athletics

You can watch a clip of UO President Richard Lariviere talk about academics and athletics with reporter Todd Milbourn of KVAL, here. And you can ask Lariviere questions Friday at 5:30 at Cosmic Pizza. Be nice. Remember, Frohnmayer would run and hide, and if you caught him he’d lie. We don’t want to scare the new guy away.

The NYT has a story about the athletics scandal at SUNY Binghampton:

Nobody pushed the vision of athletic success more than Lois B. DeFleur, the university’s president since 1990, and Joel Thirer, the athletic director. They shepherded a move to Division I, college basketball’s highest level, over the concerns of many faculty members in 1991 and spearheaded the construction of a $33 million arena. They dismissed the team’s longtime coach, Al Walker, in 2007 in favor of Kevin Broadus, an assistant at Georgetown, who brought an aggressive edge to recruiting players. … Binghamton admitted one player with an arrest record and others from academically suspect high schools. … When objections were raised, Ms. DeFleur reasoned that Binghamton was undergoing an “experiment,” the report said, and she cast the lower admission standards as part of the university’s effort for more diversity. … The investigation cost $913,381 and was led by Judith S. Kaye, the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals.

Only one player with an arrest record? No convictions? Only $33 million on the Arena? These guys are amateurs. The NYT also has an editorial on this today:

College presidents who dream of building powerhouse sports teams should read the new report on the basketball program at Binghamton University. Based on an investigation overseen by Judith Kaye, New York State’s former chief judge, it shows how a runaway sports program can poison campus life, make a mockery of academic values and leave the administration’s reputation in ruins. … Binghamton’s president announced her retirement last month, citing family reasons. College presidents clearly need to be held fully accountable for their sports programs. …

Obviously none of this resembles what is happening at Oregon in anyway.

I wonder what’s next ?

1/25/2010: From the Oregonian:

EUGENE – The Eugene Police Department confirmed this morning that its officers are investigating an alleged theft, and the student who filed the report has told The Oregonian that the men he accuses in it are University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and wide receiver Garrett Embry.

Fraternity member Max Wolfard filed a police report alleging that the players took two MacBook Pro computers – one valued at $2,000, the other at $1,500 – and a $900 guitar from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house at 812 E. 14th Ave. in Eugene early Sunday.

… Wolfard said the two players then ran out the back door. Wolfard said Masoli fled north and Embry went east up Agate Street as Wolford chased him. Blocks later, Wolfard says, Embry stopped running, gave him back his projector screen and said, “You’ve got it back, now you better get out of here.”

I know how these guys feel, I also prefer the 15″ Mac Pro screen to the smaller 13″ on the regular Macs like the Jaqua center gives every UO athlete. I guess they are harder to run with though. Seriously, this Wolfard guy must have a very large pair, going public like this.

Tax deductions for athletics

1/24/2010: A reader pointed me to this article questioning the tax-deduction for college athletics, noting that college coaches are the best paid non-profit executives in the country. “In order to remain untaxed, the money earned from a university’s businesses must be used “in furtherance of” the school’s educational mission, according to tax laws.”” The precedent is a 1950 case involving a for-profit macaroni company set up by NYU. Of course.

Howard Slusher v. Frances Dyke

1/24/2010: The Jaqua Athletes Only Study Center story just gets weirder. We’ve now managed to get a few more of the peculiar agreements between UO and Phil Knight’s “Phit LLC” from the UO lawyers.

  • License agreement, Dyke and Knight, 1/8/08 (UO “leases” land to Phit, to allow no-bid construction.)
  • Amendment 1, Frohnmayer and Knight, 1/8/08 (UO to pay for parking, computers, staff.)
  • Amendment 2, Dyke and Slusher, 7/31/2008 (UO can’t use extra space but must pay 2/3 cost of landscaping it)
  • Amendment 3, Dyke and Slusher, 4/1/2009 (UO to pay for SEED energy improvements)
  • Amendment 4. Dyke and Slusher, 4/1/2009 (The contractor for the Academic Center has contracted with UO for the Arena and Parking Garage. Weird, not sure what that’s about.)

The person who signed the amendments for Knight is Howard Slusher. Maybe that name doesn’t mean a lot to people now, but back in the day Slusher was the lawyer and sports agent who crushed the NFL owners association’s hiring cartel and made it possible for athletes to play for the team that offered them the most money. He was known as “Hold em out Howard” and “Agent Orange”.

