Tag Archives: University of Oregon

Taking Back the Past

On Monday, Nike announced it has pulled its “Boston Massacre” shirts in light of the recent Boston bombings. The shirts were originally designed to commemorate the Yankees’ series sweeps of the Red Sox in 1978 and 2006, which ended playoff hopes on both occasions. Nike was forced to make a statement after David Letterman Producer Eric Stangel’s tweet of a photo of the shirt in stores, calling out the insensitivity, went viral.

Eric Stangel Tweet

And this isn’t the first time this has happened…this year. In February, Nike discontinued the campaign promoting sponsored paralympian Oscar Pistorius that revolved around the saying, “I am the bullet in the chamber” after the athlete was charged with fatally shooting his girlfriend.

While the slogans seem unfortunate in hindsight, at the time of creation they probably seemed like pure genius. What’s done is done, and Nike not only responded in the right way, by absorbing all loses and removing messaging that could be misinterpreted, the athletic company also resolved the issue in a timely and respectful way.

Excluding the perpetrators themselves, no one could have predicted either tragedy. It’s important for brands to be aware of all interpretations of their messages no matter when the message what created, just as it is important for consumers to be understanding of true intentions.

As a graduate of the University of Nike, I must disclose that I have been, and forever will be, a Nike fan. Nike’s recent display of compassion and sensitivity only reinforces my love for the brand.

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The Broncos’ $96M deal: aligning with a legend (to be)

With winter term of my senior year coming to a close, I’ve found my way back to the bloggosphere. Hello, old friend. This past term I took a class entitled, “Olympic Sports Marketing.” Loved it. And a lot of what we discussed in class is relatable to PR. One topic was aligning the brand with the values and goals of the Olympic Games as well as committing to a long-term investment. One thing that surprised me was the cost of becoming an official sponsor of the Games. It costs $80M to be associated with the Olympics – keep in mind, this is just the right to say you’re an official sponsor. On top of that, these select few sponsors spend a minimum of $200M to market themselves as such. This is an incredible amount of money, and although I won’t get into it, this money is spent to do good – but could also be used to resolve the global food crisis; just saying.

But back to branding. These sponsors know that they are committing to a long-term, strategic investment. To maximize their investment, they must be 100% committed to the Olympic brand. They must align themselves with Olympic values, both through their online presences and through traditional media.

With this on my mind, I couldn’t help but think about branding when I saw this morning’s front page of ESPN.com, “The Art Of The Deal – The Broncos got Peyton Manning for five years, $96 million.” At the press conference scheduled for later today, Manning will be announced as the Broncos’ new starting quarterback. The franchise now faces the task of trading its current starting quarterback, Tim Tebow. There is no doubt this is a risky investment. Peyton is 36 years old. He’s missed the 2011 season to undergo several neck surgeries. Tim Tebow is a fresh 24. Yet the Broncos are tossing Tebow aside for Manning, with a pay schedule banking on him playing five more seasons.

But perhaps it’s not about a championship ring. The Brancos are aligning itself with the Peyton Manning brand. There is no doubt that Manning is (or will become) a football legend. In fact, rumors surfaced before the deal was signed stating that Payton was offered a guaranteed position on staff with the courting rival Tennessee Titans should he live out the terms of its contract. This was never about buying a great quarterback. It’s about aligning a franchise with one of football’s greatest stars. And by star, I don’t just mean on the field. I mean, Manning’s squeaky clean, fatherly, honest, all around good image.

I’m not going to say I agree with Manning’s paycheck. My father has ingrained in me for twenty two years that athletes are grossly overpaid. What I am saying is that from a branding standpoint, this is a smart move for Denver. Peyton Manning is (or will be) a legend. Good players want to play with legends. Period.

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2011 Oregon Football Preview: Living up to the hype and rising above controversy

Oregon’s preseason opener against LSU is fast approaching. In the spirit of of the coming game, I decided to post a preview of what may come in my senior year at Oregon.

The Oregon Ducks enter the 2011 season after making history with the school’s first ever appearance in a national title game, a second consecutive conference title and their best record in over a century.

