‘University of Nike’ in Oregon

A huge investment in university sport.

 

The New York Times has a report on the opening of a hugely expensive new facility to enhance the University of Oregon’s football programme. It comes courtesy of a sizeable donation from one of the founders of Nike.

The Football Performance Center, which was unveiled publicly this week, is as much country club as football facility, potentially mistaken for a day spa, or an art gallery, or a sports history museum, or a spaceship — and is luxurious enough to make N.F.L. teams jealous. It is, more than anything, a testament to college football’s arms race, to the billions of dollars at stake and to the lengths that universities will go to field elite football programs.

The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alumnus and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the complex Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the center’s cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)

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The tour lasted more than three hours and covered the full 145,000 square feet of the complex (with 60,000 additional square feet of parking). Nike and its relationship with Oregon are obvious early and throughout. One small logo outside the Ducks’ locker room featured the university’s mascot, wearing a top hat adorned with a dollar sign. Oregon football is often viewed through that lens by outsiders, who derisively have christened Oregon as Nike University.

A video is available here which gives a flavour of this extraordinary facility. The characterisation of the college football competition as an arms race seems particularly apposite. This level of investment for just one sport at a university is breathtaking.

Go Ducks!

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