Big-time Duck sports brings more shame to UO, talk Tuesday at 7PM

10/22/2018 updates:

OPR’s Think Out Loud has an interview with Hunt here.

I suggest getting to Josh Hunt’s Tsunami talk early, before the lawyers steal all the good seats.  You can get the Kindle version of The University of Nike Tuesday as well. Some more links:

The NY Times:

Persuade someone to read “University of Nike” in 50 words or less:

More than ever, it’s really important for Americans to closely examine the costs of abandoning public institutions and hand them over to corporate interests to save a few dollars on our tax bills. This is a case study of what happens when we do that. Spoiler alert: It ends badly.

The Oregonian:

When the University of Oregon joined an upstart labor-rights group in 2000, the decision so upset Nike chairman Phil Knight that he publicly rescinded his personal $30 million pledge to expand the school’s football stadium.

Now, 18 years later, new allegations suggest that Knight made an even more aggressive play behind the scenes: threatening to withhold philanthropic support that could help keep alive the youngest daughter of the University of Oregon’s then-president, Dave Frohnmayer.

Inside Higher Ed:

… A university spokeswoman on Friday shared the university’s written response to the article:

“The University of Oregon is the birthplace of Nike, and we are extremely grateful to both Nike as a company and to Phil and Penny Knight individually for their generous support of this university over many decades, as well as their support of other academic institutions and vital causes in Oregon and beyond. The Knights care deeply about education, health care, sports and so much more, and they are unquestionably the most generous philanthropists in our state’s ­­history. Their support for both academic and athletic programs at University of Oregon comes without strings attached and has transformed this campus in profoundly positive ways. The state of Oregon, our citizenry and this institution are all better for it.

“Given our focus on the university’s future, we will not engage in debate over Mr. Hunt’s book, which largely speculates about and rehashes historical events that have been covered elsewhere.”

My opinion is that whether or not “The state of Oregon, our citizenry and this institution are all better for it.” is an open question, which Mr. Hunt’s book asks, and which the university shouldn’t shrink from addressing.

Duck VP and PR flack Kyle Henley’s statement that “Their support for both academic and athletic programs at University of Oregon comes without strings attached” is bullshit, as Henley knows.

And finally, in the Oregonian, Lynn Frohnmayer disputes Hunt’s report that Phil Knight threatened to withhold donations to the Fanconi Anemia foundation.

10/18/2018: University of Nike author to give talk at Tsunami books, Tu 7-9PM

Joshua Hunt has apparently spent more time combing through the UO archives than I have, and he’s conducted some very revealing interviews with the key players.

His Tsunami talk announcement is here. The Eugene Weekly’s Bob Keefer has an interview with Hunt here:

“There is a chapter that describes some potentially illegal practices — certainly bad faith practices, dishonest practices — by the public records department at the University of Oregon,” Hunt says of his book.

He’s talking about the university’s handling of the rape accusations against the basketball players. Lawyers for The New York Times argued in legal papers that the UO had, as he writes in the book, “demonstrated a willingness to ‘use privacy as both a sword and a shield’ in order to prevent public scrutiny of its handling of sexual assault on campus.”

And thanks to a reader for this link to an extended abstract in the Pacific Standard, here. The intro:

In the mid-1990s, University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer needed money to save his school. Alum and Nike chief executive Phil Knight was happy to help—as long as the university could be managed in a way that would maximize the company’s brand and profits. But when Frohnmayer made a key misstep, Knight exacted a brutal punishment. …

Tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Big-time Duck sports brings more shame to UO, talk Tuesday at 7PM

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Pacific Standard article should be required reading for everyone associated with the university, as I imagine the book will be as well. Much of this happened before my time and I’ve heard fragments over the years, but I had no idea of the fuller story. The calculation and cruelty of Phil Knight withholding his annual donation to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund in order to pressure Frohnmayer was breathtaking.

    • uomatters says:

      Please adopt a screen name.

    • UO Community Member says:

      That was pretty extreme of Knight. I don’t think donors should have that kind of leverage.

      To be fair, Knight did end of giving the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund $10 million over 10 years back in 2015. In the end he came through.

      The WRC stuff all happened when Knight was still CEO. A CEO of a Fortune 500 company should NOT be topping up a university president’s annual salary, when said CEO’s firm has contracts with the university.

      Crazy stuff all around.

      • Dog says:

        Crazy yes, but is it unprecedented?

        • Publius says:

          Are you asking is it unprecedented for a donor to personally pay part of a university president’s salary? What difference would it make if this sort of corruption has happened other places–wouldn’t that be more reason to be upset about it?

