"He’s an unbelievable booster and an unbelievable fan,” Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "He’s there for us in terms of financial support and utilization of his personal resources. But he doesn’t ever call me and say, ‘what’s happening this week at quarterback.’
"As the football coach, I don’t know how much his involvement is, other than just being tremendously supportive.”
But there’s one quality each man possesses: a strong competitive drive. Knight was on the Oregon track team, a passion that eventually pushed him toward the development of Nike. Pickens played college basketball, and his competitive passion carried over into his success in the oil business.
"I’m a very competitive person and I wanted OSU to be a competitive program,” Pickens said. "But I told them at the start of this year, we’ll have to drop that word ‘competitive.’ I want a winning program. More pressure goes into the program every year as you move forward. We all want to do better than we did the year before.
"I get a great deal of satisfaction seeing the program succeed.”
Knight’s gifts to Oregon have turned the Ducks from a middling program to a perennial contender, averaging more than eight wins per year with only one losing season in the last 15 years. And the Ducks won at least nine games in eight of those 15 seasons.
Pickens hopes to see similar success at OSU.
"I’d say we’re a year ahead of where I thought we’d be,” said Pickens as the Cowboys are a win away from 10 victories for just the fourth time in school history. "I’m happy with the way it’s gone.”