As the track and field world championships made their first appearance in the US at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., this month, some University of Oregon athletes decided to creatively capitalize on their fame and the lack of abundant housing in this quaint college town.
Six Oregon track and field athletes — Micah Williams, Ty Hampton, Elliott Cook, Jasmine Montgomery, Jadyn Mays and Jaida Ross — partnered with Division Street, a sports venture company co-founded by the Nike co-founder Phil Knight, to earn money off a house transformed into a track and field-themed paradise.
The house, and partnership, is one of the many examples of how the college sports landscape has shifted since the NCAA ruled last year that college athletes could profit from their fame.
The property, nicknamed the “Oregon House,” began as a hub for fans of Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell last October. The interior featured many of Sewell’s jerseys and Oregon football memorabilia, and the house was marketed as “the ‘No. 1’ place to stay in Eugene.” (Yes, Sewell’s jersey is No. 1, you get it.)
Then the house was redesigned with an Oregon women’s basketball theme, with profits going to multiple players on the team. In May, ahead of the NCAA track and field championships and the US championships, both held at Hayward Field, the house was redecorated again to feature framed Oregon and US running uniforms. There are the jerseys of Galen Rupp and English Gardner in the living room, and pictures of Ashton Eaton, Raevyn Rogers and other Oregon track and field greats line the walls and the hallways.
It’s a good deal for student-athletes. “We don’t even have to do anything,” Williams, a rising junior sprinter, said. The athletes were paid to promote the house on their social media accounts, and will split 100 percent of the profits.
Williams, a former NCAA champion in the 60 meters and a member of last summer’s US Olympic team, is already one of the best sprinters in the history of Oregon’s track and field program. His time of 9.86 seconds in the 100 meters is the sixth-fastest time in the world this year and equals Fred Kerley’s winning 100-meter time at this year’s world championships.
But Williams isn’t at the world championships on his home track this year. He finished fourth in the 100 meters at the US championships last month, one spot away from qualifying for the team in the event. Williams said he was offered a spot on the team as a member of the 4×100-meter relay pool, which he was a part of at the Tokyo Olympics, but he declined so he could rest his body after a long college season that began last September .
“I definitely could have competed in the relay,” Williams said, “but I was just tired physically and thought it was good for me to shut it down and get some rest for my body and mind.”
Williams could easily leave Oregon to turn professional and sign with a major sports brand; he would earn significantly more than the average pro, who can make as little as $5,000 per year. But the money he has earned through the Oregon House and other opportunities since the NCAA’s ruling has removed the pressure he felt to turn professional, he said.
“I like that I can stay in school and go for the records while being able to make money,” Williams said. He hopes to earn his degree in journalism and communications with a focus on advertising.