Big-time college sports a dying industry?

3/29/2012: I’m no economist, so I don’t like to make forecasts, but Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier are and they’ve got an interesting piece out: What Would the End of Football Look Like?

… This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn’t worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it’s mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.

Not to mention the rapes. Cowen’s earlier post raises the question of why watching football games increases assaults and domestic violence, while watching violent movies reduces violence. Complements and substitutes is how those economists put it. Meanwhile the Chronicle has a story on declining interest in college basketball – apparently it’s not just at Oregon:

More than 70 Division I men’s basket­ball programs—about one out of every five—have seen their regular-season attendance fall by 20 percent or more over the past four seasons, a Chronicle analysis has found. And while many colleges have had significant gains, the declines have left big budget holes in some athletic departments and could lead to major changes in the game.

The falloff has been particularly sharp in the Pacific-12 Conference, where fan support has dropped 14 percent since 2009. Arizona State, Washington State, and UCLA have all seen their home attendance decline by more than a third in the past four years. Arizona State, with an arena that seats over 14,000 fans, attracted an average of just 5,411 per game this season.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, historically one of the strongest basketball leagues, has had a 7-percent slide since 2009, with average attendance falling below 10,000 fans a game for the first time in recent history. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are both off by more than 2,500 spectators per game from 2009, and even Duke University has seen interest in its rabid student section wane. 

They attribute the disinterest to the increase in other entertainment options.

presidential searches and shared governance

3/25/2012: This piece starts with the recent firing of Pres Michael Hogan from UI and then moves to a good discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of closed presidential searches such as that underway at UO:

… “What all universities are trying to do is find a successor who has been someplace else as president.” Throughout the Illinois search, board members repeatedly said they were looking for someone who had held a similar role. …

The desire to secure experienced candidates drives an increased level of confidentiality in searches. Search consultants and many board members say keeping the names of candidates confidential — in many cases until a selection is made — attracts a better pool of candidates, many of whom would be reluctant to enter out of fear of backlash on their home campus.

“Sitting presidents require a degree of confidentiality that other candidates don’t,” said Susan Resneck Pierce, a former president of the University of Puget Sound who now consults with governing boards and presidents, and who has written for Inside Higher Ed. She said that seeking another presidency is viewed by boards and campuses as an effort to abandon the current institution. That can damage everything from fund raising to faculty relations, proponents of confidentiality argue. For provosts and other senior administrators, the presidency is a step up so it’s less of an issue if their names become public.

But many faculty members don’t buy that argument. By keeping searches secret, they say, boards are discounting the importance of the relationship between faculty members and presidents, which is essential to university governance.

The search underway at UO does include a fair number of faculty representatives, but the power lies with Pernsteiner.

Oregon grad student sues over PhD committee

3/22/2012: From Insidehighered: (link now fixed, thanks anon)

A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a former graduate student’s lawsuit alleging that the University of Oregon retaliated against her for complaining about gender discrimination in her doctoral program. Experts said the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, if upheld, could reshape the relationship between dissertation chairs and doctoral students.

Berdahl to IAC: stop asking hard questions

3/19/2012: Interim President Bob Berdahl thinks the UO Senate Intercollegiate Athletics Committee is asking too many hard questions about athletics, and he is going to rewrite the committee’s charge to make it easier for the athletic department to have their way with UO.

From what I can tell this is the first time in UO history a president has gone after a Senate committee like this. In addition, the administration now appears to be attempting to repudiate the 2004 Athletics Task force report, a 3 year joint effort of the UO administration, the athletic department and Senate that produced this 12 point blueprint for athletics reform at UO. This was commissioned by then President Dave Frohnmayer and signed off on by everyone from Jim Earl to Dan Williams to Bill Moos.

There is a series of recent emails between IAC chair Tublitz and Berdahl posted on the UO Senate website, here. Read them all to get the context. Here is an excerpt from Tublitz’s report to the IAC on his meeting with Interim President Berdahl last week.

He [Berdahl] gave several examples where this year’s IAC had improperly strayed into oversight:

a) Requesting information about NCAA violations;
b) Asking for financial information such as donations that had nothing to do with academic issues;
c) Making too many requests to the Athletic Director.

I [Tublitz] pointed out that these items are in our current charge to which the Interim President replied that he would not have approved the current charge if he was president at the time the current charge was adopted.

