were six games that saw the UO score a TD or less.Thus the offensive potential seemed to be there for more but the entire season was sabotaged by mistakes and twenty-one critical fumbles. Captain Phil McHugh played well as a two-way end and guard Harry Mondale was considered the Ducks' best lineman. The highlight was a 6-0 win over Jon Arnett and the USC Trojans. Coach Casanova continued to use the Riddell helmet but the RK model began to be phased in to replace the RT’s that had been used in previous seasons. He also added three-inch kelly green identifying numerals to both sides of the Green Bay gold helmet with one-inch kelly green center stripe to the delight of the Ducks’ fans. 1957 brought "the more" that fans and supporters were waiting for, in part due to the political and legal turmoil within the conference. Ronnie Knox was a fine high school player, a top passer sought by every school on the West Coast. His father Harvey had shifted him from a number of high schools, reputedly to best prepare him for college football. Ronnie enrolled at Cal and had a fine frosh season but when moved up to the varsity, it was his father’s opinion that he should have been handed the starting job and been afforded more of the “star treatment.” He removed his son from Berkeley and had him jump to UCLA. In '55 Knox was struggling at UCLA, in part due to his father's constant interference but he settled down to become a respected member of the team. Seeking as much of the spotlight as possible and using his son’s athletic ability to be a media darling, Harvey turned up in the news as "a friend of Howard Hughes", a well-known entrepreneur, and he then served as a "reporter" for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, covering the Rose Bowl of the '55 season. His greatest mark however came in an interview where he stated that his son had received illegal payments from Cal. The investigation was off and running, resulting in severe sanctions. Washington was heavily penalized as was Cal and eventually USC but UCLA was decimated with every member of the '55 team losing a year of eligibility, including Knox. When it was all said and done and sanctions were handed down, the Pacific Coast Conference was dead but would not be officially buried until the start of play in 1959. However, as Oregon State was the PCC representative in the Rose Bowl in 1956, the bowl related sanctions against the big three of the conference in '57 in conjunction with the "no-repeat" in the Rose Bowl rule almost guaranteed that the fifth or sixth best team would be the bowl designee. Oregon at 7-3 reaped the benefits but in fairness, they did have some fine players and their three defeats were determined by a total of only thirteen points. Jack Crabtree, no relation to Tom who played QB the previous season, teamed with HB Jim Shanley who rushed for 693 yards, became the Ducks career rush leader, and later went on to the Packers and FB Jack Morris who peaked with a 212-yard rushing day against USC to provide backfield potency. Morris was with the Rams and expansion Vikings as a DB. Tackle Harry Mondale provided the muscle up front. The defense was the key, with four of the seven victories coming on field goals and two determined by extra points. Losing to rival Oregon State in the finale and giving the hated Beavers an 8-2 record threw the league race into a situation where the no-repeat rule kicked in and  provided a bleak backdrop to the Rose Bowl with the Ducks as the PCC representative. Against number-one rated Ohio State, a Los Angeles newspaper headline summed things up well; "Biggest Mismatch In Rose Bowl History". With QB Crabtree the MVP, the Ducks almost had the upset, falling 10-7 in a gallant effort that added needed luster to the PCC and West Coast Football. The overall 7-4 record and defense that gave up eighty-one points in ten games put Oregon on the national map. Additional good news came as Coach Cas turned down an offer from Stanford to remain with the Ducks.      