Their almost perfect season was certainly unexpected after suffering a series of offseason controversies leaving the team without their star quarterback in 2010. A lot has changed since then, but one thing that has stayed consistent is the offseason antics. Both Cornerback Ciff Harris and linebacker Kiko Alonso are suspended for a minimum of one game and the football program has fallen under investigation by the NCAA for its dealings with a Houston-based recruiting service owner, Willie Lyles.

While the NCAA decides their post-season fate, Oregon will need to live up to the hype built up over the past year. This season the Ducks will lose star linebacker Casey Matthews, now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, and wide receiver Jeff Maehl. Despite those key losses, the team should maintain its speed and agility with returning running backs Kenjon Barner and 2010 Heisman finalist LaMichael James as well as quarterback Darron Thomas.

Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks would like nothing more than to prove themselves once again by winning the first ever PAC-12 conference championship and having a second chance at the BCS National Championship.

OFFENSE

The Ducks’ returning quarterback Darron Thomas has the confidence he didn’t have a year ago. Last offseason, Thomas was pitted against upperclassman Nick Costa to win the starting quarterback position. Having won, he led Oregon to the National Championship. Last season he passed for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns. Thomas now has the confidence to throw more and rely less on the speed of his running backs, which is good because it’s about time most of their PAC-12 competitors have their routine down straight. It’s Thomas’ job to change up their offense and make it unpredictable again.

That isn’t to say that James and Barner will contribute any less than in previous seasons. In the 2010 season, James lead the country in rushing with 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging almost six yards per carry, while Barner for 551 yards and six touchdowns, averaging over six yards per carry. The speed of the Oregon offense isn’t going anywhere. Wide receiver Josh Huff was a huge asset last year as a true freshman, averaging almost eighteen yards per carry, but will need to step up even more this year to fill the shoes of alum Jeff Maehl. Tight end David Paulson will also round out the Ducks’ experienced offense catching for 418 yards last season and four touchdowns.

If the offense line is able to stay strong after losing three starters, the offense is solid. But that’s a big “if.” The younger players will have the pressure of building the cohesiveness and leadership of previous seasons all before their first game. But with the addition of true freshman wide receiver Tacoi Sumler, a four star recruit out of Miami, FL and one of the fastest (if not the fastest) prep football recruit in the country, filling Maehl’s shoes shouldn’t be a problem.

This team led the conference and the nation in points per game (46.8) and yards per game (530.7), and should be just as remembered, but perhaps a little quicker and not as predictable.

DEFENSE

In the 2010 season, Oregon’s defense ranked twelfth in the nation allowing only 18.7 points per game. Leaving the Ducks are key linebackers Casey Matthews (79 tackles – 37 solo), Spenser Paysinger, now for the New York Giants, Kenny Rowe, now for the San Francisco 49ers. This is going to be a young group of players, and they’ll all need to step up and give the offense what it needs to stay in control.

Last season, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti rotated between 25 linebackers. So a lot of the players that will need to step up will not be new to Oregon, just new to the starting line. The Ducks have also added five true freshmen and three red-shirt freshmen to the lineup.

Over the past few seasons, the Ducks’ defense has been regarded as the weak link but on their road to the national championship, Oregon stepped up and showed the country this wasn’t a team relying totally on their running backs. Regardless of their missing starters, the Ducks should be able to fill the gaps and keep on improving.

SCHEDULE

The Ducks we extremely fortunate in the 2010 season; opening the preseason with a matchup against New Mexico wasn’t exactly a challenging one. The team was coming off an embarrassing loss to Wisconsin in the 2010 Rose Bowl and needed the kind of confidence boost that season opener supplied.

This year, Oregon isn’t as fortunate. They open the preseason against fourth ranked LSU at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, TX. Autzen Stadium has been consistently ranked in the top ten most intimidating venues, but the Ducks don’t always thrive on a national stage. They’ll also be missing defensive players Alonso and Harris due to suspensions for the LSU game. The Ducks, ranked third, will need to win this game if they want a repeat appearance in the BCS National Championship. After the LSU opener, their schedule looks pretty typical.