  2. Deplorable Duck says:

    Thanks for posting. Very interesting for those of us too new to know anything about this. Frohnmayer comes off very well as a dutiful servant and maybe secular saint, and it does seem that most everyone owes him a debt.

    The rest is kind of hard to evaluate, especially without citations and details. It’s awful that a woman was killed in a Nike factory, but it’d be more useful to know the accident rates of their factories vs a typical American shoe factory, or even a typical factory in the country the Nike factory was located in. Is Nike really particularly awful? Or just a corollary of the awful state of the world in general? Would that country be better off if Nike had kept their manufacturing here?

    I have a hard time envisioning the world being a better place if Knight had not decided to pump a bunch of money into UO. He could easily have bought a bunch of yachts instead. But maybe it would have been, and I don’t completely discount the possibility.

    • Charlie says:

      How has the flagship’s academic quality improved over the last twenty years?

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        Why would you expect UO’s quality to have improved over that time period?

        • Anonymous says:

          I guess it’s a bad time to ask if UOwe is more financially accessible now than it was 20 years ago….

          • uomatters says:

            The Pathway Oregon program tops off state and federal aid to give low income Oregon residents free tuition and advising support. It has a great graduation record and the number of students in it have steadily increased. I believe it now covers 25% of instate students.

          • honest Uncle Bernie says:

            Anonymous — I think it’s a great time to ask about accessibility, and I’m not sure what the answer would be.

  3. Erik Blackstone says:

    Eh don’t really care. The university is better than what it was before and I’m thankful for it as well as my two kids who are students there.

  4. Environmental necessity says:

    Wonder if the UO will choose this for the Common Reading next year?

    • apt says:

      Ha! I couldn’t help but bring up the EW article with (mostly first-year) students yesterday. After the initial wide-eyed, mouths agape silence, the discussion was enthusiastic to say the least…Even without the sanctioning of Common Reading, I wonder how many folks will end up adding the book to syllabi…?

    • uomatters says:

      Env Nec: Congratulations on submitting the comment of the week. Please contact our swag office for your complimentary University of Nike coffee cup.

  5. University of Nike observer says:

    The NY Times today published an interview with the author (Josh Hunt; Here is the final question and answer:

    Persuade someone to read “University of Nike” in 50 words or less.

    More than ever, it’s really important for Americans to closely examine the costs of abandoning public institutions and hand them over to corporate interests to save a few dollars on our tax bills. This is a case study of what happens when we do that. Spoiler alert: It ends badly.

    • Deplorable Duck says:

      I’d be curious to know why Americans decided to “abandon public institutions”, which I’m reading as a large-scale defunding of public universities by state legislatures. Surely that’s been studied as well?

      • Dog says:

        can serve as a starting point

        in some states there is a rebound occurring – not much in Oregon

        Also, remember that Oregon is a Hick State (on a county basis)

        • Deplorable Duck says:

          With due respect to Oregon, I grew up in a town in a state so hick that the festival every year was for a Civil War general whose statue adorned the town square.

          But seriously, thank you for the link. It doesn’t mention the elephant in the room, though. Which is that higher ed is approaching an ideological monoculture, and taxpayers far away from the blessed right-think (by which I mean left-think) might simply not feel like contributing their hard-earned dollars to the enterprise.

  6. Official Misconduct says:

    “A public servant commits the crime of official misconduct in the first degree if with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another: (a) The public servant knowingly fails to perform a duty imposed upon the public servant by law or one clearly inherent in the nature of office; or (b) The public servant knowingly performs an act constituting an unauthorized exercise in official duties.”

  7. Honorable Graft says:

    What’s all this about Frohnmayer being “honorable?” Is it honorable for a public official to take bribes, act on those bribes and then try to cover it up?

  8. Kefvan says:

    Hunt should be ashamed of writing a non fiction book filled with lies. One of his primary sources was suffering from Alzheimer’s and provided false memories. The publisher should pull this book and reclassify it as Fiction. All proceeds should go to Charity. This book is a travesty.

    • uomatters says:

      Please provide some specifics,

      • Jane Gary says:

        I think you, Bill, may well have been one of his sources. Some of it sounds like you. I agree with Kefvan that it should be reclassified as fiction. Phil Knight never stopped giving to FARF during the WRC. That is a fact. The author also has many, many things wrong about the Frohnmayer girls and their medical care, the least of which is the wrong date of Kirsten’s death. He should be ashamed

  9. uomatters says:

    Hi Jane, Josh Hunt interviewed me a couple of times about the book. I didn’t keep notes, but I remember many questions about Nike & Knight, the athletic department budget and spending, and some about the WRC and Knight’s response, and some about the possible WRC/FARF donation link. I told him that the rumors were all over campus at the time, and still were, but that I had no first hand knowledge of it.

