Collection comprises the papers of American track and field coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, who led the University of Oregon track team, 1948- 1972, and the United States Olympic track team, 1972. Collection includes correspondence, journals, athlete information, publications, and photographs reflecting Bowerman's career as a coach and his involvement in the track and field community in Oregon and the United States. Of particular note are materials concerning Bowerman's innovations in track surfaces and equipment, running shoes, and training programs, and materials concerning the restoration of Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. The collection also includes manuscripts and notes related to Bowerman's career as a writer, including his book Jogging (1966) which sold over one million copies and helped start wide interest in the sport.
Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
William Jay "Bill" Bowerman was born February 19, 1911 in Portland, Oregon. Bill’s mother grew up in Fossil, Oregon, to which the family returned after Bill's parents divorced in 1913. Bill had an older brother and sister, Dan and Mary Elizabeth “Beth.” Bill also had a twin brother, Thomas, who died in a tragic elevator accident when they were two years old.
Bill attended Fossil Grade School, and Medford and Seattle schools, before returning to Medford for high school. Bill played in the high school band and played football his senior year. Bill first met Barbara Young, the woman he would marry, in high school in Medford. Bill came to the University of Oregon in 1929 to play football and study journalism. After one year studying journalism, Bill switched to a business major, which he did not like, but decided to complete anyway. He competed in track while finishing up pre-med courses. After graduation, Bill was set to teach school for two years and then attend medical school. He taught biology and coached football at Franklin High School in Portland in 1934. In 1935 he moved back to Medford to teach and coach football. In 1936 he added the coaching responsibilities for basketball as well as football. He started a track team at Medford High School in 1937, and gave up his basketball coaching duties to become the track coach.
Bill and Barbara were married on June 22, 1936. Their first son, Jon was born June 22, 1938. William J. Bowerman Jr. “Jay” was born November 17, 1942. Bill was in the Army’s Tenth Mountain Division from 1943 until 1945. After the war, he returned to his position at Medford High School. Bill and Barbara’s third son, Thomas, was born May 20, 1946. The family then moved to Eugene, Oregon for Bill to become the freshman football coach at the University of Oregon. His first day of work was July 1, 1948. Bill became the track coach in 1949, a job he held until 1972. He also continued as freshman football coach for several more years. In the early 1950’s Bill was also the assistant athletic director at Oregon. Bill received his Master’s in Education from the University of Oregon in 1953. By the mid-1950’s Bill’s only duties were teaching and coaching track and field.
Bill made his biggest mark as a track coach. His “Track Men of Oregon” won 24 NCAA individual titles (with wins in 15 of the 19 events contested) and four NCAA team crowns (1962, 1964, 1965, 1970), and posted 16 Top-10 NCAA finishes in his 24 years as head coach. His teams also boasted 33 Olympians, 38 conference champions and 64 All-Americans. At the dual level, the Ducks posted a 114-20 record and went undefeated in 10 seasons. In addition, Bill coached the world record setting 4-mile relay team in 1962. This team consisted of Archie San Romani, Dyrol Burleson, Vic Reeve and Keith Forman with a time of 16:08.9.
During a trip to New Zealand in 1962, Arthur Lydiard introduced Bill to the concept of jogging as a fitness routine. Bill brought this concept back to the United States, and began to write articles and books about jogging. Bill also created to jogging program in Eugene that became a national model for a fitness program.
A Jogger’s Manual, a three-page guide, was published shortly after Bill returned from New Zealand. In 1966, along with cardiologist W.E. Harris, Bill published a 90-page book titled
Jogging. Due to the popularity of
Jogging, Harris and Bill published a 127-page book in 1967. To this day jogging remains a popular form of exercise for men and women of all ages.
Bill was a highly inventive man. In addition to experimenting with many different types of shoes, Bill also experimented with different types of track surfaces. Bill created a rubber and asphalt mix for track runways. He helped to create portable runways with this same mixture for use on indoor tracks. He created a lightweight practice hurdle, which he manufactured and sold. But his main area of invention was athletic shoes.
Bill created a training program for adjusting athletes for the high altitude that they would experience at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. This successful program led to his selection as the 1972 Munich Olympic Games U. S. Track and Field head coach. The Olympians that Bill trained at Oregon included Jack Hutchins, Dyrol Burleson, Bill Dellinger, Harry Jerome, Sig Ohlemann, Les Tipton, Gerry Moro, Wade Bell, Kenny Moore, Steve Prefontaine, and Mac Wilkins. Bill coached members of teams from Norway, Canada, Australia, and the United States.