The Interim President also stated that other items in the current charge such as being involved in appointments of head coaches were also well outside the proper consultative role of the IAC.

We discussed the fact that the current charge and several issues discussed in the IAC this year came directly from the 2004 Athletic Task Force (ATF) report. I noted that the report had been submitted to the Senate by the entire ATF committee, including Mr O’Fallon as FAR, then Athletic Director Bill Moos and then VP for Administration Dan Williams speaking on behalf of then President Frohnmayer and the central administration. Jim O’Fallon strenuously objected to the commonly held notion that he, AD Bill Moos and the administration had approved the Task Force report even though their names were on the final report and the Senate adopted it. The Interim President said that he had consulted with former President Frohnmayer who said he did not “sign off” or approve the 2004 Task Force report.

The Interim President was adamant that the IAC should:

a) Not change its charge;
b) Not change its membership (refer to footnote 1 below);
c) Send all requests to his office; and,
d) Adhere to a more consultative approach.

He also said that he did not trust the committee to follow its charge, that he had full authority to regulate the charge and membership of the committee, and implied that he had considered dissolving the committee.

Current charge here. The IAC has indeed been asking a lot of questions, and it has dug up a lot of previously hidden information – including info on subsidies and secret agreements between Frohnmayer and former AD Kilkenny, now posted for all to see on the athletics department website here. The IAC’s most recent accomplishment has been to make the AD post a copy of UO’s 2006 NCAA certification review – or at least part of it – here. Interesting reading. And you can bet there will be more to come.

Nasty comments

Some of these union comment threads are nasty. On the other hand there’s plenty of good information and interesting opinions too, even if some people just want to vent. In any case I am hardly one to talk, and I am not a censor and I will continue to post pretty much every comment sent in. I would appreciate fewer flames and less trolling that seems mostly aimed at provoking angry responses.

It would also be helpful if frequent commentators would adopt some sort of screen name – The Dog is a good example of this – so the threads are easier to follow. Note that if you use the name/URL option when you comment you can type in whatever screen name you want.

Put their union cards on the table

Updated 3/18/2012: The union organizers tell me they are reluctant to release this information for fear the administration will use it against them, but they tell me they are aware of people’s concern’s and are thinking about how to address them. One informed TTF writes in the comments:

… let me be clear that even though I am union supporter, I am not representing any official union position.

Everything is in flux right now – the cards have been submitted, the ERB has notified the administration, the administration will post that notification, the administration will then have two weeks to respond. A small delegation from the organizing committee was supposed to meet with the President last week to discuss where things were going, and to begin to feel out whether we could cooperate. That meeting was cancelled, with no reason given. That was too bad, but certainly well within the administration’s rights. It’s also understandable – probably they need some time to get a handle on what is happening, and figure out the best course to pursue, before they meet with us or make an official challenge. So we accept that the administration is being a little cagey; to my way of thinking, the union would have to be out of its collective mind to behave any differently. I may agree that the union should release a more detailed breakdown of the vote, and I might make that argument at an organizing committee meeting. But I certainly don’t think those numbers should be released right now, for the reasons I cited above. 

FWIW, my read is that no one in the administration really cares if there is a faculty union so long as they can continue to use tuition money to pay for their beamers, football game junkets, and golden parachutes. My guess is they don’t put up much of a fight. I also don’t buy the argument this will make it harder for us to hire a good president. First, we’ve seen the folly of relying on charismatic leadership. We are on our own. Second, my definition of a good president is one who wants to cooperate with the faculty and help us achieve our goals. If such a person exists I don’t think a faculty union will scare them off.

3/17/2012: The complete report is here from an email survey done by two UO professors, of the entire pop of UO tenure track faculty (including law?). They have a 50% response rate, with 18% supporting a union. The union organizing committee is reporting that more than 50% of TTF’s signed cards supporting the union.

While the complete survey report lists some caveats, the results are hard to reconcile with what the union reports. The state ERB has told me that they will not break out votes by TTF, etc:

The petition itself will be available to the public on our website. The petition will probably give an estimated number of employees covered by the petition. When the showing of interest is checked, the only information I would release is the percentage of those signing, no other information. We are a small agency and would not have adequate staffing to go beyond that. The petitioner might release more detailed information.

