Donavan Brazier Has Unfinished Business at Hayward Field: “I Wanted to Go to Oregon, But They Never Gave Me a Scholarship”

By Jonathan Gault
April 23, 2021

Over the next two years, Donavan Brazier will run some pretty important races at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. On June 21, he’ll line up for the final of the Olympic Trials, where he’ll attempt to make his first Olympic team. And in July 2022, he’ll be back at Hayward Field for the World Championships (Brazier, who set an American record of 1:42.34 to win the world title in 2019, receives a bye as the defending champion). Perhaps after those races, he’ll feel differently about Phil Knight‘s $270 million palace. Because right now, as Brazier prepares for his first race at the new stadium in Eugene, the 1500 meters at Saturday’s USATF Grand Prix, he’s not yet in love with the place.

Brazier’s objection to Hayward Field has nothing to do with bulldozers razing the historic East Grandstand — the biggest complaint about the new building. It’s a little more personal.

Like a bad sandwich, the taste of Brazier’s last race at the old Hayward Field still lingers in his mouth. It was the 2016 US Olympic Trials, his first — and worst — professional meet, and a 19-year-old Brazier, among the favorites to make the team, bombed out after finishing fourth in his first-round heat.

This could have been in an Oregon singlet

Even before that race, though, Brazier didn’t much care for Hayward Field, despite winning the NCAA title there as a true freshman in one of the most stunning runs in the history of the NCAA championships. Brazier does admit the reconstructed stadium is among the best track facilities in the country, but he’s not quite willing to give it the top spot yet.

“I think it’s a beautiful stadium, probably one of the best in the country,” Brazier says. “I don’t know if I’d say it’s the best in the country. But maybe I’m just salty saying that, because I wanted to go to Oregon, you know, but they never gave me a scholarship. So part of me is like, I like how Raevyn [Rogers, Brazier’s teammate as part of coach Pete Julian‘s Nike-sponsored training group] has this big old statue and I would have loved to have been a part of that.”

We could have had Donavan Brazier and Edward Cheserek on the same team. Can you imagine that?

Oregon coach Robert Johnson and former Ducks men’s distance coach Andy Powell probably can — the Ducks would have leapt from 4th at NCAAs to 2nd in 2016 if you add Brazier’s 10 points to their original total of 48. Though Oregon still would have come four points shy of champion Florida.

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Brazier’s opinion does not sit well with Rogers, who quickly unmutes herself on the Zoom press conference in which Brazier makes those comments.

“For him to say it’s one of the best when he knows it is the best, he had to –”

Brazier interrupts.

“It’s arguably the best! I don’t know if you guys have been down to Texas lately, but Texas has some nice tracks! And Raevyn’s from Texas.”

“He has to back it up saying that he was salty because you could feel the salt through the screen.”

“Because I wasn’t offered a scholarship. I don’t know whose fault it was and I don’t know who was responsible behind that, but yeah, I’m gonna have some sort of animosity towards the University of Oregon for that. And if you don’t see where I’m coming from, that’s on you.”

Rogers can’t help but laugh.

“If anyone has some tips for closure for Donavan…”

“I don’t need closure,” Brazier says, starting to giggle too. “I don’t need closure, I just wanted acceptance, but I didn’t get that. So it’s over. Y’all had your chance.”

(For the record, Brazier did also call the new Hayward Field the “greatest venue in America right now.”)

Rogers might be a little biased. An Oregon legend who won five individual NCAA titles during her time in Eugene, Rogers is responsible for one of the most iconic moments in the old stadium’s history, anchoring the Duck women to a historic NCAA triple crown in 2017.

Oh, and her face is literally on the new stadium.

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That tends to create just a little pressure to perform. Especially when you’re the reigning World Championship silver medalist taking on a field led by British star Jemma Reekie (1:57 pb) in the 800 meters on Saturday.

When Rogers first discussed the idea of running the 800 at this meet — the first one featuring professionals at the new Hayward — she admitted to some nerves.

“I did express to him, ‘Pete, you want me to do my first 800 [of 2021] in Eugene? At the new stadium?'”

But Julian reassured Rogers that she would do fine — and that it’s not about how well she runs this weekend, but how she does at the Olympic Trials and beyond that really matters.

“The focus is about June and of course later on, God willing, the Olympics,” Rogers says. “[Saturday] is just to see where we are and get some races under our belt.”

We’ll have to wait a little longer for Brazier to run his first outdoor 800 — he confirmed that will be his next race distance, but he doesn’t know when or where.

One other thing we’ll have to wait for: a name for Julian’s training group, which has remained nameless since Julian’s group splintered from the shuttered Oregon Project at the end of 2019. Rogers and Brazier confirmed that a name has been picked, but they’re not allowed to say anything about it just yet.

Talk about Brazier on the messageboard. MB: Donavan Brazier says he wanted to go to Oreogn but they didn’t offer him a scholarship

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