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Former Provost John Moseley agrees with Harbaugh on athletics funding

7/1/2015: In the RG Letters, here

UO athletics should share its bounty

I don’t often agree with Bill Harbaugh, but I must admit he and Dennis Howard made a very good point in their June 26 talk to the City Club of Eugene. The University of Oregon Department of Athletics should be contributing more directly to the UO general fund for academic support.

When I was UO provost and senior vice president (1994-2006), I reached an agreement in 2000 with then-Athletic Director Bill Moos that athletics would not be subsidized from the general fund and would become fully self-supporting.

Before that, the general fund subsidized athletics to the tune of more than $1 million per year.

I assume that agreement is still being followed. If it is, the UO program is one of the few among public universities that’s self-supporting, a laudable situation. Since then, UO athletics has flourished and is now in a position to give back to the university that gave it life and has supported it through many lean years, from the 1960s through the 1990s.

I believe the suggestion that 10 percent of the Athletic Department budget be returned to the general fund is reasonable, and certainly affordable for athletics. That shouldn’t be construed as a “gift” to the UO. All athletic facilities stand on land owned by the university. (Matt Knight Arena was paid for at least in part with Athletic Department funds and is technically owned by the university.)

A 10 percent fee for the use of the land, and the UO name, seems eminently reasonable to me.


Moseley was Provost when the 2004 Task Force agreement was signed. As he notes, it called for an end to subsidies. From what I can tell those subsidies did end under Moseley’s tenure as provost. But millions more crept back on the books under provosts Linda Brady and Jim Bean, and Scott Coltrane did nothing to deal with them as Provost, or as Interim President.

6/26/2015: Can we make big-time Duck sports work for UO?

Diane Dietz has the story on the Eugene City Club’s Friday talk with myself and LCB professor emeritus Dennis Howard, in the RG here. Please consider posting comments there. Some ideas that came out of the panel:

… Put the fund-raising personnel the athletics department employs and those the university employs under the same managers, Howard said. Collaborate instead of compete for contributions, he said. Do joint pitches for athletic and academic gifts. “We could do it so much better,” Howard said.

Harbaugh agreed, saying, “It would be really good if we were all in this together and the athletic department was trying to help the rest of the university.”

Harbaugh suggested the university take charge of the athletic department budget centrally, with university financial officers doling out the annual budget and the university absorbing any excess — as is done now for other UO departments.

Or, go a different direction, and cut the Athletic Department loose, encourage it to raise as much as it can and take 10 percent of revenues to pay for academic scholarships.

If scholarships were tied to wins in that way, UO professors would get their pom-poms out, he said.

Thanks to the City Club and organizers Karen Wyatt and Marty Wilde for hosting this discussion. We had a good turnout and what I thought was an interesting discussion and questions. Audio should be posted on KLCC in a day or two here. From the Eugene City Club website:

The Future of Collegiate Athletics at the U of O
Downtown Athletic Club, 3rd Floor Ballroom

… Many in the community say that the fondness for Ducks teams and other world class sporting events contributes to a sense of community pride and brings people together in a unique and spirited way. Others express concerns about the exploitation of student athletes say that the resources expended on athletics come at the expense of academics and other community resources.

Considered an international authority on sports finance, Howard was head of the Marketing Department for the UO Lundquist College of Business before becoming its Dean. He has held various positions at the UO for more than 25 years, with one five-year break to head the graduate program in sport management at Ohio State University. His PhD is from Oregon State University.

Harbaugh has a Phd in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s been an economics professor at UO since 1995, and has edited the UO Matters blog since 2009. His research on the neural foundations of charitable giving has been published in Science, and featured in the New York Times. He has been on UO’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee since 2011, and this June 3rd he was elected as the UO Senate VP and President-Elect on a platform that included a call for a new UO Task Force to fix the broken relationship between Duck athletics and UO’s academic side.

City Club members will engage the speakers in a Q&A session after the presentations.

Howard knows a lot about the financial aspects of big-time college athletics in general and at UO in particular. I expect to learn a lot.

I did a similar session in Portland a few months ago, making a pitch for the 3% tax, and talked a little bit about things like the sham FHS 199 course. It was a good discussion, with some very interesting questions from the Portland City Club members:


  1. minions -- bob, stuart and kevin 06/26/2015

    All nice ideas, but doesn’t take into account the bully philosophy of all NIke related enterprises: push it to the barely acceptable limits to TAKE all you can for yourself. They don’t ‘identify’ with academics, generally, and compete with rabid detail. Pro contracts and manifestos usually follow.

  2. dog (hot dog in this case) 06/27/2015

    climate change, what climate change? 100 degrees in eugene in June –> naw its a myth

    So I do have a lot to bark about on this topic, but will bark briefly since I am a hot dog needing water/beer for survival.

    First of all,
    is a good site for lots of this.

    Second, a thorough report by Koo and Dittmore (2012) reaches this IMPORTANT conclusion:

    For every $1 increase in athletic giving, the current operating dollars restricted to academic purposes decreased by $1.40. I believe economics call this negative elasticity or plasticity or bullshiticity or some such

    1. Joint pitches – great idea but unlikely to happen in the real world. Can some examples of Universities that actually do this be provided here?

    2. Taxing athletic donations is an obvious idea and actually done by some Universities. Some examples of models to follow would be good to post here,

    3. I don’t have any fuckin’ pom poms and if I did, would need instruction on how to use them ,…

  3. Fox/Hedgehog 06/27/2015

    I like a common management structure and shared pitches. It’s more than that though. It’s giving responsibility to athletics not just for charity or grudging compromises but for actually being an essential part of the university and not just a hyperplastic appendage. People want to think of themselves as the good guys. If you give them some responsibility for doing good things, they are more likely to come through than when you beg and accuse. Set goals for fundraising that athletics and academics have to achieve together. Build a structure for that. Then do the work together. See what happens. It’s unlikely to work worse than what we’re doing now.

  4. that effing Canis again 07/01/2015

    Yes, 3 cheers for JTM and his hindsight judgement.

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