Last night’s national championship game between Auburn and Oregon was a big deal for the people of Oregon, especially for those Oregonians with ties to the school, like the 500 Nike employees who attended the game.
Allan Brettman of The Oregonian reports that Nike Chairman and U of O grad, Phil Knight, displayed the “sunniest disposition in the house,” before kickoff.
While the gameâ€™s outcome was a letdown for the team, representatives of Nike and the university emphasized before and after the contest how this football season has signaled an arrival of sorts. The football team and, by extension, the university, are no longer a distant oddity to the rest of the country. And the sports equipment and apparel giant based near Beaverton contributed significantly to that shift of public opinion.
â€œI guess it was in 1996, after the Cotton Bowl,â€ Nike designer Tinker Hatfield said after Mondayâ€™s game, â€œwe had played very well, but there was clearly a difference between the quality in terms of the size and speed of Colorado versus Oregon.
â€œWe felt like â€“ we, being Nike — felt like we could help the University of Oregon just improve the level and quality of athletes. Itâ€™s been a long, kind of steady build. And I think as you can see today weâ€™re quite equal to the best in the country in terms of athleticism and it’s a good feeling to know that we had a little hand in that.â€
What I find interesting in the Nike – Ducks marriage is the fact that Oregonians are not a brash people. Oregonians are reserved, maybe to a fault. But Nike is not reserved, and the Oregon Ducks football team is not reserved. In fact, the two are about as IN YOUR FACE* as a team and a sporting goods manufacturer can be.
I’d love to know where Knight and Hatfield stand on this? Are they trying to push all Oregonians into the limelight? Do they think such a course of action might be good for business and good for morale? I do.
*In last night’s game alone, Oregon went for two and converted, not once, but twice. Oregon also executed a fake punt perfectly, went for it on fourth down and generally called unexpected plays throughout.