With many of his players now opting for a white plastic two-bar model Adams face mask,  1958 marked the final season of the PCC and Oregon fell to 4-6 with an offense that was held scoreless in four games and could only muster a field goal in one other. Fumbles, interceptions, and penalties were the order of the day for the sputtering attack. Speedy two-way back Willie West was the only reliable weapon with Dave Grosz the QB. Again the defense was terrific, pitching four shutouts of its own and allowing but fifty points for the year, twenty-three of them in one game to Cal, and ranking second only to Oklahoma in scoring defense. Coincidental to their defensive finish behind Oklahoma, they lost to the Sooners at Norman by a close 6-0 score. Assistant Jack Roche was the architect of an early version of a Wide Tackle Six that slanted and shifted constantly to make up for a lack of physical talent, the very defense that would take the Frank Broyles’ Arkansas team to the National Championship in 1964. John Robinson would graduate and later become the very successful head coach at USC, winning the 1978 National Championship and have additional coaching tenures with the Los Angeles Rams and at UNLV. In 1959 the PCC was completely disbanded, and in its place came the unwieldy sounding Athletic Association Of Western Universities and neither Oregon nor Oregon State was a member. The feuding that occurred because of the NCAA investigations and sanctions of the mid-1950’s left bitter feelings and the result was political maneuvering that left "The Big Four" of West Coast football, USC, UCLA, Cal, and Washington as the core members of the new conference alignment. Stanford managed to talk their way into the conference four months after its inception, relegating the Ducks, Oregon State, and Washington State to the status of "Western Independents". The Ducks were however eligible for Rose Bowl selection and their seven-of-eight victories made it appear as if they would make it but they stumbled in the stretch, dropping the finale 15-7 to their dreaded Oregon State rivals. Despite the loss of assistant coach John McKay prior to the season after his departure to USC for an assistant’s position, the offense remained high-powered, rolling up a school record 498 yards against Idaho. QB Grosz was fifteenth nationally in total offense before playing a few seasons in the CFL, and HB Willie West the shining light on both sides of the ball. West had a nine-year career, first as a DB with the Cardinals and then with the Bills, Broncos, Jets, and Dolphins. HB Dave Grayson, a transfer from San Diego City College was another obvious talent. 8-2 kept Oregon near the top of the West Coast power structure.


With the West Coast Independents left out of the Rose Bowl picture, there was clamoring among those from Oregon, Oregon State, Montana, and Idaho, all former PCC members, to form another conference. Arguably, the two Oregon schools were benefiting from their recent status with better records and more national recognition. Because they were not tied to the conference restraints of years' past, the Ducks were rewarded for their 7-2-1 1960 finish with a trip to the Liberty Bowl where they were blind-sided by horrible weather and a Penn State team that beat them 41-12. JC transfer Cleveland "Pussyfoot" Jones teamed with hard-charging Grayson to provide plenty of punch from the backfield. Grayson went on to a fine pro career, spending 1961-'64 with the Texans/Chiefs before becoming an integral part of the defensive backfield for the storied Raider teams. A member of the All Time AFL team, Grayson was a five-time All AFL selection, had the longest interception return with ninety-nine yards against the Titans, and is the All-Time AFL interception leader. Soph Bruce Snyder packed a punch at both FB and LB, spelled by Duane Cargill. Young Steve Barnett was one of the largest tackles in the Northwest and played just as big as an All Pacific Coast pick and smaller Mike Rose was as effective at guard. All the hoopla surrounding the Liberty Bowl team was a bit overshadowed by the unbridled optimism of the undefeated freshman team that was loaded with talent. The 1961 season opened against Idaho and as they had done against the Vandals in ’59, the Webfoot offense rolled to a new school record. With 544 yards of total offense, fans believed they had another juggernaut. Unfortunately, with projected soph starter Bob Berry dropping out of school unexpectedly and super-soph track decathalete and leading rusher HB Mel Renfro often injured, the team was disappointing at 4-6. FB Snyder needed knee surgery and missed the season but Cargill filled in strongly. HB Mike Gaechter took over for Renfro, saved the 7-6 victory over rival Washington with a spectacular open field tackle by the goal line, and with his own great track speed, earned his way to the Dallas Cowboys. He excelled at DB from '62 through 1969, playing in the same secondary with former Webfoot teammate Renfro for part of that time. The line was led by tackles Barnett, named All Conference and Second Team All American, and Ron Snidow, both 250-pounders with mobility. The pass defense was highly ranked but the injuries and unsettled quarterback situation hurt the offensive performance. With no change in the politics of alignment, Oregon was still stuck in Independent-status limbo. 1962’s 6-3-1 mark was a result of great line play by All American Barnett who would remain the UO’s only Academic All American until QB Joey Harrington earned the honors approximately forty years later. Due to injury Barnett played only two NFL seasons with the Bears and Redskins. All Pacific Coast tackle Ron Snidow whose NFL career was a longer-lasting ten seasons with the Redskins and Browns as a DE and DT was the other stalwart up front teaming with guard and LB Bill Swain whose pro career spanned seven seasons and five teams. The attack centered around a healthy Renfro who was ranked nationally in both scoring and rushing with a Duck record of 753 yards. He was a top kick return man, pulled in sixteen passes for 298 yards, threw five completions, played superlative defense, and was a popular All American choice. Fullbacks Snyder and Cargill completed their eligibility with distinction, Snyder going on to a fine coaching career which included head posts at Utah State, Cal, and Arizona State where he was The National Coach Of The Year while Cargill became one of the most successful engineering project developers in the Hawaiian Islands. Berry was back in school and had a solid year at QB, throwing for 995 yards. While the offense set a school record of 3530 total yards, the defense was more than adequate, holding half of its scheduled opponents to a TD or less. The big gun was former Boise Junior College All American transfer Dave Wilcox who was a terror at defensive end and played extremely well when he doubled as an offensive guard. Only a last minute TD pass and subsequent two-point conversion engineered by Heisman Trophy winning QB Terry Baker of Oregon State that caused a loss in the season’s final game, cost Oregon a bowl bid.