Before Slusher, the owners didn’t just own the teams, they owned the players too. They set the salary and if a player didn’t like it he could always try selling used cars. The players loved Slusher, and the owners hated him for taking “their” money.  It was a long struggle and it made headlines for years. From one 1983 NYTimes story:

In the offices of some National Football League franchises, owners and general managers spit out Howard Slusher’s name from between clenched teeth … . ”I don’t have to be put through the wringer,” said Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns. ”My preference, given our experience, is not to do business with him.”

After this, taking a few hundred grand from UO’s VP for Finance Frances Dyke must barely budge Slusher’s pulse. So how did Slusher end up with Nike, and on the other side of the table from UO? No idea.

The irony of all this is that the money Slusher is asking UO to pay for the Jaqua Center is only there because the NCAA has been able to keep college athletes under an even stricter hiring cartel than the NFL one that Slusher broke up. We pay them nothing and make them redshirt for a year if they have the nerve to transfer to a team that will be better for their career.

The difference between the old NFL and college is that in college the coaches get the resulting profits, not the owners.  Someday there will be a Howard Slusher for the college athletes too – we saw a glimmer of that when LeGarette Blount’s lawyer got Coach Chip Kelly and UO President Richard Larviere to back down and reinstate him. When that happens – well, it won’t really matter much. There will be a little less money because the fans will be a little more cynical. The players will get what there is, instead of the coaches. Whatever.

WTF

1/21/2010: This is a pretty amazing story about former UO AD Bill Moos and his replacement Pat Kilkenny, from Ron Bellamy in the RG yesterday. I missed it, thank for the tip, Anonymous. It’s just bizarre. What are these people doing messing around with universities? Can anyone tell me the point to any of this?

In the end, he fell out of favor with Oregon’s chief benefactor, Nike chairman Phil Knight, whose generosity had been essential to Moos’ accomplishments and was essential to building a new basketball arena. So Moos was forced out late in 2006 and he was given the aforementioned settlement agreement, largely financed by the UO donor who would become his successor, Pat Kilkenny.

But it seems clear that that Oregon raised the prospect that Moos would lose the $1.4 million remaining on his agreement if he took the UNLV job and tried to cut a deal. Just to save money? Out of vindictiveness? Who knows?
Kilkenny, who largely financed the buyout and says he’s never actually read the agreement, said he’s already paid virtually all of his share of the buyout into a fund. “If you’re asking from a financial perspective if it’s material to me, it’s not,” Kilkenny said adding: “What the university agreements were and what those details are, I generally understood what it was, but it wasn’t anything that was done on my watch, so I never went back and looked at it.”
What’s Oregon’s explanation? UO general counsel Melinda Grier has neither returned phone calls nor responded to requests for interviews, including written questions, submitted through Phil Weiler, the UO senior director of communications.
And then the illustrious and irrepressible former UO President and endowed Knight Chair in Law, past Oregon Attorney General, one-time gubernatorial candidate, current Professor of a UO Honors College course on the “Theory of Leadership”, and conduit for $350,000 in Pat Kilkenny donations Dave Frohnmayer chimes in:
“I don’t want to make any judgment about that because I wasn’t party to the hammering out of that specific language, other than approving the final contract, and that was not a matter of particular focus,” Frohnmayer said. “I can’t really shed much light on that.”
He approved the final contract but he can’t shed light on it. It was all a bunch of real complicated legal stuff, is that it Dave?

So why doesn’t new President Richard Lariviere just tear up the contract and let Moos go on his way? Because the athletic department lost $1 million last year. Next year they’ve got to start covering the $15 million Arena bond repayments, figure out how to fund Chip Kelly’s new contract, hire a replacement for Kent, and so on. Lariviere has to kowtow to Knight and Kilkenny because the academic side is legally on the hook for any deficits. Lariviere has no choice about UO’s future: Knight and Kilkenny have owned it since the day they convinced Frohnmayer to borrow $270 million for their Arena, in UO’s name.

So why did Frohnmayer start UO down this one-way road? I’m sure it’s his love of sports, not the $50,000+ per year he got from Knight and the $350,000 Kilkenny’s “Lucky Duck Foundation” sent to Frohnmayer’s Fanconi Foundation. This couldn’t get any sadder.

But it can get more absurd. Kilkenny apparently got a tax deduction for the $2 million he used to buy out Moos so that he could take his job – because the IRS says donations to university athletic departments help provide an important public good.

Graduation on Monday?

