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What will the Rose Bowl win cost academics?

Last updated on 06/07/2014

1/4/2012: One way to build a better university would be to invest in academics – as Richard Lariviere’s New Partnership proposed. Or there’s Dave Frohnmayer’s trickle down theory – sell out to the jocks and pretend. From the RG editorial a few days ago:

Former UO President Dave Frohnmayer has no doubts about the spillover effects of a successful football season: After the Ducks made their first modern Rose Bowl appearance in 1995, he saw a surge in donor support for both athletic and academic programs at the university. A successful season promotes awareness of the UO, and triggers a natural desire to be associated with a winner.

As it happens, UO Professor Dennis Howard – holder of a Nike Philip H. Knight Chair in Sports Marketing at UO and former Business School Dean – has written a paper on exactly this topic, comparing data on donations to UO sports and to UO academics, for exactly the years Frohnmayer is talking about – 1994 to 2002. Howard’s conclusion is a little different from Frohnmayer’s:

Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.


For every $100 of new revenue raised from major donors by the University of Oregon, over 80% is being directed to the athletic department. Even with the large increases in numbers of total donors since 1994, academic giving struggles to remain stable while donations to athletics experience huge growth. In three out of the past five years (1998, 2000, 2001), the total dollars donated to academics by non-alumni has fallen despite annual increases in the number of non-alumni donors. Total dollars donated to academics by alumni fell in only one year (2000), again despite an increase in the total number of donors. This suggests new donors are not making academic gifts, and current donors are shifting dollars from academic giving to donations directed to the athletic program. Additionally, as discussed above, proportional giving by alumni is predominantly directed to the athletic program. If these trends continue, total academic giving will fall for both alumni and non-alumni despite continued increases in the total numbers of both types of donors.

Stefan Verbano of the ODE had a story on Prof Dennis Howard last February:

“It’s called a donation or a contribution … when, in fact, as we have discovered in our research … it’s a transaction,” Howard said. “It has nothing to do with giving back to the University or a philanthropic motive. It is purely and simply a commercial transaction in which the individual in paying for tangible benefits: better seat location, access to the Autzen Club amenities. All of those things are driving those transactions.” 

Or just look at the picture. (Data source here.) And it gets worse: the UO Foundation has just announced a $1.4 million cut in the amount it provides for academic scholarships. Go Ducks!


  1. Anonymous 01/05/2012

    No issues with the topic…just facts. Howard is a Philip H. Knight Professor, not a Nike Chaired Professor. Top Scholar in his area which was the intent of the Knight Gifts.

  2. Anonymous 01/05/2012

    Please tell us the data source(s) behind this picture.

  3. Anonymous 01/05/2012

    It is 2012, by the way.

    Maybe the University should offer better seats at football games for any kind of donation.

  4. Horsefeathers 01/05/2012

    Hard to “invest in academics” if the “investors” aren’t interested. New Partnership? Your beef is with the governor and legislature, maybe with your inept former president. (Here’s hoping Berdahl is more successful).

    Getting more private giving to academics is hopeless if there is little to inspire the givers. I think about giving a million to academics. Does half of that get siphoned off to the other campuses? Or does the legislature just cut UO by a million? Uh, maybe I’m not interested.

    And how well does UO publicize its “public events” to the public?

    Compare with Stanford. (I picked them because they seem to get the most private giving per year of universitities in recent years.) Go to their website, you’ll find a link to “Events.” Click on that and you get to

    I challenge anyone to find something comparable at UO. Our public events are a jumble of poorly and unevenly publicized occasions.

    You can even compare UO with Oregon State. I hardly expect the latter to be an exemplar, but take a look:

  5. Anonymous 01/05/2012

    Horsefeathers — How is the OSU calendar better that the UO public events calendar? Simply go to main UO website. Top ribbon has calendar, click then choose public events. I agree could be promoted more, but not getting your point.

    I think donors give because they believe in the outcome of their gifts. So scientists built Lokey. Educators donated to that building. UO COULD do a better job of promoting academic giving or encouraging athletic donors to “double down” and also give to a dept as part of their gifts.

  6. Horsefeathers 01/05/2012

    So I can go to either to the bottom of the UO page with Events, or go to Calendar (if I have the wit to know that events are at the Calendar).

    So I go there, and click on “seminars” (after first doing “Select”) for the month of January. I come up dry.

    Either I’m missing something, or UO is telling me there are no seminars here. Not a terribly good impression of the life of the mind here!

    OK, if I click on “lectures” for a month I’ll come up with a few things — a tiny fraction of what is actually going on at UO!

    I’m not saying OSU is great on this, only that perhaps — perhaps — they’ve thought more about the public impression and usefulness of their site?

    Go to their website. Up will come — very conveniently, no need to click around to find the list — a list with Lectures/Seminars. Click on it for the month of January. A lot more impressive than UO!

