Jocks’ secret spending hurts new partnership

7/18/2012: There have been a few editorials in Oregon papers dealing with the Penn State Paterno/Spanier/Sandusky football scandal. The Daily Astorian editors are the first I’ve seen to explicitly compare the lack of institutional control that led to Penn State with UO’s lack of institutional control of its own athletic programs:

The corrupting influence of too much money is just as apparent in big time football as it is in America’s wars of occupation.
In a decade when so many Americans are struggling for financial survival, it is startling to observe sectors that are awash in money – and notice that they are the worse for it.
The pedophilia scandal at the Pennsylvania State University is an example of how big money corrupts institutions by creating immunity for one class of people – football coaches – to the point where a sickening pattern of crime was tolerated and enabled.
Writing to The New York Times, Thomas Heiden of Stratford, Conn., commented that, “As long as there is so much money in college football, and as long as there are separate dorms, dining facilities and disciplinary procedures for players and coaching staffs, there will continue to be scandals.”
With Nike money, the University of Oregon has grandly segregated athletes. Moreover, the UO’s deal with football coach and athletic director Mike Bellotti was eye-catching, even in this era of excess. Bellotti is Oregon’s biggest beneficiary in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). His monthly PERS payment is in excess of $40,000. In any decade, that is out of whack; in ours it is obscene.
UO football lives in a universe quite separate from the rest of Oregon higher education, and that’s not healthy.

There is such a thing as having too much money. That is especially apparent in our foreign wars of occupation – Iraq and Afghanistan – where billions have been wasted or stolen. It is especially galling that the profligate waste was money America really didn’t have, because these wars were waged on credit. A president and a Congress didn’t have the intelligence or courage to raise taxes to pay for the wars.
Historians note similarities among nations that decline. The warped American values apparent in last week’s news qualify.

Soon UO is going to go to the legislature to argue for more independence from the state. Phil Knight is a big supporter of that effort. I’m guessing that many more people are going to be asking questions like those above. One reply would be to show evidence of real faculty oversight of athletics and real transparency. But Bob Berdahl has weakened both these efforts at UO. I hope Mike Gottfredson understands that he needs to do a 180 on them if he wants to be able to present a credible argument for more independence.

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