1/20/2010: This was news to me, from Jill Kimball in the ODE:

The main ceremony and most department commencements will be held on a Monday, a day on which the University has never before held commencement, to avoid a scheduling conflict with the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will take place on campus from June 9, the Wednesday of finals week, to June 12, the Saturday on which most ceremonies would normally be held.

Former University President Dave Frohnmayer and his administration made the agreement with the NCAA to host the 2010 championships a few years ago, unaware that it would conflict with the University’s academic schedule. Frohnmayer retired last year, leaving Lariviere and his administration to work out the scheduling kinks.

Athletics

1/19/2010: I gotta get off this athletics kick, at the end of the day I don’t give a shit – let’s just play the game. But meanwhile, USA Today reports some numbers: in 2007-08 UO’s AD brought in $56,623,901 and spent $56,259,942, for a slight profit. These numbers look pretty comprehensive – everything from the State Lottery loot that goes to fund scholarships for athletes, to Kilkenny’s gifts.

For 2008-2009, the athletic budget grew by about $5 million, and Rachel Bachman in the Oregonian reports that they lost a bit more than $1 million. Belotti funded that by borrowing from next year’s football ticket sales. Apparently this is the first time they’ve had to do that. What does the future hold?  (Big Rose Bowl cash, in the short run, I hope!) I’m no economist, but keep in mind that athletic departments have the same asymmetric profit model as Wall Street hedge funds. In the good years they take a big chunk of the gross as salary. In the bad years they skip town leaving the academic side holding an empty bag.

Transparency and regulation are the usual solutions. We hope Lariviere has more on the ball than that Greenspan fellow.

UO students on facebook protesting Athletes Only Study Center

1/10/2009: UO students have started a facebook group with about 550 600 650 members so far, to protest (or at least discuss) the Jaqua Athletes Only Study Center. We’ve been getting a lot of hits from there, welcome. Our main post on this, with a link to the contract between former UO President Frohnmayer and Phil Knight, is here. Other posts are here.

Jaqua Athletes Only Study Center

1/9/2009: Steve Duin of the Oregonian, on the history leading up to Knight’s Athletes Only Study Center:

Similarly conscientious, Frohnmayer broke land-speed records in quitting the WRC, then using a convenient higher-ed board opinion to announce Oregon would quit all monitoring groups. “This is not about money; it’s about relationships and trust,” Frohnmayer said, paving the way for Phil to return in free-spending glory.

Lesson in Vanity

1/8/2010: Jim Harper from Art History has a interesting Op-Ed in the ODE today – interesting as in you’ll learn something – on Taj Mahals and despots, petty and otherwise:

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, built in the mid-17th century by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan was a “vanity building.” It was not built for the public good, but rather at the whim of an emperor, as a grandiose and costly mausoleum for his favorite wife. As is now the case on East 13th Avenue, where access to the Jaqua Center will be restricted to a privileged caste of student-athletes, only a rarified elite got to fully enjoy Shah Jahan’s original complex.

The historical Shah Jehan was deposed in 1658 and spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest, declared incompetent to rule. And the Shah Jehan of our story is already deposed, though more gently: Dave Frohnmayer, under whose rule the Jaqua Center was conceived, has now retired. We can only hope that, with his replacement, the demoralizing inequities and unwise appropriation of resources that characterized his reign might come to a stop.

The reference to the “public good” is interesting. Knight got about $7.5 million in federal tax deductions for giving us this building, about $2 million from the state, and the value of the land UO provided was in the $5 – $10 million range. In short, he paid about $10.5 million, and taxpayers and UO paid about $17 million. Clever guy!

parking

1/7/2010: I’m not sure of the accuracy of these numbers, comments welcome:

The construction of the Jaqua center took away about 150 parking spots, and shifted about 150 more from general use to athletes only. These will eventually need to be replaced with a parking garage. Current construction costs for garages are about $25,000 per slot. State rules require that parking be fully funded by fees. This means that UO students and faculty will pay about $7.5 million in present value, plus maintenance, as a consequence of the construction of this building – in the form of higher parking fees.

Update: A helpful email pointed me to these numbers which suggest that the annualized cost will be $2000 for each new parking slot or $600,000 per year. The athletic department thanks you for your contribution.

More sports

1/6/2010: If you’re tired of the relentless RG boosterism about the new Jaqua Athletes Only Study Center, (not just in the editorial, but also in Greg Bolt’s news article) you can read a more balanced report from Todd Milbourn of KVAL, here.

