2014 Pepsi Invite Canceled

Oregon track & field rundown: What happened to 
the Pepsi Team Invitational, and why is it a mystery?

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Oregon coach Robert Johnson won't address why the Pepsi Team Invitational is not on Oregon's 2014 track & field schedule.(Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian)
Ken Goe | kgoe@oregonian.comBy Ken Goe | kgoe@oregonian.com 
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on February 06, 2014 at 10:45 AM, updated February 06, 2014 at 10:46 AM

The Pepsi Team Invitational, the quadrangular meet that has been a centerpiece of Oregon's home track & field regular season since 1987, has disappeared from the 2014 schedule.

Don't expect an explanation.

In an interview yesterday, Oregon track coach coach Robert Johnson refused to discuss why the meet isn't being held at Hayward Field this year.

In what became a contentious exchange, Johnson variously said it was indoor season and he wouldn't talk about the outdoor schedule, and that he didn't have his notes and wasn't prepared to speak about it.

Responding by text message, associate athletic director Vin Lananna pointed out that the April 5 dual meet with Arizona will be sponsored by Pepsi. When asked what happened to the scored, multi-team meet Oregon had staged and Pepsi sponsored for 22 of the previous 25 years, Lananna responded that he didn't have an answer other than "RJ wanted to have this schedule."

That makes the reasoning as transparent as a brick wall.

What is clear is that Oregon isn't providing much of a regular season home meet schedule for one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in college track & field.

The Ducks will play host to four regular-season meets, the Oregon Preview on March 22, the Arizona dual, the Oregon Relays on April 17-19 and the Oregon Twilight onMay 9.

The UO coaches often have chosen to rest many of their top performers for the Preview, understandable since it takes place a week after the NCAA Indoor Championships.

But you have to wonder what kind of team commitment the Ducks will make for the Oregon Relays, since they also list the Mount SAC Relays on their schedule for the same dates. And in recent years the Oregon Twilight has been a last-chance meet for athletes who need NCAA qualifying marks.

There still will be plenty happening at Hayward Field this year. The Prefontaine Classic takes place May 30-31, followed by the NCAA Championships in June and the IAAF World Junior Championships in July.

But for local fans of regular-season college track & field, and in particular of scored meets in which teams battle for every point and the third-place finish in the triple jump sometimes is as important as the win in the 5,000, the pickings are slim.

And getting slimmer.