Friday, August 30, 2013

University of Oregon Has a Football Performance Center for the Gods of College Athletics and Former Heisman Trophy Winner Dick Kazmaier Has Died

The Contrast in College Athletics

College football season is upon us, and another reminder of the insanity of the situation.

The University of Oregon has built a center for its football team that apparently rivals the palaces of royalty and Saddam Hussein in luxury and opulence.

Cliff Volpe for The New York Times
An art installation on a sixth-floor sky bridge represents the number of Ducks who have been drafted into the N.F.L

The Football Performance Center at the University of Oregon features rugs woven by hand in Nepal, couches made in Italy and Brazilian hardwood underfoot in the weight room that is so dense, designers of this opulent palace believe it will not burn.

Need more, here it is.

The small details stand out. The bathrooms with green stalls and mirrors with painted Ducks slugging conference foes. The extra-large furniture tested to withstand 500 pounds. The elevators decorated with famous plays in Oregon football history, the actual plays, drawn up in Xs and Os by a coach. The room for professional scouts to watch footage of Oregon players. The ticker running sports scores.
On and on, for football’s sake:

The foosball tables from Barcelona in the players’ lounge. The ventilation systems in each locker. The magic shelves that charge phones or tablet devices without the need to plug in. The 250-plus televisions.

The Ring Room, shaped like an O, with rings underneath green neon light and audio created by Finnish engineers using game-day sound from Autzen Stadium. The cafeteria, this being the Pacific Northwest, with the espresso machine and the farm-to-table philosophy and the sign that reads, “Eat Your Enemies — And Other Food Groups.” The terrazzo floors made with recycled glass. The 40-yard electronic track inside the weight room that measures the force of each step and the efficiency of each run.

The coaches have their own locker room, complete with a hydrotherapy pool and steam shower, made from blue stone slate, and, of course, dozens of kinds of after-shave in front of the bathroom mirrors, which feature built-in televisions.

The good news, if there is any is that at least the taxpayers of Oregon did not foot this bill.

The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alum and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the facility Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the facility cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)

And contrast this with the story of Princeton All American Dick Kazmaier, who died recently.  He won the Heisman (and every other) Trophy in 1951.

Associated Press
Dick Kazmaier, right, in a game in 1951. He passed for 2,404 yards and rushed for 1,950 in three varsity seasons at Princeton.

At 5 feet 11 inches and 171 pounds, Kazmaier looked too fragile to play high-level college football, especially in a single-wing offense that favored bruising 2-on-1 blocking. Still, he succeeded in the triple-threat role of runner, passer and punter.

As a junior and senior, he led Princeton to undefeated seasons and was named to most all-American teams. As a senior, in separate player-of-the-year polls, he won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Trophy. He was voted the Associated Press athlete of the year in 1951 — ahead of Ben Hogan and Stan Musial.

And what did Mr. Kazmaier do with the rest of his life?  Well he didn’t play pro football, and he went on to a rather distinguished career in which he served his country and then made himself a business success.

But football was not the focus of his life. When Princeton’s dean of students told him he had won the Heisman Trophy, he recalled: “I thought it was nice. Then I went back to class.”

Kazmaier was drafted by the Chicago Bears but declined to join the team, or any other one. Player salaries then were often less than $5,000 a year. Instead, with a degree in psychology, he pursued a master’s in business administration at Harvard, receiving the degree in 1954.

After Harvard came three years as a Navy officer. He then started a career in sports marketing and consulting, and in 1975 he founded Kazmaier Associates. He had no regrets about giving up football.

As for his attendance at Princeton, here’s how he accomplished that.

He was recruited by 23 colleges, most offering full scholarships. He chose Princeton, where, like most athletes and nonathletes, he received financial aid, in his case $400 a year. (Tuition was $600.) To cover the rest of his tuition and room and board, he waited on tables, drove laundry trucks and took summer jobs.

So your choice everyone, who is the better person, Mr. Kazmaier or some lunkhead at Oregon?  If you don’t know the right answer you are probably a graduate of a college like Oregon that places the value of athletics over academics, and that is why you don’t know nothing.

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