In advance of tomorrow’s big game against ninth-ranked Stanford, Register-Guard columnist George Schroeder says the popularity of Oregon Ducks football isn’t all about what happens on the field of play, although that’s a big part of it.
Oregon’s transition into a power goes back to Rich Brooks’ long, hard slog toward respectability. The Independence Bowl was significant, and the 1994 run to the Rose Bowl was immensely important.
But if you’re looking for pivot points, start with Phil Knight’s decision to pour money into the program, sure. And then go directly to the decision, not long afterward, to scrap tradition and go cutting edge.
When the Ducks changed uniforms, and kept changing them, adding colors and designs and creating combinations?
That was a very big deal.
So was the “Joey Heisman” billboard, and so many other promotional efforts. Combined, those efforts signaled Oregon’s intent, whatever it took, to grab recruits’ attention, and to push into the national consciousness.
Turns out some sports writers don’t like all the noise being made in Eugene. Mark Purdy of San Jose’s Mercury News says Oregon is the new evil empire of Pac-10 football.
He also notes that Phil Knight, the Nike chairman of the board and a former Oregon track athlete, has combined with his wife to donate well over $300 million to the school’s athletic department over the past decade.