This is a flat out awesome article on the Oregon Ducks and their main booster, Phil Knight. Nike is based in Oregon and so it is hard to complain about Phil putting money back into his local university. Great read from SI.com. I will provide pictures of Oregon athletic facilities later on. They will simply blow your mind.
When Phil Knight gets to his suite at Autzen Stadium to watch his beloved Oregon Ducks, he can put on his headset and listen to the Ducks' coaches call plays. Then he can go over to the whiteboard in his suite and diagram the play for his guests -- before the Ducks run it.
Knight knows how to draw up his X's and O's, and for good reason. In the offseason, Oregon has been known to send its coaches to his office to give him a private tutorial: Offensive coaches one day, defensive coaches the next.
And Knight knows Oregon's talent, because when the Ducks get a commitment from a recruit, somebody is assigned to tell Knight. On National Signing Day, he sometimes stands around the fax machine in the Ducks' football offices, watching the letters of intent roll in.
Millions of words have been written to dissect the saga of Cam Newton, his father, Cecil, and whether Newton got paid to bring his talents to Auburn. But the more interesting booster story in this national championship game involves Auburn's opponent.
Knight's influence on Oregon is so great that calling him a booster is like calling the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a concerned citizen. Without Knight, Oregon would be thrilled to go to the Holiday Bowl. Without Knight, Oregon would be asking for money instead of printing it.
Without Knight, Oregon would be ... (gasp!) Oregon State.
Knight holds the key to Oregon athletics in his wallet, and everybody there knows it. The new basketball gym -- Matthew Knight Arena, named after Phil's late son -- is his project. The school's uniforms, more than any other team's, are a billboard for his company, Nike. There is a sense that every new building and every important hire needs Knight's stamp of approval.
Knight graduated from Oregon, but so much of his spending in Eugene is not about education. It isn't even really about athletics, because let's face it: After you spend your first $100 million or so, you probably have all the jockstraps and barbells you need.
No, most of Knight's spending is about recruiting. He spends to excess in order to impress high school kids. In the mixed-up world of the NCAA, schools can spend $50 million on gold-plated mouthpiece holders, but if they give a kid $1,000 to pay his mom's mortgage, it's a violation.
Knight has poured tens of millions of dollars into what amounts to makeup and jewelry for the athletic department. Consider the size and cost of new academic-support buildings at three big-time schools:
Miami, under construction now: 30,000 square feet, $13.6 million.
Michigan, completed in the winter of 2006: 38,000 square feet, $12 million.
Oregon: 37,000 square feet, $41.7 million.
Actually, that $41.7 million is a university estimate of how much the building cost. Knight paid for it himself and wouldn't say. The school may not even know.
What do you get for your extra $28 million? According to The Oregonian, the center features a three-story atrium, a 113-seat auditorium, "a room of bronze athlete-award statues commissioned by a Spanish artist whose sculptures are featured at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland" and a three-story-high etched steel mosaic of Albert Einstein. Naturally, it's not just any three-story-high etched steel mosaic of Albert Einstein. It is made out of thousands of photos of Oregon athletes taken by a photographer who followed them for a year.
Also: "In the second- and third-floor women's bathrooms, facing the stalls is a larger-than-life mirror etching of Knight."
(I'm so glad they're larger than life, because exact life-sized mirror etchings of Knight would just be weird.)
Do high school kids really choose a college because of this stuff? Hello? Have you ever met a high school kid? What 18-year-old wouldn't love having vents in his locker to dry his pads after practice? Ten years ago, Oregon noticed that kids would visit Eugene just to see the facilities, even if they weren't going to sign with the Ducks. Oregon kept spending, players kept visiting, and eventually the athletes started to come.
In 2000, Oregon joined the Workers Rights' Consortium, which has heavily criticized Nike's labor practices. Knight withdrew his donation for the Autzen Stadium renovation. Then the university withdrew from the consortium. And then Knight pledged his money again.
Knight's power over Oregon athletics is undeniable, but it is also mysterious. Knight is famously secretive. Does he really get to call one play a game? Is it true that Oregon holds one practice every fall that only Knight gets to attend?
Did Knight coerce longtime Ducks coach Mike Bellotti to resign so offensive whiz Chip Kelly could take over? All we know is that Knight, the marketing and new-idea maven, loves Kelly's fast-paced offense; that some other school was sure to snap up Kelly if Oregon didn't promote him to head coach; that Bellotti resigned to become the athletic director, a job he held for all of nine months; and that Bellotti has said he would like to get back into coaching. Connecting the dots is just speculation.
Did Knight get former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos fired? Moos told me, "I left on my own." But Moos acknowledged that "People said the relationship got strained. I made some decisions along the way that I think weren't necessarily in good favor. He never openly called me and criticized anything I did." Conveniently, Oregon replaced Moos with Pat Kilkenny, a Knight friend who does not have a college degree.
