Is the Oregon monopoly on the NCAA meet good for track fans?

Let me begin with some reasons why I love the University of Oregon:

1. That logo they have featuring Donald Duck looking to kick someone’s ass is awesome.

2. I attended the 1999 U.S. Championships in Eugene with some of my throwers (I am a high school coach) and one of their parents. We were sitting  on some portable bleachers outside the stadium watching the men’s hammer competition when who comes and sits near us but John Godina and Art Venegas.  Godina was the best shotputter in the world at the time (he ended up throwing 22 meters at that meet) and UCLA had the best collegiate throwing program in the universe so we were totally jacked to be in their presence. Venegas sat down next to a young man named Justin Rapp, a rather large individual who threw for me and then went on to become DIII national champ in the shot while competing at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. We were all too scared to strike up a conversation with either John or Art, but after a few minutes, Art turns to Justin Rapp, looks him slowly up and down and says, “Hey! How much do you weigh?” as if he were afraid that the bleachers might buckle beneath beneath him.

3. Another of my former throwers, Pat Trofimuk, threw at Illinois State University for the current Oregon throws coach, Erik Whitsitt. At the time, Erik had three world class throwers in his stable: NCAA jav champ Tim Glover, NCAA medalist in the shot and hammer Brittany Smith, and current NCAA leader in the shot Curt Jensen. Pat was not a world class thrower, but a great, hard-working dude, the kind of guy who makes your program better by setting an example of how to do things the right way. In spite of the fact that Pat was never going to qualify for the NCAA meet, Erik valued him and treated him very well. And because of that, Erik will always have a special place in my heart. And in the new millennium, men are allowed to say that about each other.

4. I am a big fan of the head strength coach at Oregon, Jim Radcliffe. Last January, Jim presented at a strength and conditioning clinic in beautiful Mattoon, Illinois hosted by Marty Schnorf of the Charleston Weightlifting Club. You’d think a guy who ran the strength program for one of the premier football teams in the country might be at best a tad arrogant, at worst a complete tool. (One of my throwers got a football scholarship a few years back to a major powerhouse which shall remain nameless and the head strength coach was a maniac. He delighted in forcing the athletes to attempt bizarre feats of derring-do such as having my guy–a 310 pounder–try to jump onto a box that was higher than his belly button–the kid still has the scar on his shins–and he once reamed the kid out for having solid technique on overhead squats. I’m not making that up.) But Jim was courteous , helpful, and most importantly, really thoughtful in his approach to strength training. I hope the Oregon athletes know how lucky they are.

5. While in high school, I named my dog after Mac Wilkins, and dammit, Mac Wilkins went to Oregon.

So, I am not here to bash the Ducks. But I am more than a little chapped that the NCAA has awarded the next eight outdoor track and field championships to Oregon.

According to an article on, ( this decision was made, at least in part, to “emphasize the fan experience.”

And certainly, the fan experience at a meet in Eugene can be fantastic. I know nothing about distance events, but when I got my free cowbell at the meet in Eugene I shook the hell out of it every time one of those poor, anorexic dudes or dudettes staggered down the home stretch. When we walked into town for lunch, I ordered a veggie burrito and I liked it.  When the air temperature fluctuated ten degrees every five minutes, I didn’t complain. I walked over to the bookstore and bought a sweatshirt with mean Donald Duck on it that I treasure to this day. Every track fan, in my opinion, should attend a meet in Eugene before shuffling off to that great Olympia in the sky.

But eight consecutive years?

As a track fan who lives in the midwest, I am astonished that the NCAA has basically frozen me out of attending an NCAA championship.  Two years ago, I went to the NCAA meet in Des Moines.  Driving my Prius from the suburbs of Chicago, it cost me less than $30 to get there.  A hotel room was approximately $100 dollars per night. I stayed for two days of fantastic throwing, and then drove home for another $30.

Getting to Eugene, on the other hand, would cost at least $500 for the plane ticket and another $200 for car rental. Throw in the hotel room, and we are talking about at least $1000 dollars to attend the meet without factoring in food costs.  If you’ve ever read my stuff, you know that I have an extremely patient wife. But I’m a high school teacher, and $1000 for a trip to Eugene when it cost me $60 to get to and from Des Moines?

You tell me, which “fans” are the NCAA appealing to?

–Dan McQuaid





12 thoughts on “Is the Oregon monopoly on the NCAA meet good for track fans?”

  1. That is rediculous. It is too bad that the NCAA won’t “share” the championships with fans on the east coast. I am sure there are places that could host the championship meet east of the Mississippi.

