I wonder what’s next ?

1/25/2010: From the Oregonian:

EUGENE – The Eugene Police Department confirmed this morning that its officers are investigating an alleged theft, and the student who filed the report has told The Oregonian that the men he accuses in it are University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and wide receiver Garrett Embry.

Fraternity member Max Wolfard filed a police report alleging that the players took two MacBook Pro computers – one valued at $2,000, the other at $1,500 – and a $900 guitar from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house at 812 E. 14th Ave. in Eugene early Sunday.

… Wolfard said the two players then ran out the back door. Wolfard said Masoli fled north and Embry went east up Agate Street as Wolford chased him. Blocks later, Wolfard says, Embry stopped running, gave him back his projector screen and said, “You’ve got it back, now you better get out of here.”

I know how these guys feel, I also prefer the 15″ Mac Pro screen to the smaller 13″ on the regular Macs like the Jaqua center gives every UO athlete. I guess they are harder to run with though. Seriously, this Wolfard guy must have a very large pair, going public like this.

Scepticism on Frohnmayer’s privatisation proposal:

1/25/2010: From an Op-Ed in the Oregonian, from 2 higher ed union leaders:

To achieve these goals the university system will have to participate in an honest and open dialogue involving all committed and relevant participants to meet our commitment to the students of today and tomorrow.

What we don’t need is a quick fix in the form a permanent redesign of our universities that assigns administrators more authority and less responsibility and — even worse — offers no assurance of additional resources. Switching to a corporate funding model is no panacea and might actually prove counter-productive.

Lariviere has also voiced his scepticism about this move. My view is it certainly need some open debate and more credible info, both in scarce supply at UO after 15 years of Frohnmayer. Apparently Frances Dyke still hasn’t provided Lariviere with believable budget numbers – millions pop up here, millions disappear over there.

Income inequality

1/25/2010: This is old news nationally, I hadn’t seen the Oregon breakdown. From Jeff Manning in the Oregonian:

Oregonians earning at the 50th percentile saw their inflation-adjusted wages grow 4.5 percent from $31,866 in 1990 to peak of $33,318 in 2004.

The group’s income has fallen every year since then, finishing 2008 at $32,659, the lowest level since 2001.

In contrast, those at the top 98th percentile of earners saw their inflation-adjusted wages climb 31 percent in the same 18 years from $118,453 in 1990 to a peak of $155,496 in 2007.

Keep in mind that these numbers don’t tell you much about the standard of living – think how much you benefit from things that really matter, like cell phones, the internet, love, the environment, sex – relative to what you pay for them. I wish I knew enough about economics to understand how those benefits play out in terms of changes in the distribution of living standards over time.

Tax deductions for athletics

1/24/2010: A reader pointed me to this article questioning the tax-deduction for college athletics, noting that college coaches are the best paid non-profit executives in the country. “In order to remain untaxed, the money earned from a university’s businesses must be used “in furtherance of” the school’s educational mission, according to tax laws.”” The precedent is a 1950 case involving a for-profit macaroni company set up by NYU. Of course.

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.

no bid contracts and the Arena

1/22/2010: An anonymous commentator pointed readers to this ODE story by CJ Ciaramella on no-bid contracts for the Arena. There’s another in the RG today:

I’d wondered what the story on that billboard on Franklin Blvd was. When someone rents a billboard to complain UO is not following the public records law it kind of gets your attention. The Director of the union group that erected it says of UO:

“The amount of time that it’s taken to get a public records request processed is far longer than we are used to dealing with,” Bonham said. “For this institution to be not completely transparent and forthcoming is a concern for the public.” The University general counsel’s office, which handles public records requests for the University, did not return calls seeking comment.

For the record, The UO official in charge of public record requests is Doug Park, dougpark@uoregon.edu, (541) 346-3082. Doug doesn’t sign his name to public records responses, and likes to use the email address gcounsel@uoregon.edu instead of his real one. I’m not sure if this is because he is embarrassed by what his boss Melinda Grier makes him do for a living, or is just trying to forestall an ethics investigation over the details.