I think the union organizers should release information on the percentage of TTF’s, NTTF’s and OR’s, cross tabbed by >= 0.5 FTE and < 0.5 FTE, that signed cards. By college would also be interesting. There’s plenty of support out there for the union, but also plenty of opposition and suspicion. The union needs to address those concerns head on if they want to broaden their support. Fortunately there’s an easy rule for gaining trust: look at how Randy Geller and Johnson Hall behave, and then do the opposite.

…, the right of the students to keep and bear cell phones shall not be infringed.

3/12/2012: Complaint against DPS to be filed over cell phone confiscation. Becky Metrick has the story in the ODE, and some great quotes – one arguing confiscation was probably OK, then this:

In Schlossberg’s case, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin determined that the Fourth Amendment protects privacy if that expectation is “reasonable and justifiable.” He also determined that electronic devices such as Schlossberg’s holds more private information, thus requires a “higher standard of privacy.”

“I find that warrantless searches of such devices are not reasonable incident to a valid arrest absent a showing that the search was necessary to prevent destruction of evidence, to ensure officer safety, or that other exigent circumstances exist,” Coffin said. Battery life, he noted, would not qualify as an exigent circumstance.

Get real, your honor, a dead battery is the definition of exigent. Anway, who will hear the complaint? Who knows – while the new UOPD has a bloated budget, plenty of SUV’s, and a modest supply of guns, they don’t have more than a draft complaint process:

Andy Stahl for Lane County Commissioner

3/11/2012: Andy Stahl is running against Pete Sorensen for South Eugene Lane County commissioner. It’s district 3 – yes, even if you live in Eugene you vote for a county commissioner. The election is May15th, ballots are mailed out in about 6 weeks. It’s a nonpartisan position, so no primary.

Andy is a longtime advocate for environmental and child-welfare causes with many important accomplishments. (His father is UO professor emeritus Frank Stahl). Most recently he has helped developed a sensible plan to divide Oregon’s BLM forest lands, and manage the most environmentally important half for environmental quality, while auctioning off long term leases for the parts best suited to logging. Pete Defazio has endorsed this idea as a long term solution to help provide jobs, county revenue, and protect environmental quality. From the RG:

“Each is trying to accomplish a different but complimentary set of objectives,” he [Stahl] said. “The timber trust wants to make sure the land in the timber trust can actually be logged in real life without people sitting in the trees in protest, and the environmental trust wants to make sure the land it protects is worthy of protection.”

The timber trust lands could be leased to a private company — a long-term 99-year lease with the investor paying an upfront fee; $3 billion is the figure being batted around. That money would be invested, with the annual interest going to Oregon counties, DeFazio said. …

“We need long-term stable funding for essential county services, and if we can establish a trust that would provide for that, it would be most attractive in the current environment in Washington,” DeFazio said.

Stahl and his plan have picked up endorsements from many other local politicians, from all over the political spectrum. One other contender for the commissioner position, Kieran Walsh, just withdrew and is now supporting Stahl.

Stahl’s remaining opponent is the incumbent Pete Sorensen, who was most recently in the news for using secret meetings and email to make decisions that were then followed up with sham public meetings. Rather Pernsteineresque. The court found he had violated Oregon’s public meetings law, and by the end legal fees were over $300,000. Sorensen then managed to get the county to pay most of them for him! The Eugene Weekly is a big Sorensen supporter, and regularly posts bits accusing Stahl of being in bed with the timber industry. I don’t understand the backroom politics here, but anyone who knows Stahl’s history knows how ridiculous that charge is.

Berdahl gets hatchet job from Oregonian

and their higher education reporter Bill Graves. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Graves to write something on George Pernsteiner’s perks or top 5 PERS beneficiary Dave Frohnmayer. His hatchet is for people like Lariviere and Berdahl who dare to disturb Oregon’s insider politics.  I am not defending PERS tier one but there are 394 people getting larger benefits than Berdahl – oftern much larger. Why is he the focus of Bill Grave’s story? To punish him for supporting Lariviere. This will teach Berdahl not to criticize Goldschmidt’s boy George, by writing things like:

If you want to be president of the University of Oregon, be prepared to knuckle under to the chancellor and the board and be wary of the promises of the governor.

Ted Sickinger – who wrote the story on Mike Bellotti’s exploitation of PERS – has a much more policy oriented story on the money match, here. 3/10/2012.