clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everyone Wants to Tell Phil Knight How to Spend His Money

You'd think that spending $100 million of your own money to ensure that the University gets to build a new arena would get you praise from the Duck community.  And many Duck fans have indeed given Phil Knight a big "thank you" for yet another generous donation to his alma mater.  And yet, even though Phil is giving his own money--money that he is under no obligation to do anything with, many in the UO community (mainly professors) have come out against this.  One only needs to look at the comments that the Register-Guard has received to see where the division is on this:

I am really appalled that phil knight and his lovely wife would give the u of o athletic program so much money whan there are many many more social programs and science program that would help our fellow citizens. The u of o athletic program is the LAST place good money should be spent.  If nothing else why wasn't the money given to the u of o for their academic programs? or for their research programs? or for academic scholarships?  It is simply outrageous.

I love this argument.  First off, it should be noted that Phil Knight has donated over $50 million to UO academics over the years.  Because of him we have a first class library.  Our Law School is in a brand new beautiful building.  And Phil Knight has donated endowments for 15 professorships.  Few, if any, have done as much for UO academics as Phil Knight has, and you, random anonymous citizen, are the last person that should be giving him a lecture on it.

What I do agree on is that there are a lot of great social programs out there that would benefit society.  So why did you go out to dinner and a movie last Saturday instead of donating that money to charity.  Wasn't it selfish to entertain yourself instead.  What, you don't want me to tell you how to spend your money?  Yeah, how does it feel, buddy?

Here's another gem:

Maybe some have no problem being beholden to a greedy sociopath; do not count me as one.  Maybe the University wouldn't need his millions if those ill-gotten gains were spread more equitably throughout the culture.  Maybe that the cash would then go where it was needed more (like, say, ACADEMICS), not applied at the whim of one agenda-driven individual.

Or, with all the kind things you have to say about him, maybe Phil would have flipped you the bird and bought himself a yacht.  Why are people acting like this money is being taken away from the University?  Some guy is giving the athletic department money that would otherwise be sitting in his bank account.  Why don't people understand that?

Here is my favorite:

President Frohnmayer was on tv the other night and said it was an "unmitigated positive." For those of us whose frontal lobes are functional enough to see the relationship between sports and the us-them thinking that leads to war and the way that sports contributes to the stupefication and dumbing down of our citizens, it would be more accurate to say that the "Phil and Penny Knight Arena for Dead Cow Bouncing" is an unmitigated negative.

So now sports leads to the dumbing down of our citizens, and basketball is nothing more than "dead cow bouncing."  This attitude obviously comes from an academically elitist and snobbish attitude, not to mention someone who probably doesn't have a lot of fun in life.

I am a sports blogger with a M.Ed.  I know for a fact that we have bloggers on our networks with MAs, JDs, and MBAs.  Sports have hardly led to us being "dumbed down."  In fact, quite the opposite.  The strategy involved in sports is almost like an academic field in and of its own.  Critical thinking about sport--the same kind that you find in academia--have revolutionized sports.  Take baseball, for instance, where, with Sabermetrics becoming more and more a part of the baseball landscape, fans are becoming comfortable in theories of mathematics, economics, and statistics simply by thinking critically about a baseball game.  Just because you do not understand the strategy element of sports does not mean that it is responsible for dumbing down of society.  Perhaps you should get away from your research for a moment and take a few minutes to observe the real world.

What sports are are an immense source of civic pride.  They bring people together who may have little in common, except that they are a fan of their team.  You see the flags hanging around Eugene on gameday because it does matter.  Its why 55K fill Autzen every Saturday.  Its why people tune in on television.  And its not just "dumb" people.  Its doctors and lawyers.  Waiters and janitors.  Teachers and bankers.  And on and on.  And while precious few things bring together the rich and the poor, the Republicans and the Democrats, or the or the young and the old, you better believe that a game of "dead cow bouncing" has the power to do that.  

Moreover, I didn't hear this kind of outrage when the UO was getting donations for expanding the art museum.  To the class of intellectual snobs who bash sport while talking about the societal wonders that are Dance, Art, and Theatre, take notes about the truth of the subject.  Those three subjects are merely forms of entertainment, exactly like sport.  And when talking about what is really the best for all of society, when is the last time you saw a discussion of fine art at the trailer park?  And don't give me some hogwash about those people needing to be "enlightened."  Sports appeals to more people, period.  And don't try to lecture me.  I grew up on welfare, something that I'm sure Mr. Physics professor knows little about.

Now, I think that we all agree that a University's mission is on education.  I'm not exactly sure how we got where we are regarding athletics being as big a part of colleges as they are.  In high school, it is because of the life lessons learned--teamwork, responsibility, dedication, etc., by being on a team, and the same applies to college athletes as well.  In any case, athletic success does many things to help University academics.  Athletic success improves the school's profile and exposes the school to better and better students.  Moreover, because of the level of donor support the UO receives, it is one of the few athletic departments that are self sufficient.  Meaning it takes no money from the University's general fund.  Meaning more money for academics.

Its terrible that people have trouble paying for their education.  Trust me, I know, as I'll be paying off student loans for the next ten years.  But I don't pity myself--its not Phil Knight's job to pay for my education.  And, in fact, I thank him for contributing to the excellent library that allowed me to complete my education.  If you want more money to go to whatever your cause, skip a movie one a month and donate.  Lobby you representatives to allocate more funding.  Write a wonderful letter to Phil Knight explaining to him why he should donate to your cause.  Whether it be the chemistry department, art department, sociology, history, dance, physics, or the athletic departmemt, I hope that all part of our great University can thrive, whether I have any personal interest in them or not.  And if Phil Knight wants to donate money out of his own pocket--money that he could use to buy an island or yacht--and donate that to something that the public can enjoy, how can you say that's a bad thing?

So quit acting like its a zero-sum game.  Our basketball team is a source of pride for all people associated with the University, and this donation ensures that it will remain so for years to come--and does so without costing your department a penny.  I would like to thank the Knight's very much for their generosity.  Our University will be better because of it.