I still remember the efforts to get a copy of this report on the arena revenue forecast from UO. Melinda Grier was trying to hide this report because its revenue forecasts were 1/3 of the 15 million needed to justify tax-exempt bonds. She and Doug Park stalled for months, ignored repeated emails and calls, and the Oregon DOJ played along with her efforts to keep this report secret. Finally it came out and we found this:

So the projection is for $4 million in net revenue, for $15 million per year bond repayments. When the State Treasurer’s office finally saw this report they refused to allow UO to sell the bonds as tax-exempt, because these numbers mean the IRS could have argued this was tax arbitrage, and imposed millions in penalties on UO. I wonder what Melinda is hiding this time?


1/21/2010: This is a pretty amazing story about former UO AD Bill Moos and his replacement Pat Kilkenny, from Ron Bellamy in the RG yesterday. I missed it, thank for the tip, Anonymous. It’s just bizarre. What are these people doing messing around with universities? Can anyone tell me the point to any of this?

In the end, he fell out of favor with Oregon’s chief benefactor, Nike chairman Phil Knight, whose generosity had been essential to Moos’ accomplishments and was essential to building a new basketball arena. So Moos was forced out late in 2006 and he was given the aforementioned settlement agreement, largely financed by the UO donor who would become his successor, Pat Kilkenny.

But it seems clear that that Oregon raised the prospect that Moos would lose the $1.4 million remaining on his agreement if he took the UNLV job and tried to cut a deal. Just to save money? Out of vindictiveness? Who knows?
Kilkenny, who largely financed the buyout and says he’s never actually read the agreement, said he’s already paid virtually all of his share of the buyout into a fund. “If you’re asking from a financial perspective if it’s material to me, it’s not,” Kilkenny said adding: “What the university agreements were and what those details are, I generally understood what it was, but it wasn’t anything that was done on my watch, so I never went back and looked at it.”
What’s Oregon’s explanation? UO general counsel Melinda Grier has neither returned phone calls nor responded to requests for interviews, including written questions, submitted through Phil Weiler, the UO senior director of communications.
And then the illustrious and irrepressible former UO President and endowed Knight Chair in Law, past Oregon Attorney General, one-time gubernatorial candidate, current Professor of a UO Honors College course on the “Theory of Leadership”, and conduit for $350,000 in Pat Kilkenny donations Dave Frohnmayer chimes in:
“I don’t want to make any judgment about that because I wasn’t party to the hammering out of that specific language, other than approving the final contract, and that was not a matter of particular focus,” Frohnmayer said. “I can’t really shed much light on that.”
He approved the final contract but he can’t shed light on it. It was all a bunch of real complicated legal stuff, is that it Dave?

So why doesn’t new President Richard Lariviere just tear up the contract and let Moos go on his way? Because the athletic department lost $1 million last year. Next year they’ve got to start covering the $15 million Arena bond repayments, figure out how to fund Chip Kelly’s new contract, hire a replacement for Kent, and so on. Lariviere has to kowtow to Knight and Kilkenny because the academic side is legally on the hook for any deficits. Lariviere has no choice about UO’s future: Knight and Kilkenny have owned it since the day they convinced Frohnmayer to borrow $270 million for their Arena, in UO’s name.

So why did Frohnmayer start UO down this one-way road? I’m sure it’s his love of sports, not the $50,000+ per year he got from Knight and the $350,000 Kilkenny’s “Lucky Duck Foundation” sent to Frohnmayer’s Fanconi Foundation. This couldn’t get any sadder.

But it can get more absurd. Kilkenny apparently got a tax deduction for the $2 million he used to buy out Moos so that he could take his job – because the IRS says donations to university athletic departments help provide an important public good.