The Ducks will open conference play at Arizona, which was far from the friendliest venue two seasons ago. Luckily Oregon’s three toughest PAC-12 opponents are late in the season, allowing them time to prepare for what can be considered unknowns right now. Oregon will have to face their biggest PAC-12 threat, Stanford, lead by Heisman finalist Andrew Luck at Stanford Stadium. Not ideal, and Stanford will be a different looking team under new head coach David Shaw. Closing out the season with the civil war against Oregon State at home will be a huge advantage; especially if the Ducks are coming off a couple victories against Stanford and USC.

Starting out the season with likely the toughest game they’ll play all season will be a tell tale sign of how far the Ducks have come in the offseason. Stanford will be the ultimate test of their strength at the end of the season. These benchmarks will likely reveal the fate of Oregon’s post-season play.

OUTLOOK

The Ducks, in the past, have thrived as the underdog, but that is no longer the case. After their birth at the BSC National Championship, the team needs to find that hunger they had when they had to prove themselves to the world. Now that they’ve proven themselves, can they live up to the hype? Their offseason controversies provide a chance for their usual “it’s us against the world” mentality to supersede the others and might just be enough to meet great expectations.

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PAC-12 media play

Yesterday afternoon marked the first completed PAC-12 media day. Now, more than ever, there is little to differentiate pro and college football. The biggest of controversies discussed was the investigation of University of Oregon’s dealings with a Houston-based recruiting service owner, Willie Lyles.

I read an article this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle (distributed by the Associated Press) about the controversy and Oregon Coach Chip Kelly’s comments, or lack there of, during the PAC-12 media day. To the multitude of questions from the media about the NCAA investigation, Chip Kelly responded, “As head coach of this football program, we’re held accountable for everything we do… I’d love to talk about it. There are a lot of answers I’d love to make sure we can get out there.”

The article also reads that in a statement sent out to program supporters by email last Friday, Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens said the Ducks have retained a law firm to assess the $25,000 payment to Lyles for an apparently outdated scouting report last year.

In an ESPN recap of the media day, Ted Miller interviewed Bruce Feldman about the current happenings of the PAC-12. In the interview, Feldman makes a comment about Oregon delaying their response to the accusations to defuse the situation as much as possible. Is this an effective tactic? Yes. Unlike Tennessee, Oregon is not punishing themselves prematurely, but as far as they know, they’ve done nothing wrong (That’s their story and their sticking to it!). The fact that Oregon has retained a law firm to independently examine their payment to Lyles shows that the program is proactively investigating the situation.

You can’t comment on something if you don’t know happened for sure, and I commend Chip Kelly for not trying to.

PS. Sorry if this post is bias in your eyes…ALL HAIL CHIP!

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Harris at the edge of a Cliff

I just started interning for the second summer at a small PR firm in San Francisco, so forgive me for abandoning my blog for a week. Now that’s out of the way, lets get down to the nitty gritty that is college football. I read an article when I got home today; it was ESPN‘s report of some heartbreaking news.

Wednesday, Oregon football coach Chip Kelly released a statement announcing the indefinite suspension of cornerback Cliff Harris. All because this kid (and I’m allowed to say kid because I’m older than he is) can’t keep it under 100 mph. The 20 year old was cited Sunday morning after police clocked the player going 118 mph with a suspended license in a rental car.

There are so many things wrong with that last sentence.

  1. Suspended License – Why did he have a suspended license? What did he do originally to get it taken away?
  2. 118 mph – Seriously? The main highway going through Eugene has a 55 mph speed limit.
  3. Rental Car – This could be a lie, but I thought you needed to be 25 to rent a car. Never mind the fact that you need a license (this I know to be true).

The car was said to be rented to a university employee, which just opens a whole different can of worms that I don’t want to even think about.

I can’t help but think this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The same day, ESPNU posted a podcast discussing the state of college football after a rather turbulent offseason. Amongst the talk, interviewee Pat Forde suggests that some of the controversies going on in college football today have probably been going on for a long time and are just now being brought to light. Host Ivan Maisel, in response to Forde’s comment, brings up the fact that information is more readily accessible than it has been in the past due to the emergence of social media, which could explain the exploding of controversies this year.

