RG endorses DOJ review of UO

3/31/2010: The RG editors have endorsed Attorney General Kroger’s review of UO’s $2.3 million payment to Bellotti:

… One thing seems clear before justice officials begin their review: The manner in which the university handles its athletic department contracts and other financial dealings is disturbingly informal and secretive. Head coaches routinely work under informal agreements without written contracts for inexcusably long periods of time. Former basketball coach Kent, UO football coach Chip Kelly, baseball coach George Horton and others have all worked for extended periods without formal contracts. While Bellotti said he was surprised the university did not ask him to sign a contract as athletic director, he noted that he had worked as football coach for as long as two years under handshake agreements.

Requests by this newspaper for copies of coaching contracts are typically met with a response that the final contracts have not been finalized and remain under review by UO general counsel Melinda Grier’s office — and are not available to the public.

That’s inexcusable for a state university, which should be a model of transparency. The fact that significant portions of athletic department contracts often are underwritten by boosters through donations to the UO Foundation is no excuse. In fact, the UO’s secretive handling of contracts has helped fuel allegations by critics who charge that the athletic department has become a Nike subsidiary whose major decisions, including contract terms, are often made in Beaverton. …

Presumably anything that the AG’s office learns from its investigation will be a public record – so we may learn a little about whether it was Lariviere or Frohnmayer who approved this, and what role Melinda Grier had. I don’t expect a very thorough review though – Melinda Grier’s husband, Jerry Lidz, was appointed Solicitor General by John Kroger just last year. The AG’s office already knows how UO does its business, and they know a thorough review would turn up too much trouble.

As the editorial suggests, the issues at UO go well beyond this deal.  By the time he stepped down Frohnmayer was receiving more than half his own pay in the form of anonymous contributions laundered through the UO Foundation. Lariviere is getting about half his salary this way. The assumption is that these donations come in large part from athletic boosters – but the Foundation is allowed to keep the source secret.

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