Well, when not facing anyone at the top of the SEC that is. Auburn last year and now LSU this year. Oregon still has a hump to get over when dealing with the best the SEC has to offer.
Still, Oregon has transformed itself into a household name when it comes to the top of College football. Here are the reasons why.
Nike Founder and Oregon Alumni Phil Knight
Every successful franchise/program has some type of large financial backer. I will note that this should exclude the one franchise owned by a town, Green Bay. Let's list some of these out to prove the point.
- Dallas Mavericks - Mark Cuban is a billionaire, and, since he has owned the Mavericks, that franchise has been nothing but stellar.
- New England Patriots - Robert Kraft is a billionaire and anyone who says the Patriots have not been successful hasn't paid attention to the NFL over the last decade.
- New York Yankees - Now the Steinbrenner's own the Yankees, but all of George's money is still there. Anyone think the Boss's billions haven't made the Yankees successful?
- Boston Red Sox - Jim Henry is another Billionaire.
- Seattle Seahawks/Portland Trailblazers - Paul Allen was the Co-Founder of Microsoft. His billions have helped keep both franchises good and sometimes great since he's owned them.
- Dallas Cowboys - Jerry Jones and his $1.2 Billion Cowboy Stadium says a lot. How many Championships has he won?
- USC Athletics - Sometimes money can come from many different sources. In college sports, this is the typical way. USC's alumni are vast and many have very, very deep pockets. Will Ferrell on the sidelines or talking to the College Gameday crowd is a good example.
These owners/benefactors don't want for money. This is important because they are truly invested in the franchise and winning as apposed to making money from the team. These are some franchises that have the opposite type of owner/benefactor.
- Los Angeles Dodgers - Frank McCourt is really all I have to say.
- Los Angeles Clippers - Donald Sterling has always kept his pockets shut trying to run the team at a discount.
- Texas Rangers - Tom Hicks and the $252 million he gave to A-Rod was all he could afford. So, A-Rod played with mostly minor-leaguers for most of his time in Texas.
- Seattle Supersonics - Howard Shultz couldn't make enough money to keep the team going, he didn't have enough to start with and had to worry about such things, and finally had to sell the team. Now, Oklahoma City owns them and they are successful.
These are just some examples. I could keep going, but I don't want to beat a dead horse. Now, Daddy Warbucks' money leads us to..................
Phil Knight has been dumping tons of money into Oregon Athletics. They truly have state-of-the-art facilities in Eugene. There was the stadium expansion for Autzen, the new training facilities, new locker rooms and then the Matthew Knight Arena, dedicated to his son.
You can imagine what facilities like this look like to an 18-year-old. I imagine it similar to your average fan walking into the new Cowboy Stadium for the first time. These days, recruiting is all about the bling.
Phil Knight has given money to build buildings and then opened up the Nike floodgates for the athletic-wear manufacturers' resources. Nike gets to use Oregon Athletics as a testing ground for all potentially new products. Apparel we see as common place on Oregon players isn't always something you can find at your local Footlocker or even online at Nike.com. Feedback on the equipment is essential for the new equipment Nike wants to put out.
On the other side, the University gets tons of free gear for the athletes. You might notice some interesting perks for the players, like sweats with the player's name and number on them in an array of colors.
Oddly enough, it's like the player joined the army when they join Oregon.
Young athletes are taken with all the clothing and gear. Oregon and Nike took the crazy uniforms with all the odd combinations and turned it into a brand. You can ask anyone about the University of Oregon and probably the first two things you will here is 'Nike' and 'The team with the crazy uniforms'. Whether you do or don't like the uniforms, you have to admit that word spread fast. These days, the 15-18-year-old audience likes the flash of the uniforms.
Chip Kelly brought something to Oregon that no one knew would blow up so fast, the Blur offense. Basically, it is a spread offense with the tempo of play moved up so fast that the team is ready to snap the ball before the ref has placed it on the ground. This style of play puts up big plays and big points.
Since the next level of play, the NFL, is now a QB driven league, the opportunity to play for a high powered offense has turned into something very appealing to the kids.
With the notoriety of Nike and the Uniforms and the media attention from being so flashy on offense, the team is always on television. A lot of the time this is national coverage. Success brings the attention.
When talking to athletes, they always know right away who Oregon is. This wasn't so even ten years ago.
First, Washington vacated, leaving the thrown for the PAC-10 empty. USC happily picked it up and ran with it. Then, USC had it's problems and left the throne wide open at exactly the right moment for Oregon and Chip Kelly to hop right into the seat. It helps not having the king occupying the throne when you want to take over.
All the things I just pointed out lead up to what really matters, the players. Athletes are picking Oregon over other schools. Right now, Oregon has a real strong foothold in California and Texas. Even with the Willie Lyles fiasco, we will continue to see players go from Texas to Oregon.
This past recruiting season, Oregon even pulled De'Anthony Thomas away from USC at the last minute. Yes, the flash of the Oregon program did have something to do with it.
This just all goes to prove there is a system to creating a national power overnight. A little luck and the right timing helps too.