But is this an excuse? Social media can make you, and it can certainly break you. First impressions are no longer made over the phone or face-to-face, but rather via Facebook “stalking.” I will never forget my first day of J452: Strategic Public Relations Communications when my professor started off our first class with a slideshow, one slide per student. She revealed what anyone and everyone (including future employers) could find about each of us on the web within ten minutes. Some weren’t so bad, some were pretty bad and some were worse. Yes, it’s harder the shield ourselves from the world because everything we do is online, kept forever in the intangible nothingness of the Internet. But that’s no justification. Maybe if we were older, using our first computer and just started to learn about that thing that can find all the answers (Google). But we’re not, and by “we” I mean me and all those athletes making mistakes. I got my third laptop at eighteen. I’m not sure I can remember what I did with my free time before Myspace and Facebook came along. The irony of all these social media-induced scandals is, they’re all coming from those who’ve grown up in the digital age. One would think we’d know how to use social media the way it’s meant to be used. Psych.

Chip Kelly said something in his statement that really stuck with me.

Cliff’s future clearly is in Cliff’s hands. Earning an opportunity to represent the University of Oregon and this football program certainly rests far beyond a player’s ability on the field of play. Our behavior out of the spotlight often is more important and will be held to a higher standard. Until Cliff is able to conform to the same standards all of us must comply with, his status will remain unchanged.

For some reason, these words really reinforced my faith in the Ducks. Perhaps it is the fact that this team has a leader that truly understands the meaning of a team and the environment we live in today, the digital age. These players are given more than they probably ever dreamed. They are the heroes of a small town that worships one thing: the duck. With great power comes great responsibility. But amid all the praising, winning and inflating egos, Kelly is still able to understand that today, the spotlight is never out; get used to it; adapt.

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The lies that lead to a slow and painful demise

Breaking college football news: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor won’t return to Ohio State for his senior season. I watched a video posted on ESPN today featuring ESPN College Football Insider Joe Schad’s comments on the situation. He said he wasn’t surprised and there has been talk that Terrelle Pryor has been blamed by teammates for the late departure of coach Jim Tressel.

This got me thinking about how one bad decision can change everything. Although Pryor made a few bad decisions, not just one, it goes to show that lying never gets you anywhere. The scandal at Ohio State lead to Tressel’s painfully long demise. But is Pryor responsible for that? When it comes down to it, the athlete follows the advice of a coach, not the other way around. Blame for the famed coach’s resignation should not be placed on Pryor but on Tressel himself.

But none of that even matters because once you lie, and the truth comes out, no one will ever trust you as a teammate or anything else. Things are not looking up for Ohio State or Terrelle Pryor and the only thing I can say to that is, thank goodness he didn’t come to Oregon.

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Facts4Lance…or is that against?

Last week, ESPN Page 2 posted their Power Rankings. At the top of the list was Facts4Lance.com, Lance’s website to combat doping accusations and media attacks.

In the article, ESPN points out Lance’s website was a good plan…in theory. The cyclist is at the center of a major scandal. Here’s a guy, amazing athlete, diagnosed with cancer, but fights for his life to make the comeback of a lifetime, literally. He created the Livestrong brand that stands for surviving cancer. He has positioned himself as a hero and it looks as if that’s vanishing right before his eyes.

This got me thinking. In my PR classes, we always learn about crisis communications; what we should do if our brand has done something wrong and people find out. But what about if you’re wrongly accused? What do you do then?

Regardless of whether Lance doped or not, Facts4Lance.com may be doing more harm than good. This guy that use to warm the hearts of America and stand for hope is now coming off defensive, angry and aggressive. He’s getting mad at the same broadcasters that may have been willing to give him a chance to explain himself. Now, not so much.

The moral of this story is don’t burn bridges, because at least once in every lifetime we all have to cross a river we thought we’d never have to. And what then? Well, then you’re stuck.

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Ethicality of flopping

I read this article today, “Guide to Not Getting Caught: The Xs and Os of getting away with violations on and off the court,” by By Morty Ain, Eddie Matz, Ryan McGee and Seth Wickersham for ESPN The Magazine. The issue coming out May 30th is dedicated to the year’s best, worst and juiciest scandals.