    I know that you are a longtime friend of Lynn Frohnmayer, but I encourage you to read the book,anyway, particularly the parts about why state defunding forced Frohnmayer to look to Knight to support UO, and the strings that these donations came with, and come with.

    The part about how public relations or “strategic communications” and UO’s general counsel’s office have corrupted UO’s public records process, in a way that Dave Frohnmayer fought against for years as a legislator and then AG, are also quite interesting and sad.

    It does seems Hunt got many details about the Frohnmayers’ daughters wrong. Of course it is a classic PR strategy to attack the details while avoiding the substance, as you do in your comment.

    • Dog says:

      No readers have to believe this:

      I had a beer drinking relationship with Dave F for many years, and he was an invited lecturer on some topics in some of my classes.

      Again you don’t have to believe this.

      When UOmatters writes this:

      particularly the parts about why state defunding forced Frohnmayer to look to Knight to support UO, and the strings that these donations came with, and come with.

      I can personally vouch for Dave F.’s frame of mind at this time
      and this is largely a correct reflection of some UO desperation at the time.

      I have no idea if Dave Hubin reads UOmatters or comments but he would have the best institutional memory of this time.

      The other person would be Maureen Shine, now long departed from the UO.

      If Hunt did not interview these two people, then he missed two primary sources.

      But overall I think the essence of the issue is that fiscal exigency drove Dave F. towards Knight as a possible short term/long term remedy.

      As to the various “strings” I am not sure anyone knows the real Truth there or, if they do, are willing to reveal it.

    • Deplorable Duck says:

      That almost sounds like “PR gets some of the facts right and some wrong” and “Investigative journalist gets some of the facts right and some wrong”. Not a particularly comforting thought.

    • charlie says:

      Publishers vet and fact check. They have attorneys retained to mitigate lawsuits. Can you explain how all three elements that created this book could have gotten it so wrong? Stands to reason that the Frohnmeyer-Knight relationship would have demanded the most scrutiny from author/publisher/attorney. It would be greatly appreciated if you, or anyone else, would give a whole lot more background to your claims..,

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for responding, Bill. As a long time development officer at the UO, the only “strings” that Phil required is that the designer/architect of some of the buildings that he funded be of his choosing. The Jaqua Center is one of these as are some of the athletic buildings. The University does not accept gifts that have strings attached, period. An example would be to teach from particular books, teach particular philosophies, use certain faculty and so on. We have turned down gifts that have strings many times. I have read only parts of the book ,having access to an advance copy. I stand by my opinion that the book, from the parts that I have read, has too many false and reckless statements and people should be aware of that fact. I have worked with many, many donors over the years and you are wrong to denigrate Phil’s generosity. He is quite hands off as donors of his magnitude go.

    • Fishwrapper says:

      It is good to hear from a long time development officer that, ” The University does not accept gifts that have strings attached, period.”

      It is bad to hear that immediately following a description of a string required by a donor.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      I think we have different conceptions of a “string” here. If Phil conditioned the gift on choosing the architect, then maybe we should have more of that, because for my money (er, Phil’s money), the Jock Box and the Arena are among the few campus buildings of distinction.

      Of course, most gifts have “strings” attached. I recently made a (very modest) donation to UO and designated it for a specific purpose. I am very sure that Lorey Lokey’s gifts came with “strings.” So did the gift for the Tykeson building and operation.
      I don’t see anything so terrible about that.

      On the other hand, if someone were to make a donation for an endowed professorship in economics or political science, and conditioned it on the recipient being a fan of Obama (substitute Trump if I just made your teeth gnash), I would object to that. I don’t think Phil would try to do that, as the fundraiser indicates.

      It seems to me that the University has the discretion to decide whether a particular gift, with its “strings,” is worth having. If it thinks not, turn down the gift. Personally, I have doubts about the Jaqua Center (location), the Arena (wretched intrusion on neighborhood due to inexcusable neglect of parking), the new track facility (wretched in too many ways to enumerate), and the “Knight Campus” (starting with the name). Whether UO should have accepted those gifts under the terms offered, and whether UO could have gotten better deals, were things obviously not under my authority. But I have my reservations on all of them.