    We shouldn’t take for granted that we are the “flagship” forever and they are horse feathers school!

    I could go on with specific programs, departments but I will spare them the embarrassment that they should feel.

    And there’s no comparison of either UO or OSU with say Stanford or U. of Chicago or ….

    Not that UO is either of those places, but we could do a lot better in this department. All it would take is some thought about PR, plus a little money.

    A president who would crack the whip on this!

    And go to the UO athletics site. You’ll find that you can easily find anything you want. It is all set up to sell the Ducks Athletics. As if this is Nike U. or something! LOL.

    I believe you are absolutely right about why donors give. Scientists built Lokey? Didn’t Lokey build Lokey? And he built music too, right? Fine with me.

    But, the point was made in the post that UO is lagging in academic donations. I accept that, and am merely saying that maybe UO just doesn’t try very hard to sell itself.

    I would like to have it shown that I’m just being negative. But look at the results — I didn’t make them up, or bring them up. I wish things were different.

  7. Anonymous 01/05/2012

    Brilliant observations, Horsefeathers! Never thought of this. The OSU angle is like maybe astonishing? Somebody needs to kick some ass here!

    Maybe UO should hire Nike to run the whole PR business here. LOL!

  8. Louise M Bishop 01/05/2012

    A real events calendar has been a desideratum at UO for years. The Stanford one is perfect. As Horsefeathers suggests, let’s answer the question why we don’t have one like it here. Is Stanford’s version proprietary programming?

    So sad that one of the best outreach programs, the Insight Seminars, doesn’t reside on the current calendar: info about it is housed on libweb, findable through a search, but only through a search. Full disclosure: my fondness for the Insight Seminars is also personal!

  9. Anonymous 01/05/2012

    Dog barks

    1) Institutional Web Page Dysfunction is the UO Way …

    2) To UOmatters or their minions – the graph/data is somewhat misleading. Everything is lumped together – so academic donations can go up when we build a new Lokey building – all of that is good, but I think a more fair, but more difficult comparison would be general giving not associated with building arenas or
    new lab buildings without classrooms in them.
    That is, what is the rate of increase of general, non-specific giving to the athletic department compared to UO academics. The building giving produces spikes in the data.

  10. Anonymous 01/06/2012

    Part of the problem with publicity regarding Insight Seminars is that this program is administrated by the Library. Needs to go to a unit that can/will adequately support it.

  11. Anonymous 01/07/2012

    Have heard from a friend that OSU now tops UO in average SAT scores, according to US News data in 2012 rankings. Anybody know about this? Are the US News data true?

  12. Michael Kellman 01/07/2012

    Here we go. (Don’t ask me why I have this info.)

    US News 2012 college edition says 25% – 75% range of SAT scores as follows:



    so midpoint is about 1105



    so midpoint is 1130

    i.e. OSU significantly higher than UO.

    I can’t verify this from other data sources, however.

    In the past it has been reversed.

    Sounds like OSU has either moved ahead of UO — goodbye “flagship” as Professor Horsefeathers intimates —

    or OSU pulling a fast one.

    I have heard that OSU now bills itself as “the research university” in undergrad recruiting.

    Sounds like something Sheriff Berdahl needs to look into.

  13. Anonymous 01/07/2012

    Is their 4-year graduation rate still down at 28 %?

  14. M.K. 01/08/2012

    Good question. The latest U.S. news data say it’s up to 33% at OSU and 44% at UO. The gap in 6-year rates has been smaller over the years. I don’t know why the OSU 4-year rate is historically so low.

    If the OSU test scores have really risen that much, it should be reflected in the graduation rates, but only with a lag of several years.

    As I said, either OSU really is making a move up, or they’re pulling a fast one. (Or perhaps U.S. News just screwed up printing the data, but I doubt it.)

  15. Anonymous 01/08/2012

    M.K. you should talk to the Sheriff about this!

  16. Anonymous 01/10/2012

    Dog to MK

    Your quotes of data are correct. As I have pointed out previously in this forum accesses the entire higher ed
    data base.

    However, its is true that the UO, for whatever reasons, has made significant progress towards improving its 4 year graduation rate. Following is snapshot data that is complete until 2009

    Year UO OSU
    2002 37.1 26.8 (%)
    2005 38.0 30.6
    2007 40.8 29.7
    2009 46.0 28.3

  17. MK 01/10/2012

    MK to Dog

    What do you think of the SAT stuff as reported in U.S. News? Is OSU really making a move up, or just making it up?

  18. Anonymous 01/10/2012

    Many of OSU’s professional degree programs are designed to be 5-year commitments, e.g., engineering, forestry. At UO, the professional architecture degree is a 5-year program, too. An apples-to-apples comparison of graduate rates would be helpful.

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