Nike founder and noted gazillionaire Phil Knight has donated north of $300 million to Oregon over the years, and helped bankroll the Ducks' evolution from just another Pac-12 school to one of the nation's most prominent programs.
That sort of support comes with perks -- like sitting next to offensive coordinator Scott Frost in Oregon's coaches' box for a huge game against Stanford. (Knight is third from left in the second row, Frost fourth from left.)
It's no huge surprise that Knight has this sort of access to coaches. While he denied having a headset in 2010 ("I just wouldn't want to talk about it ... if it was true"), a 2014 USA TODAY profile reported that Knight has worn one allowing him to listen to coaches from his private box.
In fact, the team's offensive and defensive coordinators have routinely met with Knight for two of three hours before the season to give him an overview of the team and its strategies. Knight has worn coach's headsets from his double suite at Autzen Stadium during games. He stands on the field during warmups, mingles with the players in the locker room and on National Signing Day has pulled signed letters-of-intent off the coaches' fax machine.
But we've never seen this before, and Knight showing up in the coaches' box with a headset on is sure to rankle some folks who wish the Swoosh Overlord would be slightly less obvious about Oregon's most-favored nation status among the company's clients. Knight's given $105 million to Stanford, too -- but he's not in the Cardinal's corner.
The Nike check still carries a lot of prestige, but Knight, who graduated from Oregon in 1959, holds even more. And his prominent role with Oregon athletics is both one that many schools wish they could fill and one nearly every booster covets, either quietly or out loud.