With the soon to be advent of the Pac 12 Network, the University of Oregon has decided to explore the option of independent status. This is an unprecedented move for an automatically qualifying school. Oregon is trying to join the ranks of Notre Dame and BYU with their choice of disbanding from the Pac 12 and going independent with their football program.
When reached for comment, Athletic Director Rob Mullens said:
Larry Scott has made the blueprint for how to create profitability from an AQ school. Oregon will work with its sponsor, donors and media relationships to create a self-sustaining athletic department and provide an unique environment for its student athletes.
In the short term, Oregon is looking to only make its football program independent while its non-revenue and basketball sports continue to be a part of the Pac 12. Oregon is going to rely on some of its major donors for funding and access to make their independent status profitable. Obviously, Nike and Phil Knight will play a major role in the success of Oregon's athletics. Phil Knight was quoted:
We are exploring options that allow us at Nike exclusive access to Oregon's program. This will give us the ability to negotiate on Oregon's behalf the media contracts and exhibition potential of the Oregon brand.
When asked if this would mean the withdrawal of relationships with other university products, Phil Knight responded:
To make this successful, if that means we need to withdraw the relationships we have with other universities, we'll explore that option. We're determined to make the University of Oregon the premiere university nationwide from an apparel, brand and scholastic standpoint as well as an athletic one, we'll do everything within our power as a company.
Situations are unclear right now when this transition will happen, but what is clear is that Oregon, the athletic department and its major sponsors are intent on looking at options that give Oregon flexibility on scheduling, recruiting and promoting the Oregon brand. There are doubts on whether a small school from the Northwest can go rogue and make independent status successful, but with the connections and framework already laid out before it, this seems like a risk worth taking.
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