Blue Ribbon Sports started in 1964 in Beaverton, Ore. It first put out an athletic shoe branded as Nike in 1972. That became the name of a company in 1978.
The Big East Conference was launched with seven eastern colleges on May 31, 1979. ESPN was launched on Sept. 7, 1979, as a 24-hour sports network to serve cable, a growing TV option.
Phil Knight was the boss at Nike. His pitch man Sonny Vaccaro already was wired-in with coaches such as UNLV’s Jerry Tarkanian. Then, with the Big East created for TV and ESPN desperate for programming, Knight and Vaccaro had visions of college basketball players racing across TV screens nightly with Nike swooshes on sneakers and uniforms.
Knight and Vaccaro decided Nike needed a “Coaches Advisory Board.” Jim Dutcher was among the dozen or so coaches recruited for the first meeting at the Barbary Coast in Las Vegas in the late ’70s.
Dutcher had replaced Bill Musselman as Gophers coach starting with the 1975-76 season.
“Knight and Vaccaro were talking to us about the benefits of all the television exposure Nike would receive from having their shoes and uniforms on television,” Dutcher said.
“Lute Olson [Iowa] and I were the Big Ten coaches. We were confused since the Big Ten basically had a regional game of the week on Saturday afternoons, and then a few local telecasts. ESPN was a foreign concept to us.”
Dutcher mentioned other “advisers” in attendance: John Thompson (Georgetown), Rollie Massimino (Villanova), Jim Calhoun (then at Northeastern), Jim Valvano (N.C. State), George Raveling (Washington State), a few more.
“Abe Lemons was there from Texas,” Dutcher said. “Abe looked at Phil Knight and said, ‘Let me get this straight. You’re going to give our school free uniforms and free shoes, and pay us for the privilege.’ ”
The coaches all were offered the same amount: $100,000 total over five years. “Each year would start with $5,000, and then you could take the $15,000 in three more increments, or in stock,” Dutcher said.
What’d you do? “I took the stock,” he said.
Good decision, Dutch.
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• Dutcher: “We would encourage using the new Nike shoes. Some of our players were attached to the brand of shoes they always had worn, and that was fine.”
• Valvano won a national title in 1983, and Thompson in 1984. They went after better shoe deals, thus ending the original “advisers” deal.
• Thompson died on Sept. 2 (and Olson on Aug. 27). “I didn’t get to know John that well,” Dutcher said. “He wasn’t too social. He liked the casino.”