Corporate Sponsorship on UO Campus

Corporate Sponsorship has been a leading controversy on the University of Oregon campus, especially considering the University’s relationship with the athletic clothing hub, Nike. The recent opening of the John E. Jaqua Center, built primarily for Oregon athletes, sparked many negative emotions about the school’s largest sponsor. The University of Oregon has always been known for its prestigious athletes and the sports that they play, Eugene being dubbed Track Town U.S.A., however with the most recent events, many are left wondering if the University is known for its sports only because of Nike. Oregon sports are funded nearly entirely from one of Oregon’s most well-known Alumni, Phil Knight who has been nicknamed “Uncle Phil” for his many generous contributions. Though Knight has donated a great amount of money to academic buildings on campus, it is easy to see that the majority of his donations go straight to the athletic department. With controversy from the large donations to the athletic department, the recent arrests of many Oregon athletes, and Nike’s sponsorship around the world, Knight Time at UO decided to research further about the relationship between the University of Oregon and their top donor, Nike.

The recent opening of the Jaqua Center has fueled much controversy over the University’s values. The first floor of the Jaqua Center is open to the general public, but the second and third floors are exclusively for student-athletes. According to Nathan Tublitz, a University of Oregon professor, there are 550 student-athletes out of about 22,000 U of O students. Student-athletes make up roughly 2.5% of the student population. The top two floors of the center are more than just a lounge area for athletes; there are also a large amount of academic resources located there. Student-athletes are provided with free tutoring for every class and mandatory study halls where their homework is checked. Phil Knight also made available 550 MacBook Pros with the Oregon ‘O’ laser engraved into them. These laptops are available to all student athletes for free, with the exception of paying $100 a year for computer insurance. This $100 yearly is a minimal fee compared to the standard $1199 cost for a 13-inch MacBook Pro. There are a vast amount of resources going to a small portion of the student body. Just this year there have been three athletic additions to the University of Oregon: PK Park Baseball Arena, the Jaqua Center and the $200 million Matthew Knight Basketball Arena. Put simply, it looks bad for a University to be building lavish sports complexes while there are teacher and classroom shortages.

As sports buildings continue to pop up around campus, many academic buildings are left unpolished. According to another Gateway blog, “the journalism department’s Allen Hall hasn’t been drastically changed or improved since 1954. Also, Lawrence Hall, the building for Architecture and Allied Arts, has not seen major changes in size since 1941.” The University of Oregon is an academic center first and foremost, but many would not know this from the dramatic amount of funds being sent towards athletics.

With all the money and benefits that are given to Oregon athletes and athletic facilities, it is safe to say that these athletes should be held to a higher standard. Not only do they represent the sports they play, they represent every student, faculty and alum of the University of Oregon. This way of thinking has clearly not been enforced at the school, seeing as that four Oregon athletes have been arrested in the first half of 2010 alone. Most every student has stepped foot in Autzen Stadium to watch the football team take on their competitors yet the football team has come out with the most arrests from their players. Though the football team is a well playing team, the players continue to be praised by the many facilities donated to them by Phil Knight and Nike, while there are teams that definitely do not attain the same benefits. The Oregon men’s golf team, for example, has not received any funding or facilities though they are currently ranked no.1 in the nation. The sponsor, along with Phil Knight, has given many playing facilities to the football, basketball, and baseball teams yet the University of Oregon has no golf course or any other training facilities for the team. The golf team is just one victim from the ongoing imbalance of the funding given by Oregon’s largest corporate sponsor, Nike.

The imbalance of athletic and academics at the University of Oregon has sparked many thoughts about Nike and their sponsorship with the school, however there has been much more controversy with Nike around the world. Their handlings with the debate on the production of Nike products had many wondering about the legitimacy of the company. Besides this incident, the company had to deal with the Tiger Woods scandal. The world renowned golfer is one of Nike’s biggest spokesperson so naturally all eyes were on the company’s actions. People across the world wondered what would happen to the $105 million dollar relationship. In the end, Nike stood by Tiger, releasing a commercial that did not necessarily condone the golfer’s behavior yet showed a lack of consequences for the athlete’s actions. With the company taking on a large sponsorship at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, all eyes are on Nike and their next step of actions. These events make many observers at the University of Oregon wonder how such a controversial company can be the largest sponsor of the school.

The John Jaqua Center has been the center of controversy since its opening in early 2010. The modern, three-story building is exquisitely designed and should be, with the $20 million price tag attached to it. The price tag was covered by Nike CEO Phil Knight who donated the lavish building to the University. Knight is by far the most prominent athletics donor at the University of Oregon. He has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Oregon Athletics. Some of his large scale donations include: $90 million towards the renovation of Autzen Stadium and $100 million towards the new basketball arena.  Knight has also donated towards academics at the University of Oregon. He donated $27 million towards the renovation of the Knight Library and $25 million towards the school of law.  The imbalance of academics and athletics on campus needs to be evened out. Phil Knight has freedom to donate to whatever he likes, but the University should be more objective when taking donations. The large amounts of money being donated towards athletics gives the impression that the University values athletics over academics.

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