In 1970 Bill stepped back from day-to-day coaching activities to spearhead the fundraising for renovating the Hayward Field grandstands before the 1972 Olympic Trials. Bill officially retired as the UO head coach in 1972, letting Bill Dellinger officially take over the reigns.
Before and after retirement, Bill worked with Phil Knight as a co-founder of Nike (initially Blue Ribbon Shoes) to develop new and innovative shoe designs. After retirement, Bill devoted more of his time to these endeavors, once using his wife’s waffle iron to create a new type of “waffle” sole for running shoes.
In 1981 Bill became aware of the Rajneesh commune who had bought property next to his in Eastern Oregon. During the Rajneesh’s tenure in Oregon Bill, sparred with them on many different issues.
In his retirement years Bill continued to work with Nike and coach on a limited basis. Mac Wilkins was Bill’s final Olympian in 1984.
Bill is a member of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame, the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and Oregon’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Bill Bowerman died December 24, 1999 at his home.
The William J. Bowerman papers contain correspondence, notes, drawings, photographs, journals and publications. These items are divided into eleven different series. The strength of the collection is in the correspondence.
The Personal series is strong on general correspondence. This correspondence is usually not related to track and field. Most of the family correspondence is between Bill and his brother Dan. This series also contains Bill’s military records, from his time in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. Bill’s philanthropic endeavors are also documented strongly in this series. The journals and notes contained within this series may also be of particular interest. Typically each page contains a variety of notes about a variety of subjects. Notes about a single subject are filed under that particular subject.
The Coaching and Teaching series contains documents related to the time that Bill coached and taught classes at the University of Oregon. This series is focused on the athletes and the events, administrative and meet related materials are in other series. This series’ strength is in correspondence. Under the Athlete Information subseries, the correspondence is arranged by the athlete’s name, and then chronologically, workout notes are included with the correspondence when an athlete is named on the workout forms. The athlete portion is particularly strong on athletes prior to 1968. Among these athletes are: Dyrol Burleson, Bill Dellinger, Phil Knight, Kenny Moore, Jim Bailey, Harry Jerome, Wade Bell and Steve Prefontaine. This series is adequate on workout information, but the majority of the workout sheets do not have a particular athlete attached to them. The remaining correspondence in this series is sorted chronologically. The Football section is not particularly strong, yet Bill only coached football for a limited number of years, so it is adequate.
The Track and Field Meets series consists of information directly related to track and field meets. Correspondence between Bill and other track coaches and meet organizers is included here. Correspondence related to meet budgets and trip rosters are also included here. The strongest portion of this series is in regards to the Hayward Relays, this includes results, news articles and correspondence related to the meet. Also strong are the subseries related to the NCAA meets and results from a variety of meets. The entirety of this series is arranged chronologically.
The Committees series includes papers related to Bill’s service on various local and national committees. This series is strong on correspondence related to his service with the Amateur Athletes Union, NCAA, the National Collegiate Track Coaches Association and on the board of the Prefontaine Foundation. The AAU subseries also contains correspondence about Bill’s fights in regards to athletes’ rights with the AAU. The entire series is heavy on correspondence, which is arranged chronologically.
The Innovations series contains correspondence and notes related to Bill’s work with different track surfaces, and indoor tracks. It also contains correspondence that Bill had with various people and shoe manufacturers about their shoes, and how he thought that they could be improved. Bill also developed and produced a practice hurdle for a few years, correspondence and promotion of this hurdle is included here. The strongest portion of this series is in the correspondence related to the different track surfaces that Bill was experimenting with.
The University of Oregon Administrative series is especially strong on correspondence. This series is related to Bill’s employment at the UO. The correspondence is generally requests for tickets, congratulations on wins, or individuals seeking information on how they should train (non-recruits). Of particular interest might be correspondence related to Bill’s coaching trip to Pakistan.
The Hayward Field Restoration series covers the many restorations and updates made to Hayward Field from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. These changes included new track surfaces, track resurfacings, widening the track, and replacement and moving of the grandstands. This series contains several architectural drawings of the proposed changes to Hayward Field. The strength of this series is the documents related to the 1972 replacement of the grandstands so that the UO could host the Olympic Trials for that year.
The Olympics series contains correspondence, notes, and ephemera. The ephemera consist of programs and tickets for several different Olympic games. The strength of this series is with the correspondence and notes related to the High Altitude training program that Bill instituted at Lake Tahoe in preparation for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Bill’s success with this training program led to his selection as the head U.S. Olympic Coach for track and field for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The bulk of the material in this series is from the 1960 Games up to the 1980 boycotted Olympic Games. Other Olympic Games are represented, but with only limited documentation.