Houston, Texas native Mel Renfro moved to Portland, Oregon to attend Jefferson High School and he was an athletic powerhouse. With the strength, speed, and skill to be a decathelete, he was a track and football star who immediately stood out on an undefeated Oregon Ducks frosh team.  At 5'11" and 190-pounds of muscle, he was somewhat limited by injury as a sophomore but unstoppable afterwards. Averaging over 5.5 yards per carry for his career and during each of his three varsity seasons, Renfro was honored as an All Pacific Coast halfback for three years and a consensus All American as a senior, a threat on offense, defense, or when returning kickoffs and punts. Long time Oregon Head Coach Len Casanova described the talented back as the best player he had ever coached. He led the Ducks in rushing and scoring in each of his varsity seasons, finishing with what was at the time a school record 1532 yards and 141 points scored. He was one of the best on the track also, earning All American status as a sprinter and hurdler. The Oregon 4 x 440 relay team set the world record with Renfro as a featured sprinter. With the Dallas Cowboys, Renfro enjoyed a sterling career from 1964 through 1977, playing safety and cornerback, being named to ten consecutive Pro Bowls beginning in his rookie season, and noted as an All Pro five times. His fifty-two interceptions remains a team record. He also played in four Super Bowls and is still the Cowboys’ all-time kick return leader with an average of 26.4.  Renfro's achievements have brought him the honor of election to both the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame.     


By 1964 negotiations were finally completed to restore conference alignment so that the football-playing powers were once again "under one roof", as The Athletic Association Of Western Universities. This seemed to suit the Ducks nicely as they ripped off six straight victories and finished with a record of 7-2-1 with the two point loss to Stanford and one point defeat by rival Oregon State leaving them but three points from an udefeated season. First-team All American QB Berry showed "do-it-all" ability, finishing his collegiate career with 4297 passing yards, 4543 in total offense, and thirty-nine TD throws. He showed his competitive spirit against Indiana as he threw for a UO record 273 yards despite being ejected in the fourth quarter. “Indiana had been doing a job on my knees in the pileups, and I just kicked back. The guy who retaliates always gets caught.” Berry graduated to a successful pro career, spending two years with the Vikings, five with the Falcons where he was named All Pro in ‘69, and then he returned to the Vikings for another three seasons where he was a back-up on the teams that went to three consecutive Super Bowls. End Ray Palm blossomed and the protection was provided by All PAC linemen center Tobey and Mark Richards with help from guard Matson. The defense forced thirty-five fumbles and came up with twenty-one INT's.

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