Moos still speaks glowingly of Knight. (As well he should: Moos is now the athletic director at Washington State, which has a Nike contract.) And Moos was the one who first tapped into Knight's heart in the mid-90s, which led to tapping Knight's brain and his wallet.
Most billionaires see their spending as a reflection of who they are. In Knight's case, he wants to be seen as a winner. Before he started pouring money into the Ducks, he needed to know the Ducks were serious about being the best.
"It was never 'Here is a (blank) check,'" Moos said. "It was 'I'll help you but you have to raise so much of it yourselves.' He was never, in those days: 'Hey, I'll take care of it.'"
Moos assigned an employee, Jim Bartko, whose chief responsibility was keeping Knight happy. Oregon could never compete with the tradition of Penn State or Alabama or Texas. So the Ducks went the other way. Fifteen years ago they were a quirky team with a Donald Duck logo and no real national profile. Now every college football fan knows Oregon is the school with the crazy-expensive facilities that uses new uniforms every week. The Ducks revealed their uniforms for the national title game a few weeks ago, and I found them disappointing -- I expected liquid metal, breathable diamonds and hand-plucked duck feathers. Nonetheless, when you create a wave of coverage simply by announcing what your uniforms will look like, you know your marketing.
Pretty soon Knight started to see the fruit bloom on his money tree. Spending begot winning, which leads to more spending. Now Knight takes care of almost anything Oregon wants -- as long as it's on his terms. Oregon is about to build a six-story, 130,000 square-foot football operations center, and of course it will all be top of the line. Right now, they're just figuring out where to put the hangar for the space shuttle. Nobody needs a 130,000 square foot football operations center -- that is more than 1,500 square feet per scholarship player. But you better believe that recruits will love it.
That facility, like the academic building, will be Knight's baby. The school will lease the land to Knight, whose chosen architects and designers will build what he wants. Then he'll give it back to Oregon.
People sometimes compare Knight to Oklahoma State turbobooster T. Boone Pickens Jr. But Knight has much more sway in Eugene than Pickens does in Stillwater. Pickens lives in Texas. Knight is the richest person in Oregon and runs one of the state's the most important businesses.
When the State Board of Education discussed whether to let Knight build the new football facility on his own, privately -- in possible circumvention of the open-bidding and public-records laws, according to The Oregonian -- school president Richard Lariviere warned them about the danger of saying no to Phil Knight.
"It really doesn't have much to do with the central mission of the University of Oregon," Lariviere admitted."If we don't accept this gift, what will be the negative consequences for the university's education and research mission. Probably not much -- immediately, in the short-term.
"But they could be really, really profound over the longer term. Really profound. This is an important gift for our future."
In other words: it's Phil Knight's money hose, and Oregon has to let him control the spigot. The Ducks are his franchise -- the fact that they play college sports, instead of pro sports, is a mere technicality. By the time Knight is done with this football facility, he will have spent more than $300 million transforming Oregon athletics. Thanks to Knight, the quality of facilities for the football team dwarf what almost everybody else on campus can use. Is it worth it? Some say no. Others say: Turn on the BCS championship game Jan. 10, and there is your answer.
Terrelle Pryor has surgery on foot
I guess he wasn't faking after all. Hopefully he rehabs well, learns from this and doesn't sell his MVP award.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor underwent surgery on Friday afternoon to repair an injury to his right foot. Posting on his Twitter account, Pryor deemed the surgery "successful."
Pryor was injured in the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes' 31-26 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas on Tuesday. It was a quarterback sneak in which he has reaching for a first down. He left the game, but did return with a limp. The surgery stabilized some ligaments in the foot.
Pryor faces a five-game suspension at the beginning of the 2011 season for his role in selling Ohio State awards to a tattoo parlor owner. It is not known whether the junior will stay and serve the suspension or leave for the NFL draft.
But Pryor did say after the Sugar Bowl that he's not ready for the NFL draft and will honor his pledge to coach Jim Tressel to return for his senior season.
"I've got a lot of learning and better decision-making I have to make on and off the field," Pryor said. "Off the field, I need to grow up a little bit more, mature as well. I just have a lot of growing up to do.
Well Jimmy, we'll see you in a couple years. That's back in college football. I hope it works, but I highly doubt it. Anyways, thanks for stiicking it to Michigan for us Buckeye fans!
Harbaugh Introduced As 49ers Head Coach
SAN FRANCISCO -- All week, Jim Harbaugh had a good feeling about making the jump to the NFL and joining the San Francisco 49ers -- just the way mentor and late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh did more than 30 years ago.
Harbaugh signed a five-year, $25 million contract, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Declaring it a "perfect competitive opportunity," Harbaugh accepted the job as coach of the 49ers on Friday and said his goal is to win a Lombardi Trophy for "one of the legendary franchises in all of football. The successful Stanford coach receives a five-year deal and gets to remain right at home in the Bay Area, moving to the NFL after four years with the Cardinal. A longtime NFL quarterback, he replaces fired coach Mike Singletary.
