How can the Pac-12 keep up with Oregon?
The University of Arizona has unveiled the brand new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility at Arizona Stadium.
It is, in a word, gorgeous — at least from the pictures I’ve seen.
The facility is five stories high, features new football offices, a modernized weight room and 5,000 upgraded seats and an indoor club that also has 600 outdoor seats.
Like I said, it’s a great facility that will certainly aid in head coach Rich Rodriguez’s recruiting efforts moving forward.
But did you happen to see what the University of Oregon unveiled earlier in the week?
After moving into a locker room that’s straight out of the 22nd century in 2012, the Ducks just moved into the Football Performance Center, a 145,000-square-foot palace, complete with imported marble and wood, auditorium seats made of Italian leather, countless big screens and other player amenities that you just don’t see in other places.
Welcome to the world of college football in the year 2013.
About 12 years ago, Oregon made the decision that they were going to be a real player athletically, and why not? Chief booster Phil Knight, Nike’s head honcho, has unlimited resources and a great imagination. The Oregon Ducks that didn’t play in a bowl game during a quarter-century long stretch from 1964 to 1988 would be a distant memory.
In 2001, Knight and Nike helped propel quarterback Joey Harrington into the national spotlight and the Heisman Trophy race with a ridiculously aggressive marketing campaign that included a 10-story high billboard smack dab in the middle of Times Square. It certainly created a buzz and it almost worked. Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman balloting despite pretty average numbers.
That was just the beginning.
Nike helped Oregon rebrand themselves as the innovators in football uniforms. In the past decade, the Ducks have taken the field in sometimes cool, sometimes hideous color combinations that include flourescent yellow, black, gray, numerous shades of green and yes, chrome. Traditionalists hate them. The players love them, so much so that the uniforms are considered to be a valuable recruiting tool.
Other teams have followed suit, designing new uniforms with a number of jersey, pant and helmet options to almost ensure a player will never wear the same combination on any two Saturdays during his playing career.
But that’s where Oregon moves ahead again. They responded to the uniform copycats by giving their players a training facility that is unmatched. In addition to Arizona, Washington, USC and Utah have all opened new facilities as well — and they’re all beautiful. And once enough programs open up splashy new facilities, the Ducks, bankrolled by Uncle Phil, will just unveil their latest lavish creation. Because of their connection to unlimited funding, they’ll always be the best football team in the Pac-12 and competing for a national championship.
It really has no bearing on who’s coaching the Ducks — money attracts talent — and nobody’s got more money or caché than the Oregon football program. It’s got to be disheartening for the schools in the conference who don’t have similar big money donors in the pipeline. Oregon’s fast-paced offense is hard enough to keep up with on the field — how are you supposed to keep pace off of it?
Good luck, Pac-12. You’re going to need it.