Five individuals, in addition to three men’s cross country teams that captured NCAA championships in 1971, 1973 and ’74, will formally join the elite collection of the university’s former athletics standouts at a Sept. 21 banquet in Matthew Knight Arena, before being introduced at halftime of the Ducks’ Pac-12 conference-opening football game the next day against the Wildcats.
Selected to the university’s 2012 Athletics Hall of Fame are 1994 football MVP Chad Cota (1991-94), quarter-back and Heisman Trophy finalist Joey Harrington (1998-2001), creative innovator and university benefactor Philip Knight (1955-59), men’s basketball All-American Hugh Latham (1921-24), softball All-American Kim Manning Strahm (1989-92), and a trio of men’s cross country teams that helped solidify Oregon’s foundation as the nation’s collegiate distance running mecca.
Cota paced a “Gang Green” defense which led Oregon to a Rose Bowl appearance against Penn State; Harrington led the Ducks to their highest season-ending national finish (2nd) in school history at the conclusion of the 2001 season; Knight not only co-founded the world’s leading athletic shoe and apparel manufacturer – Nike – but whose creative ingenuity has made an impact at every level of sports today; Latham was a multi-sport athlete who became only the University’s second first-team men’s basketball All-American in school history in the early 1920s; and Strahm, who played as many as six different positions during a collegiate softball career that saw her earn All-America acclaim on the field and in the classroom.
To be eligible for induction into Oregon’s Athletics Hall-of-Fame, former athletes, coaches and administrators associated with the University must have departed the University for a minimum of 10 years.
Knight, who has previously been inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the World Retail Hall of Fame, will be honored by the Ducks as an individual who has made “extraordinary contributions toward the success of the U of O athletics programs.”
The inductees will join the previous 172 elite individuals and 21 teams who have been selected as part of the school’s athletics showcase that originated in 1992.
The Ashland, Ore., native may not have been the biggest, the fastest or most heralded, but there was no mistaking that Chad Cota was the glue that fueled one of the Ducks’ most inspiring defenses of the modern era. The backbone behind a “Gang Green” defense which paved the way for the school’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 37 years, the four-year starting strong safety may have completed his Oregon career tied for sixth in career tackles (329) but his impact was immeasurable. His teammates recognized the magnitude of his efforts as the first-team Pacific-10 Conference all-league choice was anointed his team’s Most Outstanding Player following a brilliant senior season that witnessed him making 91 tackles and two interceptions. The consummate team player, who ended his collegiate career making 43 consecutive starts before embarking on an eight-year NFL tenure (Carolina, New Orleans, Indianapolis and St. Louis), paced the Ducks in tackles (86), interceptions (4) and forced fumbles (2) as a junior in 1993. But that was only a prelude for a final season that culminated with his team pushing top-ranked Penn State into the Rose Bowl’s final quarter and the All-American claiming the Bill Hayward Award as the state’s top amateur male athlete.
Few have exuded the confidence that helped make those around them better. And none could match his .893 winning percentage as the Ducks’ starting quarterback as he compiled a 25-3 record over the course of his final three years. Joey Harrington possessed a will to win that helped elevate Oregon to unprecedented heights and a season-ending No. 2 national ranking, as well as the first 11-win season in school history (2001). He accepted the scrutiny that previewed his senior season with a New York City billboard and ended with a return trip there as the school’s first Heisman Trophy finalist. “Captain Comeback” led the Ducks to an 11-2 record in games in which it trailed or was tied in the fourth quarter, but that certainly wasn’t a factor in a season-ending 38-16 Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado in his final game as a collegian. The second-team All-American and 2001 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year became the first quarterback in conference history to lead his team to three straight bowl wins. He enjoyed his best statistical year as a junior, accumulating 2,967 passing yards and 3,091 yards of total offense, and engineered a come-from-behind win over Texas in the 2000 Holiday Bowl. The first-team Academic All-American not only accounted for more touchdowns running, passing and receiving (78) than any other player in school history, he scored more points (108) than any other quarterback in an Oregon uniform. He completed his collegiate career third on the school’s all-time passing (6,911 yards), total offense (7,121 yards) and TD passes (59) ledgers, but his real gift was simply delivering the football into the hands of his surrounding playmakers. The seven-year NFL veteran (Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans) was the third player taken in the 2002 NFL Draft.
