Lander College for Men doesn't have an official football team, but it has an adoptive one — the Oregon Ducks.
Assistant Dean Herb Ratner, went to grad school at Oregon, has spent the past seven years trying to convert the more than 300 students who go to Lander College, a school for men who practice the Orthodox Jewish faith, into Ducks fans since the school does not have athletics of its own.
"Not every guy in the building is an Oregon fan, but I can guarantee you right now that there are more Orthodox Jewish guys who have been fans of Oregon football than at any other time in the program's history," Ratner told Yahoo! Sports. 'That much I can guarantee. And there are more Orthodox rabbis who know of the Ducks and are Duck fans than ever before in the history of the University of Oregon."
Here's the kicker, though, Ratner and his students rarely get to watch the games live. That's because Saturday's are reserved for the Shabbat (or the Sabbath), which lasts until sundown. With a rigorous academic schedule, which consists of yeshiva (Jewish studies) and regular collegiate studies for about 12 hours a day total, down time is in short supply. So, Ratner usually reserves watching recorded games or night games to some of the Ducks bigger contests.
But that doesn't stop Ratner from keeping his students up to date on the results of each game after he reads the stories off the Internet. Prior to each season, Ratner posts the Ducks' schedule and marks the result next to each opponent. Of course, like any true fan, Ratner doesn't like acknowledging losses, so instead he marks those games with an "NW" or "non-win."
(Kirby Lee/US Presswire)"It's caught on," Ratner said. "Guys will come up to me and say, 'Hey dean, how are the Ducks doing?' Guys who had never followed college football, let alone the Ducks, suddenly take a passing interest and we talk about the Ducks. So it's become a thing at the school."
Ratner said he starting endorsing the Ducks at Lander College after he noticed that most of the students weren't familiar with college football. Being in New York City, Ratner said, there's a lack of major college football. Columbia is the only school in the city with a team and since Syracuse and Rutgers have been inconsistent of late, it's been hard to keep the students interested in those teams.
But Oregon, a team that is constantly in the media for its ostentatious uniform combinations and is 44-9 in the past four seasons, is interesting.
"In New York City there's a void of college football and in the city people don't really understand college football," Ratner said. "You go to Oregon and you have 65,000 people in the stands. There are no teams in New York who draw that to a college football game.
"So it's also a hard sell because a lot of these guys are not used to college football and certainly we don't have a team here. We have flag football. That's the best we get. But guys got interested in Oregon and it was fun and I think it also helped that Oregon was doing really well."
Ratner said on occasion the school will get students from other Pac-12 states such as Washington or Arizona and that he tries not to talk football with those particular students.
But Ratner said overwhelmingly, the population of Lander College for Men has become Ducks' fans and Ratner is pleased. He said when he started pushing for more interest in the Ducks, he was just trying to get his students understand what it's like to be loyal to the school you attended.
"I have a tremendous amount of gratitude to the University of Oregon and what it means to me in my professional life," Ratner said. "I have tremendous gratitude for the school and I try to show it to the guys here, ya know? A school can really change you. It can really be a place that makes a difference in your life."