When people think of athletics at the University of Oregon, a few things come to mind. For starters, there’s the track team known around the world, helping to land Eugene, Oregon the nickname of Track Town, USA. There’s also the football team that became a juggernaut starting in the 1990s and is known for its unique uniforms, with hardly wearing the same combination of uniforms more than once.
Oregon sports has come a long way over the years, with all of the programs contributing to the overall legacy of the athletics department. If you were to create a Mount Rushmore replica in Eugene that took just the four most influential people, who would be on it? Here are our picks for the Mount Rushmore of Oregon Ducks sports.
You can’t tell the story of Oregon athletics without talking about Phil Knight. Going back to his college days, Knight was a runner at Oregon who was on the varsity team for three seasons. However, it wasn’t his career as a runner with the school that landed him on the Oregon Ducks Mount Rushmore.
After leaving the University of Oregon, Knight would go on to start Nike, and his contributions helped to make Oregon a nationally-known program. Between the entire basketball arena and major contributions to the football and track programs, Knight and Nike have their stamp on just about everything on campus. Overall, Knight has invested well over $1 billion in the university, earning Knight the nickname Uncle Phil.
Oregon football had been building up to something special throughout the 1990s and 2000s thanks to the likes of Joey Harrington and the Chip Kelly offense. The culmination of Ducks football would come when the school landed coveted quarterback recruit Marcus Mariota from Honolulu.
Mariota would be the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy, doing so in 2014, while also winning the Maxwell, manning, Walter Camp, and Davey O’Brien Awards (among others). Mariota set records left and right, throwing for 10,796 yards and 105 touchdowns while also rushing for 2,237 yards and 29 touchdowns. Mariota would go on to become the highest-drafted player from Oregon since George Shaw in 1955 at second overall.
Another member of the Oregon Ducks running team to make it onto the school’s Mount Rushmore is Steve Prefontaine, who was simply known as Pre to many around the world. Prefontaine tragically passed away at just 24 years old but left a huge legacy as the leader of the increase in running interest in the United States.
Prefontaine made it to the 1972 Olympics where he won a bronze medal, and only had three races during his collegiate career in which he didn’t win (all of them in the 1-mile run). Pre had a ton of charisma and was well-known, especially as he set his personal best of 3 minutes and 54.6 seconds in the 1-mile in Eugene in 1973.
Sabrina Ionescu was one of the top high school players in the country and decided to head to Oregon where she became the school’s highest-rated recruit of all time. Ionescu dominated in Eugene and became the only player in NCAA history with over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists in her career.
Not only that but Ionescu would be named the Pac-12 Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons, as well as winning the Nancy Lieberman Award every year from 2018 to 2020. Ionescu was the 2020 Naismith and AP Player of the Year, and she became the first Oregon player to be drafted number one overall in the WNBA.
Who Just Missed the Cut?
It was hard to narrow down the list to just four, and there were some notable Ducks that were left off of the list. Those that were considered for the Mount Rushmore are Dan Fouts (football), Bill Bowerman (track), Ahmad Rashad (football), Payton Pritchard (basketball), Joey Harrington (football), and Ashton Eaton (track).