Howard Slusher v. Frances Dyke

1/24/2010: The Jaqua Athletes Only Study Center story just gets weirder. We’ve now managed to get a few more of the peculiar agreements between UO and Phil Knight’s “Phit LLC” from the UO lawyers.

  • License agreement, Dyke and Knight, 1/8/08 (UO “leases” land to Phit, to allow no-bid construction.)
  • Amendment 1, Frohnmayer and Knight, 1/8/08 (UO to pay for parking, computers, staff.)
  • Amendment 2, Dyke and Slusher, 7/31/2008 (UO can’t use extra space but must pay 2/3 cost of landscaping it)
  • Amendment 3, Dyke and Slusher, 4/1/2009 (UO to pay for SEED energy improvements)
  • Amendment 4. Dyke and Slusher, 4/1/2009 (The contractor for the Academic Center has contracted with UO for the Arena and Parking Garage. Weird, not sure what that’s about.)

The person who signed the amendments for Knight is Howard Slusher. Maybe that name doesn’t mean a lot to people now, but back in the day Slusher was the lawyer and sports agent who crushed the NFL owners association’s hiring cartel and made it possible for athletes to play for the team that offered them the most money. He was known as “Hold em out Howard” and “Agent Orange”.

Before Slusher, the owners didn’t just own the teams, they owned the players too. They set the salary and if a player didn’t like it he could always try selling used cars. The players loved Slusher, and the owners hated him for taking “their” money.  It was a long struggle and it made headlines for years. From one 1983 NYTimes story:

In the offices of some National Football League franchises, owners and general managers spit out Howard Slusher’s name from between clenched teeth … . ”I don’t have to be put through the wringer,” said Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns. ”My preference, given our experience, is not to do business with him.”

After this, taking a few hundred grand from UO’s VP for Finance Frances Dyke must barely budge Slusher’s pulse. So how did Slusher end up with Nike, and on the other side of the table from UO? No idea.

The irony of all this is that the money Slusher is asking UO to pay for the Jaqua Center is only there because the NCAA has been able to keep college athletes under an even stricter hiring cartel than the NFL one that Slusher broke up. We pay them nothing and make them redshirt for a year if they have the nerve to transfer to a team that will be better for their career.

The difference between the old NFL and college is that in college the coaches get the resulting profits, not the owners.  Someday there will be a Howard Slusher for the college athletes too – we saw a glimmer of that when LeGarette Blount’s lawyer got Coach Chip Kelly and UO President Richard Larviere to back down and reinstate him. When that happens – well, it won’t really matter much. There will be a little less money because the fans will be a little more cynical. The players will get what there is, instead of the coaches. Whatever.

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