  2. There are plenty of places in the middle of the US to host the NCAA outdoor champs like places in Texas, Baton Rouge and NOLA, Atlanta GA, etc.

    On one had, it’s good for the NCAA and track and field but on the flip side, it’s so far and it costs so much more like the author of this piece stated (I’m from Ohio).

    Why not rotate it like they did before (Sacramento, Eugene, possibly Baton Rouge or NOLA)?

  3. Dan, your post was “fan”tastic. And it was spot on, almost. I am sure, like a good Lincon/Douglas debate, that there is no perfect responce. Track fans, wherever they live, love attending competitions, especially the biggies. So point #1, Eugene for the next 8 years will create financial problems for most. Point #2, other locations hosting the meet is a Catch 22. Sure Fayetteville, A&M, Des Moines, etc are capable of hosting the meet but do the athletes get the same support that they do in Eugene? I have been to all of the above listed sites for National Champs and the “Hayward experience” just does not exist. If the NCAA champs are for the athlete, leave it in Eugene. If it is for 4 to 5 thousand daily fans in different cities, move it around. Side note – Traveling around to enjoy the best of the best, it is amazing how many Oregon fans do travel. In Eugene, I seldom see the volume of support for other schools. My 2 cents.

  4. Dan, I read your quote of the day on LetsRun and while I don’t disagree that 8 straight years is a little on the ridiculous side, the point you made about the money spent could have been left out. The way I read it, and I hope this wasn’t your intent, was that of “they should hold it in my backyard because that way I don’t have to spend as much.” I’m a track fan that lives on the East Coast. It would benefit ME the most if they held the event in Washington DC or Philly or Baltimore where I could drive to easily, hotel rooms are readily available (and not at exorbinant, jacked up rates due to these being bigger cities) and there is a lot to do outside of the actual event itself.

    Like Jose said above, there is no right or wrong answer.

  5. I think that the point wasn’t so much that you should put the meet in his backyard as much that Eugene is an expensive place to visit. It is a mid-sized town which means that accomodations can be expensive and hard to get. Not to mention that it is an expensive place to travel to since it is fairly far from a major airport.

  6. I see the point being made, but also some problems. There is the issue of climate. Weather is far cooler and more conducive to athletic performance in Eugene than in Des Moines, where by May it’s a crapshoot whether you’ll get good conditions, or hot, windy and humid.

    But more than that, it’s about tickets and filling seats. Eugene can fill their track venue. Des Moines can’t. When I watched NCAA Champs live online when they were at Drake in 2011, I saw mostly empty seats during the distance events. I saw much the same for USA Championships this year.

    Des Moines simply does NOT have the fanbase that Eugene can supply, nor the draw. Honestly, I’m more interested in traveling to a beautiful runners mecca like Eugene, than to flat boring Des Moines. And I live just three hours south in KC.

    If I’m going to give up a weekend to spectate, I’m going to go someplace interesting, with sights to see, and places to eat I might not otherwise find. Des Moines just isn’t worth the trip to me, but Eugene absolutely is, and is chock full of diehard fans who come year after year, like a reunion.

    I’m glad for Eugene. It’s the last bastion where running and track gets its proper due.

  7. I have attended the NCAA at Fayetteville , Des Moines, and Eugene. Considering the track history at Arkansas I expected large crowds but I believe I saw more Oregon fans there then the home team? Newspaper coverage was terrible. Des Moines does a great job( I have attended the Drake Relays every year since 1976) but the attendance was disappointing.
    As an old timer who has run in the NCAA I can tell you athletes love competing in Eugene since the crowd supports everyone regardless of school( certainly the Ducks a little more).
    I don’t think the NCAA worries about the cost to a fan. But four days of great track and field for under $100 for tickets is a great deal.

  8. Haven’t the Des Moines, Austins Andy Fayettevilles had their chance and either failed or failed miserably?

    National championships should not be conducted in empty stadiums. All of the “alternative” sites have had multiple opportunities to show they can generate crowds and championship ambience. Only Eugene gets close. The prelims days in Eugene are better than finals days elsewhere.

  9. Dan makes some good points. But it depends on one’s perspective.

    Maybe the NCAA should move that NCAA College World Series around the USA also … they have been in Omaha for 65 years now. Or, the Women’s version of the NCAA Softball World Series in Oklahoma City, which has been held there since 1982, ought to move on, also.

