Monday, January 18, 2010

Goodbye Mac Court ! Thanks for the Memories

This is the last full season of Oregon Duck basketball to be played in "Mac Court." Next year when the University of Oregon starts their Pac -10 Conference games it will be in the new 200 million dollar Mathew Knight arena nicknamed "Matt Court." The new arena is named after Nike boss Phil Knight's deceased son. The Ducks need a new arena and I am looking forward to the move but not without a nod to the the old area where I have so many memories.

But first a little history from Wikipedia:

McArthur Court is a basketball arena located on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene. Also known as "The Pit" or "Mac Court," it is known as one of the toughest arenas in the country for opposing players to play in. The arena is named for Clifton N. (Pat) McArthur, a student-athlete and the university's first student body president.[1]

Its unique and antiquated structure has the fans on top of the court. The maple floor bounces under the weight of the student section that surrounds the court.[2] In 2001 Sporting News named it "best gym in America".[3] For its history, character, and atmosphere, sports writer and arena researcher Bill Kintner named McArthur Court in his top five of college basketball arenas in America. He notes that McArthur Court "is a building that will give you chills even if there is no game being played."[4]

The arena was funded by a $15 fee imposed by the Associated Students of the University of Oregon and the mortgage papers were burned as part of a public ceremony after the building was completely paid for.[5]

Interior of McArthur CourtThe second-oldest on-campus arena still in use (after Fordham University's Rose Hill Gym), McArthur Court saw its first game on January 14, 1927, a 38–10 Oregon victory over Willamette University. Among its finest moments are two upsets over #1 UCLA in the mid-1970s and another upset of the top-ranked Bruins on January 6, 2007. An undefeated home season in 2001–02 propelled the Ducks to the "Elite Eight" in the NCAA Tournament. Players to call the court home over the years include Ron Lee, Blair Rasmussen, Terrell Brandon, Fred Jones, Luke Ridnour, Luke Jackson, Malik Hairston, and Aaron Brooks.

As an undergraduate student at Oregon in the 1960's Mac Court was already very old. I can remember watching a Simon & Garfunkel concert from an upper deck. Bob Hope also came for a benefit concert.

When I came back to the University of Oregon for law school after the Army Oregon football was not very good. However, in basketball it was the era of coach Dick Harter and his "Kamikaze Kids." Harter ran his team like a marine drill sergeant and his motto was "they don't know what hustle is until they play Oregon." Oregon would play tenacious defense and would dive for basketballs.Oregon fans and students would "pack the pit" as it was called and made a ton of noise and would rock the upper decks causing the scoreboard to rock along with the baskets. An opposing coach call we fans "deranged idiots" and we felt honored by the description.

It was during this time I met my wife to be. I spent the summer after my first year in law school as a law clerk here in Medford working for a law firm and met this cute legal secretary. Early on she came to visit me in Eugene during a basketball weekend. I only had one ticket to Mac Court so she agreed to type one of my class papers while I went to the game. I should have know then this lady was a jewel. I got to the game and bought a second ticket off another student and used the pay phone in Mac Court to call her and met her at the door with her ticket. After that we had many dates at Oregon basketball games until I graduated.

Years later after we had children and they were in middle school we brought them both to Mac Court during coach Jerry Green's first season so they could experience the magic of our special place.

Over thirty years after that first Mac Court date we returned without our adult children to watch their South Medford High win the State Championship in Basketball.

The seats seem a little smaller now and the bathrooms hard to find but "The Pit" will always be special to us.