Nike's Cooling Vests Have Sherrill Steamed
Mississippi State coach is angry that the experimental product was provided to Oregon, but not offered to the Bulldogs until he asked about it.
Aug 26, 2003
By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP Sports Writer
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill is miffed that Nike has provided Oregon with experimental vests the Ducks might use Saturday night to help stay cool when they play the Bulldogs in what figures to be warm and humid conditions.
Sherrill said Mississippi State, which also has a contract with Nike, wasn't offered the equipment until he asked about it.
"When you have two teams under contract to the same vendor, you question why they're allowing one to use it and not another," he said. "They (Nike) didn't offer it until Friday afternoon - and not until I asked the question."
The product, which was developed by Oregon-based Nike, is worn under the shoulder pads and weighs slightly more than a T-shirt. When connected to a sideline compressor, the bladder-like device blows dehumidified air on the players.
Phil Knight, CEO and co-founder of Nike, is an Oregon alum and major supporter of the school's athletic program.
Sherrill said Tuesday that the vests were being shipped to Starkville, but would not arrive until Friday. That's too late, he said.
"How long does it take your team to get accustomed to them? You don't just walk in and put a new item on a player on game day that you've never tested or worn," he said.
Ducks coach Mike Bellotti said Tuesday he was under the impression that Mississippi State was supplied with the vests.
"As I understand it there is an effort on Nike's part to make the thing an equitable situation," Bellotti said.
Oregon equipment manager Pat Conrad said he wasn't sure if the Ducks would use the vests Saturday.
Saturday's forecast calls for a high temperature of 91 degrees and a low of 68 with a possible thunderstorm mixed in. Temperatures in Starkville have regularly been in the 90s throughout August. It has been substantially cooler in Eugene, Ore.
ESPN might have inadvertently made this issue moot.
The game was originally scheduled to kickoff in the afternoon, but to accommodate ESPN2 the start time was pushed back to 8 p.m. CDT. With the sun down, heat shouldn't be nearly as big a factor.
"It takes nine days to two weeks to acclimate to a humid climate, so we're not going to get it done that way," Bellotti said. "Obviously, we have to pay great attention to the hydration issues in the three days before (Saturday) and the game itself. Playing at night is a little bit better than playing during the day. I've told our kids it's a factor we'll have to overcome, but it's not something that will decide how the game turns out."
Sherrill said the vest flap will not disrupt Mississippi State's relationship with Nike.
"They've been great for college athletics," Sherrill said. "It'll work itself out."