    I think it makes perfect sense to hold the Meets in Eugene. Now, I attended Eugene’s first-ever hosting of the NCAAs in 1962 and most of all the other big meets since including the best meet of all: the US Olympic Trials. They do a terrific job of ‘meet management’. One thing that bothers me is the ‘provincial nature’ of the Oregon fans … God love them!

    When they see (or hear) of Oregon green or yellow they cheer. They are polite to others but they cheer for the Ducks in a big way!

    I still remember the ’64 NCAA meet where the fans cheered incessantly during the Javelin Finals competition!!! The Ducks swept the Javelin !!! Now, how many other venues would have a crowd really into a field event like that?!!! In many respects they are just as supportive today.

    I live in the SF Bay Area but I lived many years in So Calif & Northern Virginia …. I still traveled up to Eugene for the meets (as well as other locations around the USA … Berkeley, UCLA, Sacramento, Boise, Albuquerque & other venues. But, I had no interest in going to DesMoines … the location just didn’t appeal to me, especially the humidity.

    The Meet should be for the competitors … in Eugene, the facilities are terrific and support staff & volunteers keep the place neater than Disneyland. What college athlete wouldn’t want to have the chance win the Gold Medal in Eugene? Hey … it’s TrackTown !!!

  10. Daniel:

    1. Oregon’s mascot is not Donald Duck. Never was, never has been. He was informally modeled after Donald, and what the wikipedia page and other stories fail to mention is that Disney gave permission for the Oregon Duck to be “Donald’s brother,” not Donald.

    I know that’s all silly, and there are contradictory stories (including the wikipedia page) but the above was published in the ODE in the 1970’s — specifically that Disney said the Oregon Duck, “was not Donald, but could be his brother.” I believe that came from the former Oregon AD, Leo Harris, who made the deal with Disney.

    If the story from the ODE (student paper) researching the history was correct, then The Duck (or The Fighting Duck) has always been Donald’s brother.

    A quibble to be sure, and maybe some of the true story got muddled by Disney Corps trying to protect their trademark on Donald as a separate entity etc. Of course, either way, it is a pretty bad ass mascot. They did try and change it once, but that failed. It’s pretty hard to get people indoctrinated on Donald Duck to give up The Fighting Duck.

    Okay, as to your disappointment that Eugene is getting to host the NCAA’s for the next 8 years.

    If you want to go to the World Series, it’s rarely in your back yard. If you want to see a play on Broadway, you have to go to NYC. If you want to play Pebble Beach, you have to come to Carmel.

    The brass tacks are that in this large country of ours, with hundreds of universities, and dozens of large metropolitan areas — no one cares about this sort any more.

    They’ve all had their chance.

    Rather than bemoan the commute, you might want to change the conversation to seeking solutions as to how to keep the sports participant-fans (high school and college athletes) to stick with the sport as fans after their careers are over (there’s a huge drop off, people just abandon the sport because it is so much easier just to follow America’s major pro sports.)

    Eugene is a pain in the butt to get to, I raced there, and I’d rather not make the effort to go spectate there, and I am a lot closer to Eugene than you.

    The plain facts are the popularity of track has declined for going on 4 decades or more now, and no place gives the athletes as good a welcome and support as Eugene, and no place gives the fans as good of an experience.

    Eugene is the “Carnegie Hall,” of track and field.

    It isn’t perfect, no place could be, and we’re damned lucky we have it as the last stronghold from which to try and rebuild the sport.

  11. PS,

    I think it is important to quote all “three pillars” of Oregon’s press release as to why the NCAA made the decision:

    “The successful bid was based on three principles: an unprecedented partnership between Oregon and the local track and field community that will elevate the Championships into one of the NCAA’s premier events; a first-class student-athlete experience that allows competitors to excel at the top of their sport; and engaging the community to celebrate the history of the sport and emphasize the fan experience.”

    And in 8 years or less you’d better buckle your seat-belts because my prediction is that this will lead to Eugene becoming the permanent home for the NCAA Track and Field Championships, just as the NCAA has a permanent home for the NCAA College Baseball World Series (Omaha).

    People can laud Eugene, or hate Eugene, the cold hard facts of the sport is that no one else wants to foot the bills.

    NCAA Track is lucky to have a Oregon/Eugene/Nike to foot the bills, just as they are lucky to have Omaha and co. for NCAA Baseball.

  12. Having the NC’s in Eugene is great – they run great meets. It has much better weather than DesMoines and other places. It may be a pricy place to get to, depending from where you live, but it is a great place to view a meet. Some sports are good to be moved around while others are not.

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