NY Times on UO Athletic Scandals

5/1/2010: Billy Witz of the NY Times has a long story on the recent troubles. No citation, but they do pick up the “Jock Box” phrase coined by UO Matters:

A new learning center — dubbed the Jock Box for its glass cube design — has been built for athletes only. If athletes at Oregon want a top-of-the-line laptop, all they have to do is ask — Knight donated 550 specially engraved Apple notebooks for their use. That twist, in the wake of Masoli’s arrest, has not been lost on many around campus. When guard Mark Asper, a sociology and Spanish major, has pulled his laptop out in class, he has had classmates admire it and then ask the inevitable question. “Is that one Jeremiah could have gotten?” Asper said. “And I say, yes. They want to know: What was he thinking? I just have to humbly apologize. People say, ‘Oh, you guys are a bunch of hooligans,’ and it’s tough because you don’t have any evidence to the contrary.”…

One person keeping a close eye will be Dr. Richard Lariviere, who last summer became the university’s president. One of his stated priorities was to figure out a way to raise professors’ salaries, which lag behind national standards, despite increasingly tight state funding. Lately, his focus has been on sports. Lariviere called the spate of off-the-field troubles “unacceptable” and acknowledged in a news conference that he pushed out Bellotti, who took a job last month with ESPN. Last week, after The Eugene Register-Guard reported that Kilkenny had also operated without a contract for more than a year, Lariviere reassigned the university counsel Melinda Grier to the campus law school and announced that her contract would not be renewed when it expired in 2011.

 The story also quotes Nathan Tublitz: “The athletic department is out of control here.” I’m guessing Nathan meant to say “was”. After recent events, it’s real clear Lariviere is cleaning this mess up.

9AM Thursday in the Athletes Only Parking Lot

70 spots, 2 cars. Note the special free Jaqua Center hang tags. The full lot in the back is for the (Knight) Law School professors.

OK Mr. Slusher, you’ve proved your point. We get it. You own us.

Let me be the first to say that Nike does not use sweatshops. Phil Knight has created more good jobs in developing countries than Muhammad Yunus and Jeff Sachs combined. (Actually I’m pretty sure that is true – not that I’m an economist.)

So can we please have our parking back? 30 slots and we’ll pass everyone with playing time. 40 for 4.0’s? Please? 

Sincerely, Your UO Faculty.

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.

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.

Jock Box

1/19/2010: The UO students who started this Facebook group (now with nearly 700 members) to protest the athletes only policy at the Jaqua building are having a public meeting at 7 tonight, more info here.

Breaking news – giant glass cube not energy efficient

1/17/2010: Greg Bolt of the RG takes a closer look at Phil Knight’s Jaqua Athletes Only jock box. Regarding energy efficiency, there are a lot of LEED and SEED terms thrown out here and I’m no architect, but it seems that SEED (a state standard) is tougher and smarter than LEED (a frequently criticized national standard.) The Lillis building, for example, got LEED points by slapping a few solar cells on the front (in Oregon? please), and having a bike rack. The state architects behind SEED measure actual energy efficiency – and it looks like the glass cube will fail. Shocking.

There are two new things here. First, UO spokesperson Phil Weiler admits general UO funds are being used for the building:

The internal improvements and landscaping costs were paid with athletic funds and other unrestricted money, according to Phil Weiler, UO’s senior director of communications, which would be in keeping with UO’s long-standing assertion that sports are self-supporting.

Really? it seems like using unrestricted monies for this project specifically contradicts that assertion.

“There were no tuition dollars or state dollars used for those improvements,” Weiler said.

This is a very weak statement on Phil’s part. How much “unrestricted money” (for example, Foundation money that was *not* specifically earmarked for the athletic department and therefore could have been used for academics) is being spent on the Jock Box? Greg doesn’t follow up on that interesting question.

Second, Greg finally reports on some of the terms of the Frohnmayer codicil – including the news that Frohnmayer got nothing for the academic side in return for giving the athletic department the land, that professors are not allowed upstairs (my apologies to apartheid guy below – you were right!), and that now the jocks are considering charging the academic side for the heat we use when we hold Senate meetings there. Seriously.

Given the Senate’s history of hot air production, I think I see a potential win-win solution.

weekend hyperbole

1/16/2010: Phil Knight writes on 66 & 67: “There are words to describe what we are doing with 66 and 67: It is called a death spiral.” And a UO professor writes on Knight’s jock box: “… I worked in southern Africa. At the time there was a system in that region that enforced economic and educational separation and privilege. They called it apartheid. I never expected to find it when I got home.”

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.

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 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 [email protected] 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.