His passion was ignited as a middle distance walk-on at Oregon under legendary coach Bill Bowerman from 1955-59. It was refined as a shoe designer and entrepreneur that led to the formation of Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964. But it exploded with Philip Knight’s love for his alma mater that will be remembered for generations to come. Few could have imagined that his collaboration with his former track coach would impact the globe with the creation of the world’s most innovative and iconic producers of athletic footwear - Nike. Nurturing a competitive spirit throughout his collegiate career that fostered a refusal to accept anything but the best, his countless contributions to the University of Oregon and athletics worldwide have been just as riveting. His vision and leadership have provided the Ducks world-class athletic and academic facilities that have set the standards for others to emulate. There has been the expansion of Autzen Stadium, renovations to the Moshofsky Center, upgraded football locker rooms and the Athletic Medicine Center in the Casanova Center, Hayward Field improvements, the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student-Athletes, Matthew Knight Arena, and the Casanova Center expansion, which includes a new women’s soccer and lacrosse stadium. That’s not forgetting his endowment of eight academic faculty positions, the University’s Knight Library and the William W. Knight Law Center – all inspired by the foresight of one who has elevated the visibility and branding of Oregon athletics and the University community as a whole to meteoric heights. His introduction of new concepts, technology and marketing strategies into the world of athletics not only epitomizes his role as a creative visionary, it paved the way for the school that holds a piece of his heart to encounter unprecedented success on and off the field.
The arrival of Hugh Latham altered the fortunes of a basketball program that had experienced only four winning seasons in the previous 15 years Oregon had fielded a team. Doubling as a fullback on the school’s football squad, the three-sport letterman played a major role in the team’s unprecedented success in 1921, ’23 and ’24 as it accumulated a 45-20 record. Perhaps more telling of his talents were the fortunes of the “Lemon-Yellows” in his absence. Oregon slumped to 7-24 during the 1921-22 season without the Oregon native, who missed the season due to his commitment to the school’s football team. Upon the return of the all-Northwest honoree, the two-time team captain proceeded to earn all-Northern Division and all-Pacific Coast Conference acclaim his final two seasons. A teammate of Oregon’s future legendary basketball coach, Howard Hobson, Latham would conclude his senior year by becoming only the second first-team All-American in the history of the program.
Kim Manning Strahm
One of the most versatile athletes in the program’s history, Kim Manning was the epitome of a student-athlete. Attracting second-team All-America praise for her play on the diamond (1989) and first-team national acclaim in the classroom (1991), the Roseburg, Ore., native was a three-time Pac-10 all-conference choice as she helped fuel the Ducks to their first Women’s College World Series appearance ever in 1989. She set the school’s single-season record for runs scored (35) and stolen bases (19) as a freshman, ranked among the conference leaders while establishing a new school standard in home runs (6) in 1991, and led Oregon in four offensive categories in addition to assists her final year – all while playing no fewer than six different positions throughout her collegiate tenure. Named to the Ducks’ All-Decade Team in 1996 commemorating the University’s 100-year anniversary celebration, she graduated as Oregon’s career leader in runs (120), RBIs (119), doubles (21), triples (11), home runs (15), and stolen bases (72), and led her teams in eight season categories during her remarkable four-year run.
1971, 1973 and 1974 Men’s Cross Country Teams
The Ducks’ legendary foundation of distance runners had been established decades earlier but until now, an NCAA cross country team title had eluded their grasp. After securing a trio of runners-up finishes and one bronze medal the previous eight years, the breakthrough occurred in 1971 under the watchful eye of former Oregon Olympian Bill Dellinger. He and Bill Bowerman assembled a core of overachieving walk-ons to surround national phenom Steve Prefontaine as the Ducks captured a trio of NCAA cross country crowns in a four-year span. (Oregon placed third in 1972.) Pre won individual NCAA honors in 1971 and ’73 – as he did in 1970 – yet the depth of the three championships was supported by five additional athletes earning All-America acclaim during the remarkable stretch. Randy James finished 19th in the 1971 meet (and 4th in 1972), Terry Williams 22nd and 6th, respectively, in 1973 and ’74, with Williams joined by Paul Geis (4th), Dave Taylor (5th), and Gary Barger (25th) in the All-America circle the final year of the string. Oregon’s additional NCAA meet competitors during that span included Mike Long, Rick Ritchie, Mark Savage and Pat Tyson in 1971; Scott Daggatt and Tom Hale in 1973; as well as Bob Hensley and Lars Kaupang in 1974. The smallest margin of victory among the three championships was 33 points (over Western Kentucky) in 1974, while the Ducks’ 74 points that same year were the fewest accumulated by the winning team in five years.