1/20/2010: This site has been getting a lot of visits lately, and a few more comments. I do screen these a little, but usually post everything that doesn’t offer advice on how to get shrink mortgage payments or enlarge body parts. Posters might consider adopting a screen name, simply by checking the Name/URL option and making up a name. It’s still anonymous, it just gives you the option to use a name other than “Anonymous” – which gets a little confusing when everyone does it. Also, if you want to contact me anonymously without having your question/tip appear online, just put “Do Not Post” at the top of your message, and I won’t.

Graduation on Monday?

1/20/2010: This was news to me, from Jill Kimball in the ODE:

The main ceremony and most department commencements will be held on a Monday, a day on which the University has never before held commencement, to avoid a scheduling conflict with the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will take place on campus from June 9, the Wednesday of finals week, to June 12, the Saturday on which most ceremonies would normally be held.

Former University President Dave Frohnmayer and his administration made the agreement with the NCAA to host the 2010 championships a few years ago, unaware that it would conflict with the University’s academic schedule. Frohnmayer retired last year, leaving Lariviere and his administration to work out the scheduling kinks.

ORI building

1/20/2010: I really don’t know anything about local land use decisions. I wish someone who does would start a blog. From the outside, the local decision process seems to involve a few passionate citizens obstructing OK projects because they are not perfect, combined with secrecy, brinksmanship and apocalyptic warnings from developers claiming they will leave town if they don’t get their way. Next iteration everyone takes it up a notch. It’s a broken process that is slowly destroying Eugene. My own ignorant sentiment is that the ORI building should have gone downtown. I still haven’t heard a good explanation for why they can’t use their $5 million in NIH stimulus funding for that, and today’s RG editorial ignores the issue. But now that we are at the brink – if that’s really where we are at – of course good is better than a perfect nothing. UO and Eugene should do everything possible to encourage employers like ORI. Otherwise we hear Sid Leiken has a nice spot available in Springfield. But I do wish the ORI people would stop claiming that we should support this because they will build a bike rack, throw up a few solar cells, and get LEED certification.


1/19/2010: I gotta get off this athletics kick, at the end of the day I don’t give a shit – let’s just play the game. But meanwhile, USA Today reports some numbers: in 2007-08 UO’s AD brought in $56,623,901 and spent $56,259,942, for a slight profit. These numbers look pretty comprehensive – everything from the State Lottery loot that goes to fund scholarships for athletes, to Kilkenny’s gifts.

For 2008-2009, the athletic budget grew by about $5 million, and Rachel Bachman in the Oregonian reports that they lost a bit more than $1 million. Belotti funded that by borrowing from next year’s football ticket sales. Apparently this is the first time they’ve had to do that. What does the future hold?  (Big Rose Bowl cash, in the short run, I hope!) I’m no economist, but keep in mind that athletic departments have the same asymmetric profit model as Wall Street hedge funds. In the good years they take a big chunk of the gross as salary. In the bad years they skip town leaving the academic side holding an empty bag.

Transparency and regulation are the usual solutions. We hope Lariviere has more on the ball than that Greenspan fellow.


1/19/2010: Someone has posted a few comments on the union – which we haven’t heard much about lately. You can add your own here.

Anonymous said…

UAUO seems to be basing much of their appeal to faculty on the fact that UO faculty salaries fall below comparator institutions. That led me to wonder if our union-represented colleagues at other institutions are faring better. Apparently not. The PSU-AAUP blog decries the fact that those faculty also are at the bottom of their list of comparator institutions – and they pay union dues. Not a very compelling argument in favor of unionization. See: http://www.psuaaup.net/blog/2009/04/how-is-psu-faculty-doing.html
This statement appeared on the PSU-AAUP Labor Blog (http://www.psuaaup.net/blog/labels/bargaining.html): “There is no doubt that it would be advantageous for the Oregon University System, which controls negotiations with PSU faculty, to do what it can — in a union-busting sort of way — to make certain that UO and OSU faculty are perceived to suffer less than PSU faculty, especially since organizing efforts are currently being made on those campuses.” Seems like a strong argument against unionization…