by Harrison Chase Temple
Bill Bowerman was a nationally respected track and field coach at the University of Oregon, who was constantly seeking ways to give his athletes a competitive advantage. He experimented with different track surfaces, re-hydration drinks and – most importantly – innovations in running shoes. But the established footwear manufacturers of the 1950s ignored the ideas he tried to offer them, so Bowerman began cobbling shoes for his runners.Phil Knight was a talented middle-distance runner from Portland, who enrolled at Oregon in the fall of 1955 and competed for Bowerman’s track program. Upon graduating from Oregon, Knight earned his MBA in finance from Stanford University, where he wrote a paper that proposed quality running shoes could be manufactured in Japan that would compete with more established German brands. But his letters to manufacturers in Japan and Asia went unanswered, so Knight took a chance.They selected a brand mark today known internationally as the “Swoosh,” which was created by a graphic design student at Portland State University named Carolyn Davidson. The new Nike line of footwear debuted in 1972, in time for the U.S. Track & Field Trials, which were held in Eugene, OreWith a new logo, a new name and a new design innovation, what BRS now needed was an athlete to endorse and elevate the new Nike line. Fittingly for the company founded by Oregonians, they found such a young man from the small coastal town of Coos Bay, Ore. His name: Steve Prefontaine.While Nike had designed footwear and apparel for golf and soccer for a number of years, the mid-1990s signaled a deepening commitment to truly excel in these sports. In 1994, Nike signed several individual players from what would be the World Cup-winning Brazilian National Team. In 1995, Nike signed the entire team, and began designing the team’s distinctive uniform. Nike also signed the US men’s and women’s national soccer teams, as well as dozens of national teams around the worldIn 1996, Nike Golf landed a vastly talented but as-yet-unproven young golfer named Eldrick “Tiger” Woods for a reported $5 million per year. Competitors laughed and critics howled at Nike’s "folly," until Tiger won the 1997 Masters by a record 12 strokes.