SI.com: Phil Knight revealed, cards banned on Memphis Grizzlies team planes
Nike founder and Oregon booster Phil Knight has managed to stay out of the spotlight while helping his alma mater rise to the top.
January 7th, 2011
07:03 PM ET

SI.com: Phil Knight revealed, cards banned on Memphis Grizzlies team planes

He co-founded Nike and ranks as the 23rd-richest person in the U.S., but in sporting circles, Phil Knight is better known as the most powerful booster in America.

While there’s been much discussion this season about whether Cam Newton received money to attend Auburn, there’s been little scuttlebutt about the source of the money being funneled into the program of the Tigers’ national championship opponent, the Oregon Ducks.

SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg pulls back the curtain and provides a glimpse into the mysterious life and influence of the Oregon athletic program’s top duck.

Knight graduated from Oregon in 1962, but his presence on the Eugene campus is felt much greater than ever. Since creating one of the most powerful brands in the world and becoming a billionaire many times over, Knight has made it his personal mission raise his alma mater into national stardom, one check at a time.

In total, Knight is estimated to have given $300 million to the Ducks’ athletic program. SI.com's Rosenberg hints that it may be even more and provides detail into the super-booster’s generous donations. Over the years, Knight has given his school state-of-the art facilities, a seemingly unlimited jersey budget and the bankroll to impress high school players who have helped transform the school once known for its track program into a national college football powerhouse and BCS contender.

In turn, Knight has been compensated quite nicely. The booster can sit in his suite at home games and listen to the coaches’ play calls on his personal headset.

Unlike Newton, there’s been little talk of Knight during Oregon’s surge to the top. He manages to stay out of the spotlight while putting his Ducks in it.

What to watch tonight (all times Eastern):

AT&T Cotton Bowl (8 p.m., FOX): No. 18 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 LSU. What’s better than Les Miles in a bowl game? Must-see television is sure to ensue as Miles’ Tigers (10-2) take on the Aggies (9-3) in the 75th running of the Cotton Bowl.

New York Knicks at Phoenix Suns (10:30 p.m., ESPN): Knicks MVP candidate Amar’e Stoudemire (26.4 ppg, 9 rpg) takes his first trip back to Phoenix to take on his former Suns, who have gone 3-10 since Dec. 7.

BY THE NUMBERS

1 – Team in Football Bowl Subdivision history to have won 10 games one season after losing 10. Miami (OH) accomplished the turnaround feat by beating Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Thursday.

$1,000 to $1,500 – The amount of the gambling debt Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo reportedly owed teammate Tony Allen after playing cards on a team flight. Mayo refused to pay and Allen and reportedly insulted him repeatedly, leading to a fight in which Allen punched Mayo in the face. Mayo missed Tuesday’s game (the team said he sat out with “bronchitis”) but neither player was fined or disciplined for the altercation.

$26,928,854 – Combined salary of Mayo and Allen through the 2012-13 season. Playing cards has since been banned on Grizzlies team planes.

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Joe Blow

    The grizzlies suck

    January 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    I don't want to be first.

    January 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cesar

    I want to be third.

    January 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    Hot dog CNN. Let me be 5th, please, please. Don't do me like you do Ed Baily. Please.

    January 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cesar

    No comment.

    January 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    The reason Newton has gotten the spotlight, and Phil Knight has not, is because Knight did nothing wrong, and everyone(including the NCAA) knows that Newton knew what his dad was doing, thus the debate about whether he should be playing or receiving the Heisman.

    January 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chad

    We call him Uncle Phil in Eugene 🙂

    January 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dennis

    ,The article regarding Phil Knight is an absolute joke. Contributions to an athletic program, within NCAA guidlines, cannot be compared to accepting money/benefits by a football player or his family to play. Such a comparison demonstrates the author's inability to rationally evaluate either.

    January 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TC

    Oregon has yet to beat The University of Oklahoma, Unless Unckle Philly pays the ref's off....

    January 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff_G

    Wow. Non-issue here. Imagine the boosters for Notre Dame. Might not be 1 person but they fly in on their personal jets for home games.

    January 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    I'm a Duck alum. Phil is absolutely wonderful to his school. So generous it boggles the mind...

    January 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jon L

    I'm a big sports fan but this makes me sick. How about putting that money to good use and making the world a better place?

    January 7, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve zwiener

      PERHAPS HE BELIEVES HE IS PUTTING HIS MONEY TO GOOD USE TO IMPROVE THE WORLD? You can kick in your own funds if you have other ideas to contribute your money to what you deem a good cause.

      January 7, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Donald Fausett

    What about T. Boone Pickens and Oklahoma State?

    January 7, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. steve zwiener

    "I'm a big sports fan but this makes me sick. How about putting that money to good use and making the world a better place?"
    PERHAPS HE BELIEVES HE IS PUTTING HIS MONEY TO GOOD USE TO IMPROVE THE WORLD? You can kick in your own funds if you have other ideas to contribute your money to what you deem a good cause.

    January 7, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JOregon

    You mentioned Phil co-founded Nike. You forgot to mention who else founded Nike.
    If it wasn't for the UofO Phil wouldn't be the 23rd richest person in America.
    Oregon Track coach Bill Bowerman designed the shoes that made Nike.
    He does give back to the school that made him rich. Many donors only give back to their schools when they become successful for other reasons.
    He is also contributing to the economy of Eugene at a time when unemployment is higher than average. Consider that maybe he wants to help the community.
    All schools have donors. Oregon, not as many. But then so far Phil hasn't gone past NCAA rules and regulations.

    January 7, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
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