US National Soccer Team player Jay DeMerit contributed his commentary on how some teams try to get away with flopping. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s when players fake injuries to take up time. One of the first flopping incidents of the year to be address? Aaron Tipoti, a Cal defensive linesman who tried oh so hard to stop Oregon’s uptempo offense. DeMerit gives the player two stars out of ten explaining:

Timing is everything, and he got it all wrong. It’s five seconds after the play, he’s walking back to the line of scrimmage and he seems fine. Then, he looks to the sideline, and all of a sudden he’s rolling on the ground, grabbing his knee. It’s like a sniper in the stands hit him. When you’re standing up and you’re all alone like that, you’ve got to go for the calf cramp, because you can slowly limp into it. This move was totally obvious. There wasn’t one iota of believability to it.

I remember this game. I remember, like most other Ducks out there, how frustrating it was that this was so blatantly going on without penalty. And worse, it was kinda working. Cal held us to our lowest score of the season; a mere 15 points gave us the win by two points.

But there’s no preventing this. How can you really be sure a player isn’t actually injured. How can you differentiate between a faker and an actually injured player? Sometimes, like in this case, it’s easy. But in other cases it may be a lot more difficult. Hands are tied when it comes to rule-making.

However entertaining this article may be, it got me thinking, “how ethical is it to tell athletes how to cheat?” Because of the Ducks’ high speed offense, flopping is seen all the time. And the worst part is, sometimes it’s affective. It slows or stops the game and disrupts the rhythm of the offense. I remember specifically the discussion during and post game of Tipoti’s glance at the sideline and subsequent fall. It was so obvious what was going on; this particular incident was the tip of the iceberg in this game (for me at least). Yet commentators were still saying, the coach was encouraging a hurt player to go down if he was really hurt. The problem was, he clearly wasn’t.

But back to my question. The cheating and lying in NCAA sports is ridiculous. This past school year is my case and point. So is it unethical to teach kids how to win by twisting the rules? Or are we so far beyond that point we can just shrug and say, “Everybody’s doing it…”

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Rising above the rivalry: Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa

Rivalries in the south are something of another breed, or so I’ve heard. Alabama and Auburn are no exception. The rivalry can only be equivocated to the civil war between Oregon and Oregon State, the big game between Stanford and Cal and perhaps Michigan and Ohio State. We’ve been talking about the devastating damage that struck the hometown of the University of Alabama recently in my public relations classes. And I wanted to share this amazing story of people coming together to help a neighbor regardless of school colors.

Not only have Auburn fans, boosters, students and faculty donated their time and energy to help out people once considered the enemy, they have created a full out campaign to communicate with anyone that can help. The Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa Facebook page is one of the standout tools that has been in use to communicate with outside efforts. As much as this pains me to say, Auburn has done a tremendous job PR-wise. Auburn will be forever branded as the school that rose above a rivalry to help neighbors in need.

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All about money

Last week (sorry for the delay) it was announced that ESPN and FOX signed a 2.7 billion dollar twelve-year contract with the PAC-12. As a duck myself, this is huge! This literally means that ESPN and FOX will pay the PAC-12 for the exclusive broadcasting rights to its games starting next school year.

In an ESPNU College Football podcast, Ivan Maisel and Beano Cook discuss the largest broadcasting deal in college sports history. Us west coasters have felt underrated for decades with the belief that media tend to give more credit to east coast college sports teams and less to west coast schools. For example, when Oregon played Tennessee in the 2010 pre-season media favored Tennessee even though Oregon was ranked much higher in all the polls. So Maisel asks the question, does this deal mean the infamous east coast bias is no longer?

Podcast: ESPNU College Football 05-04-2011

Getting a contract like this brings in tons of money to each school in the PAC-12. In fact, this deal will nearly cover all University of Washington’s costs of building a new football stadium. This money will never be spent on a professor, new computers or anything to do with a college classroom. College athletics is a business, and as Cook says, the only difference between college sports and professional sports is that professional sports get paid. And lets be real, can we even be sure of that anymore?

But all this scandal and money surrounding college athletics today only means one thing for public relations professionals: job security.

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