Former Oregon AD says Phil Knight is not offering money for a new coach

Graham Watson

Former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny was upset by the notion that Nike founder and Ducks superbooster Phil Knight would spend an obscene amount of money to oust coach Mark Helfrich.

Earlier this month, ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted that Knight would be willing to shell out upward of $10 million a year for a new coach.

Kilkenny joined the radio program “The Bald Faced Truth,” which is hosted by OregonLive columnist John Canzano, to debunk the tweet saying that Knight hasn’t told anyone “living or dead” that he would do that.

“First of all, we have a football coach. Phil is the least intrusive significant donor probably in the history of the planet,” said Kilkenny, who was Oregon’s AD from 2007-10 and is now a booster. “That just creates real problems for [current AD Rob Mullens], makes Mark Helfrich’s job already more difficult, and it’s not fair to Phil and Penny Knight.

“The Rovell thing made me want to throw up, because it was all about money, and that’s repugnant to me, and it’s repugnant to Phil. We care about achieving and competing at a high level, but everybody wants to do it the right way. That’s one thing special about Oregon. There are a lot of places that would do the things he mentioned, but Phil Knight would never do that.”

Oregon coach mark Helfrich is on the hot seat after tough season. (Getty)
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich is on the hot seat as the Ducks are suffering a tough season. (Getty)

Oregon is 3-7 and has lost seven of its last eight games. Just two years removed from playing for a national title, Oregon will not play in a bowl game and is on the verge of its worst season since 1991 when the team went 3-8. Many of the Ducks’ struggles have stemmed from defense. Oregon ranks 126th nationally (out of 128 teams) in total defense allowing 535.7 yards per game and 127th nationally in scoring defense allowing 43.5 points per game.

“I’m sure [Helfrich is] tossing and turning at night,” Kilkenny said. “The optics, the expectations are so darn high. There are a lot of good things we’re doing. Next year, I’m confident we’ll be a lot better. Beyond that, someone else will deal with the details.”

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!