Harbaugh decided to leave Stanford for the pros even though San Francisco has missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons and Orange Bowl MVP quarterback Andrew Luck announced Thursday he would remain at Stanford for another season.
"I can feel the enthusiasm coursing through my veins right now," said Harbaugh, who was going to team headquarters Friday night to get to work. "I accept this competitive challenge willingly."
The 49ers pulled out all the stops to introduce him. The swanky Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco rolled out a special red carpet for Harbaugh's arrival, and he showed up in a limousine for a news conference that began with a music video featuring team highlights.
The Cardinal (12-1) finished with a school-record 12 wins following a 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Monday night. It's been a whirlwind week to say the least.
Harbaugh has long admired Walsh and how he made the successful leap from Stanford to the 49ers. Harbaugh knew the man nicknamed "The Genius" for 18 years and once received footwork tips from the coach while playing for the Bears. "Everything that came out of his mind, his heart, his mouth, I hung on every single word."
Walsh thought up the original schemes that became known as the West Coast offense, which Harbaugh plans to run with the 49ers. Harbaugh has a picture of Walsh he looks at each day taped to his computer screen, but says it will be a while before any comparisons can be made of the two.
While Harbaugh said he had all but made up his mind to accept the 49ers' offer following a meeting of more than six hours that went into Wednesday evening, he took a couple of days to hear out his other suitors and do his "homework" -- and "do some soul searching" as new 49ers general manager Trent Baalke put it.
"I knew in my heart and my gut the right decision was with the San Francisco 49ers," he said.
After quite a run at Stanford, Harbaugh will head some 10 miles along the 101 freeway from Stanford to turn around a once-proud franchise that is desperate to become a contender again right away. The 49ers were expected to win the NFC West this season, then began 0-5 for their worst start since losing seven straight to begin a 2-14 season in 1979, Walsh's first year as coach.
"I met this man six or seven years ago at a college All-Star game and I fell in love with his energy," Baalke said. "This is the start of a new generation. ... What we have to do is bring back the culture of winning. He's a guy who can lead the 49ers franchise back to where it rightfully belongs."
Harbaugh likely will be grooming a new quarterback in the coming months. Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, becomes a free agent. So, finding a QB is high on the team's to-do list heading into what should be a busy offseason.
Once the season begins, Harbaugh will face a familiar foe -- big brother John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Jim Harbaugh won't be attending his brother's playoff game in Kansas City this weekend after all.
"Let me tell you guys out in San Francisco, you got a great one," John Harbaugh said. "I'm very happy he's not in the AFC. We'll see him once every four years and Super Bowls -- hopefully we could get a couple of those. ... I got a feeling you'll see two pretty similarly built football teams."
Niners team president and CEO Jed York said when Singletary was fired that money would be no object in finding the team's next coach. He promoted vice president of player personnel Baalke to GM earlier this week, then they worked together to make their push for Harbaugh, who also was in talks with the Miami Dolphins and Stanford.
The 49ers didn't put him on a deadline, telling Harbaugh, "There can't be any doubt in your mind," York said. Harbaugh asked for Thursday night to "sleep on it," then signed his deal Friday. He also informed Luck and his players at Stanford.
Harbaugh insists this move wasn't all about money. He reportedly had an offer for more from Miami.
"It wasn't the factor. I like a buck just like the next guy, but I love coaching and I love winning and I love football," he said. "The factor that dictated my being here was that Trent and Jed and the 49er organization wanted me to be here and I wanted to be here as much or more than they wanted me. Here I am."
The 47-year-old Harbaugh went 58-27 overall as a college coach and 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford. He took over a 1-11 team when he was hired in December 2006 and quickly turned the program back into a winner and bowl contender.
The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 the next, then improved to 8-5 and earned a Sun Bowl berth in 2009 -- the school's first bowl appearance since 2001.
His next challenge will be getting San Francisco back to the playoffs.
"It's the process of building a team, being part of a team and leading a team, and working at it," Harbaugh said. "It's committing a lot of energy to it. There are definitely similarities."
When Stanford arrived back on campus Tuesday, one man hollered "Stay in the Bay Area!" when Harbaugh hopped off the bus carrying his 2-year-old daughter, Addison. He also has a newborn baby girl. Not having to move his family across the country was an added bonus.
Harbaugh was the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach from 2002-03 before spending three seasons as head coach at the University of San Diego. He said he recently spoke to Raiders owner Al Davis, but not specifically about the now-vacant Oakland coaching job.
Harbaugh, a college star at Michigan where there also is a coaching vacancy after the firing of Rich Rodriguez, played 15 seasons in the NFL for the Bears, Colts, Ravens, Chargers and Panthers. A first-round draft pick taken 26th overall by Chicago in 1987, Harbaugh completed 2,305 of 3,918 passes for 26,288 career yards and 129 touchdowns in the NFL. He also ran for 18 TDs.
For York and the front office, landing Harbaugh was the first goal.
"This is a very happy day but our work didn't end today," York said. "It just begins today."
"Losing is not an option," Harbaugh said.