Reply to flashmile. Steven McChesney here to defend his brother as well as other Oregon greats. There could be a claim that Matt Centrowitz was the greatest Oregon runner of all time. 6 x USATF champ. 2 x Olympic team (1 - 1500, 1 - 5,000) 13:12 (I believe the American Record at the time) are not too shabby.
My point is that they ran at different time. Comparing them is not really fair because of circumstances. Bill ran faster than Pre in the NCAAs and placed 3rd to Kenyans. Pre dominated before the Kenyans really came to the US in any numbers. There were a few, but not of the same quality as a few years later. When Salazar, Centrowitz and Bill ran they faced the best in the World. In the Pac 8 (wasn't Pac 10 yet) WSU had the #1 and #2 10k runners in the world. Judging by Pre's international racing record he would have faired no better than his later counterparts against Henery Rono or the increbible depth of Kenyans running for WSU or UTEP. That was not true when Pre raced in college. Bill ran against world record holders in his own conference. He had to race better runners more often.
Matt, Bill and Pre at their best had very similar international success. Pre was 4th in the Olympics. Bill made the team that boycotted in Russia but went on to rank 4th in the world in the 5K (10th in the 10K) and beat the gold and silver medalists in Europe that summer. Matt ran well in Europe over many seasons as well.
Not being able to run in the Olympics had a very negative effect on Bill just as the 4th in the Olympics had an effect on Pre. Bill was making a very good comeback when Tom died.
So in my mind there is no single best runner at Oregon. Just a long list of legends including Moore, Manely, Grelle, Dellinger, Chapa, Salazar, Pre, Centrowitz, Billy and many more.
I bet if you could have asked Pre or Bill who was the greatest they would have both refused to answer that question and instead would have talked with great respect of the other. I know that is true of Billy.