oregon

“It (Football in the State of Oregon) can come back if the schools take the right step and improve the facilities,” – OSU Heisman Trophy Winner Terry Baker, Sporting News, 1986

“On average, the faculty likes it when the football team does better. And we understand that it takes some resources to attract the best people. But obviously we’re jealous when we see the difference between their facilities and the facilities we have for teaching,” UO economics professor Bill Harbaugh, Eugene Register-Guard, 2012

Is anyone nostalgic for the University of Oregon alumni tent set up in a gravel parking lot at Autzen Stadium?

How about wondering if the UO Athletic Department could scrap enough shekels together to pay the $125,000 guarantee to the visiting team?

Want to revisit those serious discussions about Oregon and Oregon State becoming members of the Big Sky Conference (i.e., visits to scenic Missoula, Bozeman and Pocatello)?

As a practicing Duckologist, I have steadfastly saved a well-worn copy of 1986 The Sporting News college football yearbook. Included in the issue is an article by former Oregonian sports columnist Nick Bertram describing the dreadful state of affairs for football in the State of Oregon.

Besides scrambling to pay the minimum to the visiting school, Oregon was averaging only 23,000 at Autzen Stadium. In fact, there was talk of putting a dome on Autzen. The Ducks were 23 years and counting since their last (Sun) bowl game, and 29 years since their last Rose Bowl. Next year, we will commemorate the 30th anniversary (“celebrate” is the wrong word) of the last scoreless game in NCAA football history, the 1983, 0-0 “Toilet Bowl” between Oregon and Oregon State.

The root of Oregon’s historic difficulties in recruiting, competing and winning, comes down to one word: Geography.

The nation’s 9th largest state in land mass is also one of the country’s least populated (3.4 million), isolated in America’s cul-de-sac and one of the rainiest. All of these factors worked against previous Oregon coaching regimes, including the one I served as a student manager in 1975 (e.g., Don Read et al.). USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Arizona State and Washington do not face these same geographic obstacles.

The answers to unfavorable and unchangeable geography included targeting donor dollars to build the 101,000-square foot Casanova Center in 1991 to house the Athletic Department. They also consisted of finding recruiting diamonds in the rough by former Head Coaches Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti; continuity of the coaching staff (five assistants with tenures exceeding two decades); and miraculously making the Rose Bowl in one special year in 1994. All of these accomplishments preceded the major involvement in the program by Uncle Phil.

If you do not know who is “Uncle Phil,” you should stop reading now.

Since that time, Oregon built the first indoor practice facility ($15 million) on the West Coast, directly addressing the rain issue, the 117,000 square-foot Moshofsky Center. Autzen was expanded to 54,000 and the stadium has been sold out for every game since 1999 with more than 60,000 being shoe-horned into the insane asylum by the Willamette. Back on campus, the university leased property at its main entrance to Phil Knight. In turn, he invested $41 million into an academic support center for student athletes and donated the John Jaqua Center back to the university.

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This same out-of-the-box thinking: lease-build-donate plan is being used for the $68 million, 130,000-square foot football operations center, located adjacent to Autzen Stadium, the Moshofsky Center and the Casanova Center.

Oregon has come light years in the past 25 years, including winning the conference five more times since the 1994 Rose Bowl team. The Ducks are 34-6 in the last three years, including two visits to the Rose Bowl (winning this past January) and a trip to the BCS National Championship Game.

You would think everyone would be happy on campus by the success of the self-sufficient Athletic Department and “on average” that is the case, but jealousy still persists. Guess no good deed (or deeds) or achievement goes unpunished.

Some are now coming to the conclusion that college sports are big business. This point is evidenced by the debut this week of the Pac-12 network, which will provide $10 million in new revenue to each school’s athletic department. Some wonder if prime-time, college sports is inconsistent with the missions of great universities. They lament that an athletic arms race has ensued…and to some extent that is the case. It’s called competition.

There also has been an undeniable payoff that has benefitted academics as well. As a full-time instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, I marvel at the number of students who wear the school colors to class. Success on the field and the court contributes to greater morale on campus and in the classroom.

Obviously, I note the expenditures for athletics (e.g., the $227 million Matthew Knight Arena and PK Park for the Oregon baseball team), but I also walk by virtually every day the William W. Knight Law School and the Knight Library. Uncle Phil has not only benefitted students who happen to be athletes, but regular students who are not athletes.

Certainly, not every building on campus is state of the art, but nonetheless some are striking including the Lillis School of Business and soon the ($15 million for 15,000 new square feet of space) newly renovated Allen Hall for the School of Journalism and Communication. I am looking forward to teaching at the new Allen Hall starting in the winter term.

Is there a direct connection between the success and national stature of the Oregon Ducks and the dramatic increase in enrollment and donations to Oregon? Some may try to argue against this point, but I will go to the mat saying there has to be a correlation. Ten years ago, 19,000 attended Oregon. Today, there are 25,000 students. The average incoming freshman GPA was a record 3.59 last year. There are more students; they are smarter and their retention rate is higher. Something absolutely Ducky is happening.

Oregon is a state-assisted university with only single digit percent of its total costs being provided from Salem. The rest has to come from tuition, fees and donations. Winning builds pride and that in turns spurs check writing from alums and fans. With some governments around the nation coming to the realization that the spending orgy is over, more needs to come from those who can contribute to their favorite school.

I went to Oregon back in the 1970s, but earned my bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting Journalism from USC. This past March, I received my master’s degree in Communication and Society from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. And 23 years ago, I bought Oregon season seats at Autzen Stadium. I have been a witness to the Golden Age of Oregon football and an upgrade in academics as well. That’s what I call a job well done.

Yep, I was an Oregon fan before it was cool.

http://www2.registerguard.com/cms/index.php/duck-football/comments/lights-go-up-today-on-pac-12s-tv-network-era/

http://harbaugh.uoregon.edu/

http://www.registerguard.com/web/newslocalnews/28375820-41/center-football-athletics-university-knight.html.csp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Baker

http://www.ehow.com/info_8144923_history-sports-scholarships.html

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