Oregon, Nike, and the Sporting Apparel Revolution

by Allen Kellogg
Eugene, OR

Nike dominates college football like no other brand. Eighteen of the last 20 schools to win a National Championship wore Nike made uniforms, cleats, and apparel. Addias has one natty, Tennessee in 1998. Under Armor also has one, Auburn in 2010. Currently 71 out of 128 FBS team wear Nike. When looking at the P5 level, the ratio is even higher: 46 schools out of 66 power programs wear Nike.

However, Nike University, better known as the University of Oregon, has failed to win a championship in college football. The Ducks have been one of the most popular teams in the last 20 years and they make no effort to hide their Nike connections.

“It’s all about the croots,” Oregon head coach, Willie Taggart said. “Croots are just like fish. For some reason, they are attracted to bright, gaudy colors and crazy designs. Testing Nike prototypes has its advantages and disadvantages, but most of the time the news gear is phenomenal. However not all of it is good. Last year the team tried out a new ultra-lightweight cleat made of recycled paper. It does not work.”

Oregon went 4-8 last year.

Former Nike CEO, Phil Knight, ran track at Oregon in the late 1950’s. He went on to found Nike in 1964. Since then Nike has come to dominate the world of athletic apparel. The company is headquartered in Oregon and works with the University of Oregon to develop its products. With the backing of Nike, Oregon has been able to throw out hundreds of uniform combinations of the years. The Ducks almost never wear the same jersey’s twice. Knight has donated nearly half a billion dollars to the Oregon athletic department and yet despite all the resources and perks the Ducks have failed to win a single National Championship in football.

The team came close in 2010 falling just short of Cam Newton and Auburn in the national championship. In the first College football Playoff Oregon defeated previous year’s champion Florida State, but fell to Ohio State and their 3rd string QB in the game that actually mattered. Phil Knight has learned the hard way that you cannot buy a championship in amateur sports, there are just too many variables.

This leads us to a very important question, what happens to all the Oregon national championship apparel and old uniforms?

We did some investigating and discovered that all of the apparel not to be sold to the general public is shipped back to the factory where it is made and sold to the factory workers. Prices vary, but game worn jerseys are the most popular and generally cost about $12 USD or roughly two weeks pay.

“The jersey very nice,” an anonymous female worker at Nike’s Pou Chen factory in Taiwan said. “The material thin to keep us cool, but is also strong. Helps to soften the beatings.” This worker said after a while she will try and sell the jerseys online. Doing this can bring in up to $80 USD or enough money to feed her 7 children for 5 months. “When I sell Jersey buyer thinks the sweat is from Marcus Mariota or TJ Ward, but it actually is mine.”

Nike’s corporate office said the 18 national championships in 20 years is evidence their gear is the top of the line, but Oregon’s lack of success shows the importance of proper testing before a new product is launched. When pressed about the conditions their labor force is exposed to, Nike said no other sporting good manufacturer offers game worn apparel to their employees.

“We tell our workers the same thing every day, A Nike spokesman said. “Just do it.”

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