University of Nike: How Corporate Cash Bought American Higher Education
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The dramatic expose of how the University of Oregon sold its soul to Nike, and what that means for the future of our public institutions and our society.
In the mid-1990s, facing severe cuts to its public funding, the University of Oregon—like so many colleges across the country—was desperate for cash. Luckily, the Oregon Ducks’ 1995 Rose Bowl berth caught the attention of the school’s wealthiest alumnus: Nike founder Phil Knight, who was seeking new marketing angles at the collegiate level. And so the University of Nike was born: Knight has so far donated more than half a billion dollars to the school in exchange for high-visibility branding opportunities.
But as journalist Joshua Hunt shows in University of Nike, Oregon has paid dearly for the veneer of financial prosperity and athletic success that has come with this brand partnering.
Hunt uncovers efforts to conceal university records, buried sexual assault allegations against university athletes, and cases of corporate overreach into academics and campus life—all revealing a university being run like a business, with America’s favorite “Shoe Dog” calling the shots. Nike money has shaped everything from Pac-10 television deals to the way the game is played, from the landscape of the campus to the type of student the university hopes to attract.
More alarming still, Hunt finds other schools taking a page from Oregon’s playbook. Never before have our public institutions for research and higher learning been so thoroughly and openly under the sway of private interests, and never before has the blueprint for funding American higher education been more fraught with ethical, legal, and academic dilemmas.
Encompassing more than just sports and the academy, University of Nike is a riveting story of our times.
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