Why is Oregon's stadium named Autzen? Why not Phil Knight Stadium or Nike Field?

USC v Oregon
USC v Oregon / Tom Hauck/GettyImages

With all of the money that pours into the University of Oregon from Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight, a handful of buildings around campus bear his name.

Matthew Knight Arena, Knight Library, and Phil & Penny Knight Science Campus all feature the man so lovingly referred to as Uncle Phil. So why not the biggest athletic building in the city?

Why is Autzen Stadium named Autzen?

Where did Autzen Stadium get its name?

When Oregon’s football stadium was built in 1967, the leading local philanthropist had most recently been a man named Thomas J. Autzen. He was involved in the lumber industry in Portland and was a known sports fan.

His son, Thomas E. Autzen, became the president of the family foundation when his father passed. A graduate of UO, the younger Autzen allocated a $250,000 donation to the university to help build the now beloved stadium.

The stadium was built once the football program, and its fans, outgrew Hayward Field – which has since been torn down and replaced by a state-of-the-art track and field stadium.

Fans were overflowing from Hayward and Oregon’s Athletic Director Leo Harris began the push for a new football facility.

Improvements to Autzen since 1967

In the nearly 60 years that Autzen’s beauty has graced the Eugene skyline, millions have dollars have poured into the betterment of the stadium.

The early 2000s saw a $90 million renovation which added 12,000 seats, a new press box, a three-story luxury suite, 32 skyboxes, and improved concession stands.

At the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon saw an additional renovation to its stadium.

The addition of a massive end-zone scoreboard on the east side of the stadium was added in the fall of 2020. Sitting at 186’ by 66’ it is the largest video board in all of college football.

The future of Autzen Stadium

As Oregon heads to the Big Ten, home to some of the most famous NCAA football stadiums in the nation, Autzen will fall short of being the most indomitable field in the conference.

To mitigate Autzen Stadium turning into a little brother, a plan was proposed to expand and create an entire Autzen Complex.

Oregon State v Oregon
Oregon State v Oregon / Tom Hauck/GettyImages

The university announced a plan “to expand the Autzen Complex to accommodate a new, 170,000-square-foot indoor football practice facility and two outdoor practice fields that would include the reconfiguration of Leo Harris Parkway and the area adjacent to the Autzen Complex.”

Currently, the Autzen Complex and Leo Harris Parkway include the football stadium, baseball’s PK Park, and soccer’s Pape Field, along with three parking lots and the athletic department’s Moshofsky Center.

Why no Nike?

The moral of the story is that while Phil Knight and the Nike corporation give bountifully to UO and its football program, their focus is elsewhere. 

Sep 9, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of Nike on the sidelines at an Oregon football game.
Sep 9, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of Nike on the sidelines at an Oregon football game. / Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Knight and his wife Penny most recently donated to the creation of the $200 million track facility and a half-billion the two donated to the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.

Also, something about "It never rains in Autzen" just can’t be matched.