The Writings series consists of correspondence, manuscripts and notes related to Bill’s prolific writing career. The particular strength of this series is the manuscript of
Coaching Track and Field (with notes), the manuscripts and correspondence related to his article in
Guideposts magazine “The Kitchen Table Shoemaker,” and correspondence, manuscripts and research related to the several different publications of
The Nike series is relatively small. The main highlights of this series are early correspondence that Bill had with Phil Knight about Blue Ribbon Shoes, patents that Bill applied for with regards to his various shoe designs and other correspondence Bill had with a variety of people about his shoe designs. Of particular interest in this series might be the many outlines of people’s feet that Bill saved. This series also contains journals and notes that are related to his work at Nike, both meeting notes and shoe design notes.
The final series contains documents related to the Rajneesh’s time in Eastern Oregon, covering 1981-1988. Bill’s ranch, as well as his son Jon’s ranch, bordered the land held by the Rajneesh community. The strengths of this series are copies of the many court cases related to the Rajneesh in Eastern Oregon. Bill also helped to fund 1000 Friends of Oregon’s fight against the Rajneesh. Documents and correspondence with 1000 Friends are included here. The major strength of this series is the number of local and worldwide news articles that Bill saved about the Rajneesh.
Use of the Collection
Alternative Forms Available :
Selected photographs from this collection are available as digital images.
Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.
Restrictions on Use :
Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish or quote from collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.
If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.
Preferred Citation :
[Identification of item], Bill Bowerman Papers, UA 003, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
Collection is organized into the following series:
Series I: Personal
Subseries A: Correspondence
Subseries B: Military
Subseries C: Personal Property
Subseries D: News Articles
Subseries E: Philanthropy
Subseries F: Journals and Notes
Series II: Coaching and Teaching
Subseries A: Courses
Subseries B: Football
Subseries C: General Correspondence
Subseries D: Cross Country
Subseries E: News Articles
Subseries F: Athlete Information
Subseries G: Track (general information)
Subseries H: Track Workouts and Notes
Subseries I: Publications
Series III: Track and Field Meets
Subseries A: Budgets
Subseries B: Officials Correspondence
Subseries C: Trip Rosters
Subseries D: Programs
Subseries E: Correspondence
Subseries F: Track Meet Results
Subseries G: Oregon Indoor Invitational
Subseries H: All-comers Meets
Subseries I: Hayward Relays
Subseries J: NCAA Championships
Subseries K: News Articles
Series IV: Committees
Subseries A: Amateur Athletic Union
Subseries B: NCAA
Subseries C: National Collegiate Track Coaches Association
Subseries D: Prefontaine Foundation
Subseries E: Publications
Series V: Innovations
Subseries A: Track Surfaces
Subseries B: Indoor Tracks
Subseries C: Shoe Development
Subseries D: Hurdles
Subseries E: NCAA Championships
Subseries F: News Articles
Series VI: University of Oregon, Administrative
Subseries A: Correspondence
Subseries B: Jog-a-thon
Subseries C: Publications
Series VII: Hayward Field Restoration
Subseries A: 1960s Renovations
Subseries B: 1970s Renovations
Subseries C: 1980s Renovations
Series VIII: Olympics
Subseries A: Helsinki
Subseries B: Melbourne
Subseries C: Rome
Subseries D: Tokyo
Subseries E: Mexico City
Subseries F: Munich
Subseries G: Montreal
Subseries H: Moscow
Subseries I: General Publications
Series IX: Writings
Coaching Track and Field (Editions 1 & 2)
Subseries B: “Kitchen Table Shoemaker”
Subseries D: “Oregon School of Running”
Series X: Nike
Subseries A: Blue Ribbon Shoes
Subseries B: General Correspondence
Subseries C: Annual Meeting Minutes
Subseries D: Court Cases
Subseries E: Patents
Subseries F: Shoe Development
Subseries G: Publications
Series XI: Rajneesh
Subseries A: Correspondence
Subseries B: Court Cases
Subseries C: 1000 Friends of Oregon
Subseries D: News Articles
Processing Note :
Collection processed by Megan Dazey, Processing Archivist, and completed in February 2007.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
Separated Materials :
Photographs in this collection are stored separately under call number PH339.
Books donated as part of the William J. Bowerman Library are individually cataloged.
Moving images from this collection are stored separately. Please contact Special Collections & University Archives for access.