SONOMA -- I had heard the name often. In fact, I even read it in a New York Times article Aug. 2, when a University of Oregon official admitted school recruiters use the name when trying to impress high school athletes.
“We embrace it,” was what the school official said of the name.
So I thought I wasn't being offensive Monday when I asked Casey Martin a question using the name.
“So what is it like coaching at the University of Nike?”
Martin, the golf coach at Oregon, grimaced, shook his head, took a few steps back in the lobby of the Sonoma Golf Club and raised his hands in front of him as if to repel the question.
“I coach at the University of Oregon,” said Martin, clearly irritated. That's all he said in response. There will be no discussing the matter. His intent was obvious. Martin wanted to make sure I knew he was being paid by a NCAA Division I university, which sounds a bit more lofty and intellectually pleasing than getting his paycheck from a company that does a great job of selling running shoes.
Martin was in town with his Oregon golfers, one of 16 NCAA teams competing in the two-day Alister MacKenzie Invitational, named after the designer of the golf course. As well-appointed and designed as the Sonoma Golf Club is, the clubhouse would look like a tool shed if it was placed next to a Phil Knight-approved and paid-for structure on the Eugene campus.
Knight is co-founder and chairman of Nike, the sports apparel company that has placed Knight's net worth in 2012 at $14.4 billion. Knight, an Oregon alum, has donated more than $300 million to the university, which includes the $68 million, six-story Football Performance Center, 145,000 square feet divided among three buildings. Ventilation systems exist in each locker. Stones from China make up the ground floor plaza. Extra-large furniture was tested to withstand 500 pounds. Coaches have their own locker room with a hydrotherapy pool.