There is a pretty comprehensive discussion about UO’s athletic department’s financial situation from Rachel Bachman of the Oregonian, here. Quoting,

Oregon sports lost $1.2 million the fiscal year before Bellotti took over the athletic director’s job from Pat Kilkenny, according to a report every school files annually with the NCAA, released to The Oregonian this week in response to a public records request. The gap is significant because for the past six years Oregon athletics officials have touted their economic self sufficiency.

Bellotti said the deficit is due in part to the timing of the report, which doesn’t allow Oregon to include football ticket revenues collected for the next fall. He said those sales quickly filled the million-dollar gap. But he acknowledged that he wasn’t familiar with the reports from recent years, which showed small profits.

A sharp increase in compensation for coaches (up $1.4 million) and athletics administrators (up $2.7 million, or 31 percent) between 2008 and 2009 contributed to the operating deficit, records show. The increases came as the economy slumped and industries nationwide were cutting salaries and positions.

My take on this is that the athletic department is not going to become a burden on academics – they are in their own world over there, and have plenty of very rich and enthusiastic supporters. But the arena bond repayments are going to add another $15 million in costs to a $66 million a year budget – so that support will probably be staying with athletics, and not helping with academics much.

Sports and American Culture with Richard Lariviere, Mike Bellotti, and Barbara Altmann

1/6/2010: This might be an interesting event:
Sports and American Culture with the University of Oregon’s Richard Lariviere, Mike Bellotti, and Barbara Altmann in Eugene

Think & Drink, the popular Portland happy-hour series, will visit Eugene on Friday, February 12, 2010, at 5:30 at Cozmic Pizza, 199 West 8th Ave., Eugene. University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere, University of Oregon Athletic Director Mike Bellotti, and Oregon Humanities Center Director Barbara Altmann will discuss the economic and social influence of sports in American culture. This event is free and open to the public.

Parking for athletes only

1/1/2010: The rumors were true, Phil Knight was able to take general university parking and convert it to special reserved slots for athletes only. Lot 34F was originally student basketball courts, very popular for pickup games from the nearby dorms. It was converted to parking a few months ago, to replace slots taken by construction of Knight’s new Jacqua Athletes Only Study Center, and was used by professors at the law school. (And before you complain too much, remember Uncle Phil paid for that new law school too.) Obviously Herb is just following orders here, in this case from Dave Frohnmayer. Frohnmayer’s ties to Knight are complicated: Knight’s donations to the UO Foundation paid for some, and perhaps all, of his $349,360 salary supplement last year for example. Say, what are the chances he reported that conflict of interest? Go Ducks.

MEMORANDUM December 30, 2009
TO: University of Oregon Students, Faculty, and Staff
FROM: Captain Herb Horner, Department of Public Safety
RE: Parking Lots

The beginning of the winter term will bring changes to how several of our parking lots are used. With the opening of the new John E. Jaqua Academic Learning Center for Student Athletes at the corner of East 13th Ave. and Agate St., a new parking lot will open. The spaces in this lot, Lot 15 (located just east of the Learning Center off East 13th Ave.), will be reserved for users of the learning center only. There will also be 10 spaces with a 30-minute limit controlled by a multi-space meter for visitors to the coffee shop, which is housed inside the center.

Lot 34F, site of the old basketball courts on East 15th Ave. just east of the Museum of Cultural and Natural History, and Lot 45, the lot at the corner of Walnut St. and Franklin Blvd., will also be reserved for users of the Jaqua Learning Center. New lot entry signs will be put up on December 31, 2009, to be in effect beginning winter term 2010. The signs will read “Jaqua Center Permit Only, At All Times, 90 Minute Limit.” …

Here is Phil’s contract on this with UO. It’s pretty amazing stuff. Our Uncle drives a tough bargain – or perhaps Frohnmayer just drives a lousy one has his own reserved spot and doesn’t give a shit.

Update: I’ve had a few questions about how I got this contract. Let’s just say that someone with pretty good access to official documents is “… fed up with what has been happening here at UO and I have had it with Melinda Grier and her …” However, it is a public record and it is perfectly legal to redistribute it.

You can request public records by sending an email to UO Assistant Counsel Doug Park, at gcounsel@uoregon.edu and telling him what you are looking for. Under Oregon law Doug has a statutory obligation to help you. More info on getting public records is available at the excellent website OpenUpOregon.com.