Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ken Pendleton calls for strategic athletics reduction talks

8/19/2013: In an Op-Ed in the RG:

The debates surrounding the opening of the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex are not much different than the ones that have been waged since the University of Oregon Athletic Department decided to ramp up operations after the unexpected trip to the Rose Bowl in 1995. 

The sad part is that we don’t seem to be any closer to finding common ground, even though there should be a great deal of it. …

Rather than focusing on any single athletic department’s practices, the NCAA should be pressured to bring together concerned faculty and athletic personnel to explore ways to curtail such spending. These might include administrative rules that much more strictly regulate expenditures — regulations of the type that are already used, for example, in recruiting — or a provision that stipulates that a significant percentage of any donations to an athletic department must go to the general fund. … 

Ken Pendleton is a project designer and senior researcher at the Sports Conflict Institute in Eugene. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon.

I disagree for two reasons. First, the Knight Commission and COIA have fought for years for systematic reforms, to no effect. Second, only a small proportion of universities play this game to the extent UO now does. UO did fine pursuing its academic mission, with a comparatively modest athletic budget, for years.

In the past 10 year UO’s operating expenditures on sports have tripled, and capital expenditures for arenas and so on have exploded. But this was done in the dark by President Frohnmayer, who was pursuing his own agenda. UO can pull back on its own without waiting for collective action, and doing so would be to the benefit of UO academics, regardless of what other universities do.


  1. Anonymous 08/19/2013

    Who exactly is supposed to pressure the NCAA to do what Pendleton suggests which is find ways to curtail athletic spending–university presidents? That won’t happen. Doesn’t appear to me that the so called elite schools actually want their spending curtailed at all. Seems like a better suggestion would be to remake the NCAA, and it wouldn’t require nearly as much effort to get that agenda moving.

    • Ken Pendleton 08/19/2013

      Good question: There is no precedent for universities scaling down there programs while they are enjoying great success or serious systemic reform, even after highly critical studies, such as the Knight Commission’s and Carnegie Foundation’s (1929).

      So how should we head into uncharted territory? We need to identify allies at every D1 university. The presidents and other high ranking officials, however many there are, who would take this seriously, and the supportive faculty, alum, and students at each institution.

      Once identified, representatives of these groups need to meet and develop a strategic plan. This would obviously be a major undertaking, but I think there is a great deal of discontent, even among serious fans, like me, about the current level of spending.

      In sum, the choice comes down to organizing or just accepting the status quo.

    • Anonymous 08/19/2013

      Who is the “we” that is going to identify allies? Which high ranking officials at UO have you identified who would be part of such an undertaking? How could such a plan even begin to be enforceable?

    • Ken Pendleton 08/19/2013

      No one said organizing was easy. You have to come up with a strategy to reach potential sympathizers. For example, websites like this one, which I presume exist at other universities, could be used to identify those parties at each institution. Plans for working with ranking officials would have to be developed on a school by school basis. Eventually, you would have to form a organization and raise money. This would require a lot of work by a lot of people, but the good news is that the objective conditions to mobilize exist.

    • Anonymous 08/19/2013

      I wasn’t alluding to whether it would be easy or not. I’m suggesting it’s not realistic.

    • UO Matters 08/19/2013

      Many of the top administrators whose help would be needed to coordinate collective action have been bought off with perks such as free tickets and bowl game junkets. The athletic departments are far better funded than the faculty, and lets face it – tailgating is far more fun than your average faculty dinner party. So I’m still not seeing a strategy that can make much headway on a national level.

    • Anonymous 08/19/2013


    • Anonymous 08/19/2013

      WHile we’re at it, why not get the Jedi and Sith lords into the same room… you know… to hash out their differences. Sure, getting them together will be difficult, but I’m sure they’ll all see the light.

  2. Ken Pendleton 08/19/2013

    Sorry, didn’t mean to mischaracterize your point. The fact there is no precedent for such a movement certainly supports your concerns about whether serious reform is realistic, but do we really want to resign ourselves to the status quo?

    • Anonymous 08/19/2013

      In your RG article, you said not to focus on an individual athletic dept’s practice. Why? Wouldn’t it be far more effective, realistically, for each school or conference to attempt change for their schools?

      At UO, the kind of reform you are suggesting will never happen, and I can say that with 99% certainty. So, resign ourselves to the status quo? Yeah, probably, but with some “small” changes like UOM has proposed. The time for the type of reform you’ve laid out was about 15 years ago.

  3. Ken Pendleton 08/19/2013

    Small changes might be possible at a given school. However, the popularity of these sports and the largely unregulated arms race will always compel athletic departments to spend as much as possible, no matter how marginal the utility.

    You may be right about the long odds against serious reform, but there are a lot of stakeholders, or at least groups that should and could be stakeholders, who would like to see serious change.

    • Anonymous 08/19/2013

      Popularity, exactly! So anything national would be wasted time, in my opinion.

      Agreed, there are a lot of stakeholders, but we’re a diverse group of peons compared to the athletic money. Not only that, ESPN, the NFL, the Olympics, sports agents etc. — all those people and organizations plus the myriad of little companies affiliated with them ride the glitz and sports bucks.

      Frankly, I think the best chance of reform will come through reconstituting the NCAA, and that process has already begun. Where it takes us is questionable but maybe this is where a school or conference can make it’s mark on rules and regulations for sports within universities. Maybe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *