November 4, 2003

All Ducked Out, No Wins to Show

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Tucked into the confines of Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon is the eighth wonder of the world. At least, that’s what the Oregon athletic department would like you to believe. You see, the school recently completed the construction of a new locker room for the football team to the tune of $3.2 million.

Why did this locker room cost so much? Well, Oregon AD Bill Moos claims that the locker room “is the best anywhere, including the NFL.”

Within the two-story complex, there are 120 state-of-the-art lockers. Each locker has its own personal ventilation system, and connections for video games and the Internet. In the main atrium area, there are three 60-inch plasma TVs, which run about $15000 each, as well as a complex lighting system. The players enter the locker room by means of a thumbprint scan.

Now if that didn’t convince you to play football at Oregon, then maybe you’d like to hear about its indoor practice facility or its $100 million football stadium renovations or its aggressive marketing. You may have seen former Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington in Times Square a couple of years ago — on a 10-story, $250,000 billboard. Then there’s the “oh-so-delightful” new uniforms, a marriage of dark green and blinding neon colors.

Has all this spending translated into wins? Well, not yet. The Ducks opened the year with a four-game winning streak, including maybe the biggest upset in program history over then-No. 5 Michigan. The team then preceded to lose four of its next five games, with only one of these losses coming against a ranked opponent.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, they only completed the locker room before the current season, they haven’t brought in any new recruiting classes yet.” You’re right on the money. I am predicting now, based on no other evidence except for this locker room, that the Ducks will win the next five BCS titles.

I’m somewhat surprised by this season though. You think having the best locker room in the world would help the team on the field somehow, but apparently not. You see, the players still have memories from before the new locker room was completed, and they can’t sleep at night, much less perform well on the field.

All this football spending is bound to make the other Oregon athletes a bit jealous.

What if you’re on the basketball team? Will Oregon provide you with the same fiscal support it has been giving the football team? Absolutely. McArthur Court, the second-oldest basketball arena in the country and the current home of the Ducks hoops program, is being replaced by a brand-spanking new 100-million dollar arena.

How is Oregon able to afford all of this athletic spending? Well, the school counts among its alumni Phil Knight, chairman of Nike. Knight donated half the money for the football stadium renovation, and has his own honorary locker in the new locker room. Oregon players also benefit from the Nike connection by having the latest and greatest performance apparel, as the football uniforms can be plugged into special cooling systems on the sidelines (perhaps the only benefit to these god-awful uniforms. Who picked these colors? Neon? I’m surprised the other teams aren’t blinded when Oregon walks on the field).

Our own university is in the midst of a $100 million athletics campaign. New facilities on campus include the wrestling center which opened last fall, and the new rowing center, and renovations to Helen Newman and Schoellkopf Halls are all coming soon. But this hardly compares to the pristine Ducks’ facilities. If we want to be able to compete with Oregon, our athletic department needs to step it up. Of course, the first thing would be a new practice facility for the hockey team. I would suggest building it underground, perhaps in the synchrotron. Also, I think we need a new wrestling center.

“But Jon, we just built a wrestling center last year. It’s the only one of its kind the nation.” Yes, but two is always better than one.

And our Lindesth Climbing Wall? I mean, we only have the largest natural rock indoor climbing wall in North America. It’s not even the largest one in the world. How does this university expect us to survive?

Also, while our logo may have gotten a makeover, I think we need to overhaul the Bear mascot — how about making it look like a real bear? I mean, Monte the Grizzly Bear from the University of Montana was the 2002 Capital One Mascot of the Year. I recommend endowing the mascot costume, like we do with coaching positions, for the amount of $2 million, and installing some sort of candy-dispensing system in it. Then the Big Red Bear would surely be named to the next Capitol One All-America Mascot team.

Cornell had better start upping the spending now, because our women’s lacrosse team needs to be ready when Oregon’s team begins its first season of play in 2005. No doubt the Ducks will have specially-designed, state-of-the-art sticks from Nike, and we need to be able to counter that. But until I submit my athletics proposal to our Board of Trustees, Oregon will continue to be far and away the most prestigious institute of higher athletics in the country.

Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach