Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Out on the Left Coast: Oregon Trip, Part 1

When the schedule came out this year, I was really excited about playing at Oregon. The trip was a mixed bag of the positive and negative and I am going to break it up into two posts as a result. This is part one of the trip to Eugene.

Oregon is one of the few states I haven't been to in the US, and I had heard Eugene was an awesome town. I was also excited to tour Oregon's renowned athletic facilities, and the trip got off to a good start. We had to leave the gym at like 5:45 in the morning for the airport and took 2 flights to get out to Oregon, but there were no delays and the flights went smoothly so I was fine. We got to Eugene and the weather was gorgeous, low 60's with a slight wind, and the town was beautiful. There were mountains, rivers, and lots of green all around. The majestic beauty of the place was awe-inspiring, I was really excited for everything the trip had to offer.

After arriving and eating a meal, we ran into Lee Corso in the hotel lobby. College GameDay was in town for the Oregon-Stanford football game that weekend, and the crew was staying at our hotel. So we snapped a photo with Lee:

Fellow managers (L to R): Rafi, Zach, me, Lee Corso, and Brian

Once we were settled in at the hotel, we went to practice at Oregon's practice facility and former Commodore Brad Tinsley came to practice with the team. After practice we had another team meal, then called it a night. It was a great first day in Oregon, but I was exhausted so went to sleep pretty early. The next morning we went to shootaround at Matthew Knight Arena and it is one of the nicest arenas I've ever been in. It is absolutely enormous almost like some type of futuristic venue and it cost $227 million to build. Despite seeming incredibly large, it is very intimate and seats less than Memorial Gym. It was a sick arena, and after shootaround me and another manager Zach Kleiner went around to tour the campus and the other athletic facilities.

Matthew Knight Arena

Our first stop was at Hayward Field, the track and field stadium for the Ducks. Nike founder Phil Knight was a walk-on for the Ducks track team during his time there and as a result of his relationship to the program and Nike's proximity to Eugene, the US Olympic Trials are always held in Eugene before each Olympics. The venue is incredibly historic and is nicknamed "Tracktown USA".

Hayward Field

Our next stop was across the Willamette River from the main Oregon campus, at Oregon's indoor football practice facility. The place was absolutely huge and brand new, and they are adding a $10 million dollar addition for solely coaches offices to the building. It made every other facility I've seen look like amateur hour. While we were there walking around and taking pictures, one of the workers saw our Vanderbilt gear and asked if we were in town for the game. We told him that we worked for the team and he offered to have someone give us a tour of Autzen Stadium, the Oregon football stadium. We were thrilled and took the tour, then went to PK Park (the baseball stadium) and to their athletic center with their Hall of Fame. Everything was awesome, it was just so impressive the scope of what Phil Knight and Nike had built at this school and it was hard for me to imagine how anybody could compete with them in terms of facilities or donor commitment. Additionally, the weather and town were beautiful, so it was a really fun afternoon

Me and Zach at Autzen Stadium

All of Oregon's Track/Cross Country trophies

Willamette River, Eugene

After Zach and I got back to the hotel, the team had pre-game meal and then 2 hours later we headed to the arena. The team was excited as it was a big test on the road early in the year that could help us see where we were at, and headed to the arena feeling confident. Pre-game, I was anxiously looking around the court trying to see if Phil Knight would be at the game. I knew he would be there to support the football team on Saturday and figured he would be at the basketball game as well. About 10 minutes prior to tip off, I went over and introduced myself to him and even got a picture taken. I was having a blast.

Me and Phil Knight, Nike Founder

Then the game started. It was an absolute disaster. We got blitzed right out of the gate and they had a series of highlight worthy alley oop and putback dunks. The atmosphere was pretty cool though, the student section was behind our basket and also across from us and they were very creative. It got very loud in there. At halftime nobody was happy and Coach Stallings was particularly dissatisfied. We started the second half in much the same matter the first one ended: completely overmatched. Early in the second half, Coach Stallings got a double technical and got ejected. I don't recall exactly what he said to the ref but I'm pretty sure it wasn't "Good job".

Once Coach got ejected, Coach Richardson took over, but the Oregon students were not impressed by Coach Rich's track record. One student wrote on a white board, "Vanderbilt hire me, I can coach". I thought that was pretty funny, but not as funny as when walk-ons Nate Watkins and Alex Gendelman were put on the kiss-cam. They didn't actually lock lips, but I think Nate was quite tempted, just so he could go down in infamy. The game mercifully ended with the final score being 74-48. The locker room, bus ride, and team meal after the game were dead silent, and everybody wanted to get to bed since we had a 5:45 AM flight out of Eugene in the morning. This concludes the first portion of our trip to Oregon.

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