EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon unveiled a state-of-the-art study facility for student-athletes on Monday.
The three-story, glass-enclosed academic center is 40,000-square feet and houses 35 study rooms, 700 computers, a reflecting pool, an academic hall of fame, an inspirational three-story picture of Albert Einstein and an Allan Bros. Coffee Shop.
A Spanish artist contributed a wall of honor. There are laser-engraved etchings of academic all-stars in the floor.
University officials say it's a world-class facility that underscores the schools commitment to success both on and off the field.
"This amazing facility is the culmination of efforts and generosity on the parts of many individuals who without their passion, persistence, and belief, this model for academic excellence would not have been possible," said Mike Bellotti, UO athletic director, in a statement.
But the building has also raised concerns that athletes get preferential treatment on campus.
Officials backed down on an early plan to bar non student-athletes from using any part of the facility. Regular students will be allowed to use tutor rooms on the first floor. The second and third floors remain for athletes exclusively.
“It seems like if we’re all paying the same tuition to be here, we shouldn’t have specific parts we can’t go to,” said Adam Cole, an art major.
Stephen Stolp, executive director of the center, said the facility is designed to help students juggle the demands of sports and school. It will also be a boon for the program on the field.
“It’s a wonderful facility for students, obviously,” Stolp said. “It will also help with recruiting.”
According to NCAA figures, the UO football team has a 49 percent graduation rate. Men's basketball graduates its students at a rate of 73 percent.
The building was paid for by Oregon super-donor Phil Knight, founder of Nike. But how much it cost is unclear.
The amount is not specified in a unique funding arrangement for the building. Published reports have estimated a cost of $10 million.
The agreement, signed in December 2007, gave a Knight-backed company called PHIT, LLC. "sole discretion" over the project.
The agreement allowed PHIT to control the size, design and amenities of the building.
Now that the project is finished, PHIT is officially transferring control of the building -- and upkeep responsibilities -- to the university.
But Knight's influence doesn't end with the transfer.
Under the agreement, PHIT specifies several aspects of how the university must run the facility.
The agreement calls for a "significant investment" in technology and requires the university to hire 26 people to staff the facility, including tutors, advisors, receptionists, a director of life skills and a wellness psychologist.
The facility is named for John J. Jaqua, a former Duck football player and founding Nike board member.
Dev Sinha, a mathamatics profession and chair of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, said he welcomes the new facility.
“People can look at this building and say, ‘oh, it’s a lot of show.’ And there is some of that aspect to it,” he said. “But it’s housing a program that really is fundamentally sound.”