      I also have my doubts whether any of this, with the possible future exception of the “Knight Campus,” is having a positive impact on academics at UO. Is our jocks learning more better stuff because of the Jock Box? I doubt it! They learn more better when they come to the professors and TA’s for help, is how they do it, or get tutoring, to which the shiny Jock Box contributes nothing that a wretched old building like Columbia doesn’t provide.

  11. uomatters says:

    Hi Jane (Or is it Anonymous?) –

    As I’ve told several reporters in the last few days, I believe that on balance Knight’s gifts have been good for UO, and I support the decision to give him an honorary degree.

    So I would have had no desire to rehash this history, were it not for the false claim by UO’s strategic communicators, and now you, that Knight’s gifts have come without significant strings.

    As an example of how false this claim is, here is one of the gift agreements between UO and Phil Knight, this one for the Jock Box gift, and widely reported on at the time. As you know these gift agreements are binding contracts, and as you can see there were many expensive strings for UO associated with this gift, most of which I believe we are still paying for.

    Bill Harbaugh

  12. Defunded says:

    I’m not sure of the idea that state defunding forced the UO to depend on Knight. If the UO was fully state funded, would it really have turned down $800 million? Would the state have really defunded k-12 or increased taxes to fund the delux Jock in the Box, basketball, track and football arenas? Would Frohnmayer have really said, no thanks, don’t give me a big boost in salary?

    • Dog says:

      who used the word “force”

      Rather, defunding certainly help catalyze the idea to reach out to Knight.

  13. Control says:

    I don’t buy the argument that because the state budget contributes some smaller percentage of the up budget (10?) that the citizens of Oregon should not control the UO. The people of Oregon own 100 percent of their university. If DMV brings pays for itself with fees, does that mean it should do whatever it wants or be under the control of someone who donates a coffee machine?

    • Deplorable Duck says:

      The citizens of Oregon due indeed have the last word. They could vote to change all of this. They’ve chosen the current path, for better or worse.

      • Deplorable Duck says:

        Shame on me for that grammatical error. In penance, have this quote I stumbled across this morning, in a review of The Coddling of the American Mind:

        “Haidt and Lukianoff also point to the corporatization of the American university. Colleges are increasingly focused on avoiding litigation and preserving their brand image. The authors cite Eric Adler, who argues that campus intolerance is not the result of student political lunacy at all, but the logical consequence of ‘a market-driven decision by universities … to treat students as consumers.’ Colleges are happy to employ administrators to prevent disruptions and quick to kowtow to the demands of the loudest and often most extreme students, just to keep the peace since, after all, the students are their source of income and the customer is always king.”

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Control — I think that DMV is a kinda unfortunate choice of a model for a fee-funded government operation. Ask DMV’s “patrons”! If that’s what you had in mind.

      Legally, yes the state of Oregon ha complete control over UO. Practically and ethically, when it provides so little of the budget, it forfeits its claim to control. In fact, the state seems to care only about not keeping the in-state tuition from rising beyond a certain limit. Otherwise, they are fine with the present setup — UO gets as much money as it can from out of state students and donors like Phil Knight; the state gets to favor the other struggling campuses with what little money it is willing to spend on higher education. Oh, and the Oregon fraction of undergrads is carefully kept at about half. Otherwise, UO is free to do what it wants, the citizens of Oregon don’t really care. Not exactly my idea of win-win, but it’s reality.

      • charlie says:

        Oregon taxpayers had nothing to do with the massive amount of debt on UOwe’s balance sheet. How many hundreds of millions in bonds were used to finance things such as basketball arenas, student spas and the memorial union? At a time of diminishing public funding, the bright lights that run the flagship went headlong into a building frenzy that had no academic purpose. Frankly, if this is the decision making quality of admins, then who can blame taxpayers if they’re not willing to fund U of Owe to a greater extent.

        At this point, whatever the University of Nike may or may not have said is unimportant. What matters is the future economic efficacy of the institution. It’s not good, at all. If anyone wants a glimp at the future, do some research with what’s going on at Oklahoma University. The president stated he’s got a billion dollars in construction debt he can’t pay. You can figure out the rest…

    • Deplorable Duck says:

      Really wish people would separate the narrative into its two parts: (1) State University funding gravely cut, and (2) University admins proceed to find needed funding wherever they can, from corporations that stand ready.

      I’m not inclined to heap a whole lot of blame on those participating in (2). It’s sausage to be sure, but what exactly was the alternative?

      As for (1), it’s a bad situation. Is anyone thinking about what it would take to convince voters–and to perhaps correct our faults–so that we could seriously increase public funding to prior levels?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.