Phil Knight: King of the Ducks is running a series this week on powerful boosters of university athletic programs. And there is no more powerful booster in the world than the University of Oregon's biggest donor - Nike chairman Phil Knight.

On the one hand, he throws his weight around - forcing UO to abandon the Workers Rights Consortium, forcing the firing of track coach Martin Smith, and (apparently) giving the football a healthy schizophrenia when it comes to uniform colors and designs.

On the other, he's dropped a lot of cash on the university - both for athletics and academics.


Maybe Mr. Nike can get antsy and, from time to time, flex his muscle in games of campus hardball. And he can be high maintenance, even if Frohnmayer and others say they don't see it. Fact is, Knight remains every college's booster dream. Not only is he filthy rich -- worth almost $7 billion in Nike stock -- but he's a sports guy, an old runner, a rare booster who made his fortune off fun and games.

Only he isn't exclusively a jockster.

His early gifts, and the only buildings that bear the Knight family moniker, are on the academic side of campus. In 1994, he gave $27.4 million toward renovation and expansion of what is now the Knight Library. Two years later, he donated $15 million to create endowed chairs and professorships as well as $10 million to finance construction of the William W. Knight Law Center, which was named in honor of his dad.

Of course, as he heads for retirement, nonprofits all over Oregon are hoping for chunks of the $1 billion that he's recently made available by liquidating Nike stock. Ultimately, Knight could be dropping $6 billion or more into his charitable efforts. (See the Oregonian, "Phil Knight's charity is billion-dollar secret"

Potential future giving by Phil Knight to the University of Oregon could easily dwarf the $165 million donated to Oklahoma State by billionaire T. Boone Pickens, announced earlier this week.


  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)

    The second most powerful booster in the US is the burrito king himself.....Reser.

    God his food is good when you're drunk.

  • Frank Ray (unverified)

    If the rest of us were as generous as Phil Knight -proportionate to our means, of course - education in our state would be standing on much firmer ground. Thank God for Phil Knight.

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    I wish Phil would give a bit of money to support his high school, Cleveland (which is where, no surprise, my own child attends). It has the cruddiest athletic field in the PIL. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to get much action out of him.

    Nike and Knight brought Oregon onto the distance running map. The recent events surrounding U of O's track program were controversial, but ultimately I think will end up being good for track in Oregon. The return of the NCAAs to Eugene is a wonderful step, and would not have happened without Knight.

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    Reser isn't just the burrito king. But right about now, I'd shove old people out of the way if there were some of his product (chip dip, salsa) available in a Florida grocery store. I might even throw punches if there were Widmer anything, but Kurt and Rob probably don't enter into the booster discussion.

    Anyway, I looked at the list: other than Phil Knight, Bear's kid, and T. Boone Pickens, who are these people?

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    And for that matter, where are the SC boosters? Half of Hollywood, Snoop, Denzel, the Weinsteins, Tarantino, what up? How much do those guys give to the University of Southern California?

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    JD-- It's important to keep wealth in perspective. Hollywood actors and rockstars may have vastly more wealth than you and I, but theirs is counted with 7 to 8 digits. Phil Knight's is counted with 10 digits. He's got somewhere around 1000 times their net worth.

    Snoop Dogg ain't ever gonna give USC a hundred million bucks.

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    Ah. Fair enough.

    Anyway, I found Widmer Hefeweizen today for my very own, without combat. I'm a happier guy now, naturally.

    So check this out: You would think the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame would be all over the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, as the gym that replaced Barnhill bears Bud's name. Not anymore - a big University of Missouri booster has married into the family, so now its Tigers for the world's most invasive department store.

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    Of course, the U of Missouri ripped their daughter's name off the basketball arena - when it was revealed that she had paid a fellow student at USC to write all of her papers for her.

    To USC's credit, the university also rescinded her diploma - notwithstanding her family's big cash.

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