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Nike's flagship education meets its flagship shoe
08-22-2014, 08:09 PM
Post: #1
Nike's flagship education meets its flagship shoe
Nike's flagship school meets its flagship shoe

Kenny Farr has worked as an equipment manager limited to Oregon, and without another program for comparison he acknowledges his sense of normalcy have been warped like a rubber sole. Last season Oregon football chose its uniforms from a pool of eight jerseys, eight pants, six helmets, seven cleats and six socks. Then add helmet decals and gloves. Finally, multiply that by about 100 players. Farr, now answerable for solely football, is usually a master of spreadsheets.

"I guess I enjoy the organized chaos of it," he says, "If you only had one helmet it looks like it could be kind of ... boring."
It was not always like this. He didn't always have a row of NFL helmets on his shelf signed by everyone from Ducks in the pros to Ray Lewis and Howie Long. Cornerback Darrelle Revis - who played at the University of Pittsburgh -- once shipped a New York Jets helmet west in appreciate your receiving one of the "care packages" Oregon sends its alums who make an active NFL roster, along with special VIPs.

Farr came to Eugene from Grants Pass in 1997 and discovered his way into the equipment room as a student manager. It was only one year earlier that Knight asked his famous question of football coach Mike Bellotti: "What will we have to go to the next level?" It was only three seasons after Oregon wore a mix of Riddell and Nike uniforms en route to its first Rose Bowl berth in 37 years.

Knight and Oregon ultimately reshaped this program with glass, steel, speed and the spread offense. But with rubber, leather and air cushioning, the Ducks have gone a step further, creeping to the forefront from the imagination of sneaker collectors around the globe, some of whom have likely never watched a single Ducks game.

Looking beyond Bowerman's waffle trainers and the typical, retail sneakers Nike has co-opted into Duck colors, Oregon's the recent past of customized player-edition Nikes began in 2003. Home white and road green versions of LeBron James' second signature shoe were instant hits.

"That kind of exploded," DePaula says.

It wasn't until 2009, however, that Nike's Air Jordan model, its flagship shoe, met Oregon, its flagship school.

The idea's genesis is hazy but what's clear is Knight, former head coach Chip Kelly and Tinker Hatfield -- Nike's VP of Creative Concepts, an original Jordan designer and a former letter-winning Duck pole vaulter -- were the driving forces. Now, Hatfield designs the Oregon Jordans largely by himself.
Although the designs for every Jordan are intended at least two decades ago, the updated colors and accents made them unlike any previous iteration. Each time the sneakers are revealed to the players, two things happen: They go wild and Farr's popularity skyrockets.

"My phone fills up those days with (Ducks) in the NFL, 'How could we find some good?'" Farr says. "For the right people and former players we want to take care of them but there are a lot of calls from people who are friends of men and it's like, I can not do that. It's nothing personal against them but it is not my stuff to give you. There must be a line drawn."

The Oregon Jordans will likely never be released at retail and with such limited supply comes delirious demand. DePaula says he's seen pairs of recent Oregon-edition Foamposite Ones that retail for $250 selling for $700, and they are available in select stores. For a rare UO Jordan, price can stretch into the thousands. Ten Oregon Jordans were recently listed on eBay with asking prices exceeding $3,000.

Oregon's amount of security over its Jordans stockpile can feel akin to a government's supervision over a valuable arsenal. To lessen players' temptation to promote, the Ducks issue Jordans sometimes only for a certain game before requiring these shoes checked in until Nike and Oregon would like them worn again. Shoes also have identifying details like a player's number often sewn in, though motivated sellers can simply cover the marks with tape, for example, when advertising them online.
Also the Jordans that celebrities and special Nike athletes receive are frequently logged.
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