President Schill lays out bold new vision for UO’s future

Just kidding, he’s decided to bet UO’s future on the same failed policies that got us to this point. Today’s Open Mike:

Dear University of Oregon colleagues,

Conversations I regularly have with students, faculty, staff, donors, and community members often go one of two very different ways. The vast majority of conversations are incredibly positive and optimistic. They are about the excitement of opening the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, hiring new faculty and academic advisors, opening new buildings and residence halls, celebrating the football team’s Rose Bowl win, or making programmatic investments in prevention science, environmental humanities, data analytics, and more. They focus on this transformational time for the university and its bright future.

But I have other conversations with some who are rightfully concerned about budget cuts made over the last few years, rising PERS costs, the annual drumbeat of rising tuition, and how we can best make the case to state lawmakers to boost state funding for the university, which currently receives the second lowest state assistance per student of any of our 64 AAU peers despite several years of state funding increases.

So, which is it? Is the UO a financially challenged school that struggles to balance the budget, keep tuition low, offer fair compensation to our employees, and provide strong student support services? Or, are we a school with sufficient resources to construct new buildings, hire more professors, and invest in new, cutting edge research and teaching programs? The answer is that we are both.

I want to use this Open Mike to talk through the factors that contribute to what sometimes feels like a tale of two universities. I believe the positive things happening at the UO and investments we are making will begin to address some of those persistent challenges. Bear with me, though, because these are complicated issues to explain, and solving many of our challenges is something that will take patience, determination, discipline, and a stiff spine.

Let’s start with the education and general budget, sometimes called the E&G budget, which is overwhelmingly comprised of tuition and state funds. This year it is estimated to be around $554 million. We also have separate auxiliary budgets for parts of the university that must generate and live within their own revenue sources to fund operations—areas such as housing, food services, the health center, and athletics. The goal is to have each of these auxiliary budgets break even so that they are not drawing on precious tuition or state dollars. The E&G budget funds most of the educational costs of the university as well as most financial aid. It covers everything from faculty and staff salaries to heat and water for academic buildings. This budget is continually under pressure because the primary sources of revenue (state funding and tuition) are often insufficient to fully fund increases in compensation or inflation.

Now, there are three other important funding streams: sponsored research, donations from alumni and friends of the university, and borrowing for capital expenditures. Sponsored research—which in fiscal year 2019 equated to $126 million in grants, contracts, and competitive awards—is restricted by contracts or grant agreements to pay for specific projects or research activities. Each year, the university raises approximately $200 million in philanthropic donations. Almost all of this money is also restricted by contracts (known as gift agreements) to purposes the donor specifies. When it comes to buildings, sometimes those restricted donations are matched with state-paid bonds (Knight Campus) and sometimes donor funds, state bonds, and/or our own borrowing are used to construct the building (Tykeson Hall, Pacific and Klamath hall renovations). On occasion, student fees support capital projects (the EMU, Health Center expansion) and once in a while we borrow 100 percent of the capital costs ourselves (Bean Hall and Walton Hall renovations).

If the E&G budget is starved for revenue, then why can’t we just take some money from the donations and borrow that to fund the construction of these new buildings? Money is money, isn’t it?

Alas, the answer is no. None of these one-time sources of revenue (restricted donations, state-funded bonds, our own borrowing) can be used to pay on-going operating expenses or to reduce tuition. If I were to authorize the use of state-allocated construction dollars for employee compensation, it would break the law. If I were to take restricted donations and use them for another purpose, then the university could be sued by the donor for breach of contract.

Surely, though, couldn’t I convince the donors who make restricted capital gifts to instead give money to keep our lights on and pay our employees? It turns out that this is every president’s dream—a big gift that is entirely unrestricted. But, with some notable exceptions, it is almost always a dream. Donors give to the UO because they love our university. Major donors also want to use their giving as a way to help the university get better and, in some cases, transform itself. It is the rare donor who responds to a request from a president to help him tread water or avoid sinking.

That isn’t to say that donors don’t care about the high cost of college or the importance of faculty research. Many, many donors give to scholarships. In our current campaign, we have received over $373 million in gifts for scholarships, student support, and student success initiatives. Of that, $245 million is for scholarships. Similarly, we often receive gifts to support faculty research and teaching in the form of endowed chairs. These gifts do not usually cover the salary of faculty members, but instead support summer compensation, research expenses, and graduate students. The gift of Penny and Phil Knight to create the Knight Campus was an unusual and wonderful gift; its endowment yield (along with federal contracts) will pay for faculty start-up costs, salaries, as well as the new campus’ facilities and operations. Over the long term, as we near completion of our $3 billion campaign goal and our institutional endowment continues to grow, I believe the returns generated by the endowment can play a role in helping stabilize the funding challenges we face from tuition limitations and cost increases not covered by state funding.

A related concern I have heard was that even if new buildings on campus are not funded out of the E&G fund and thereby don’t affect tuition or salaries, their maintenance would. It takes money to heat and cool buildings; we need to pay staff to keep them clean and in good working order. For a number of new capital projects—such as the Knight Campus, Hayward Field, and new residence halls—operation and maintenance costs will either be charged to the gift or to the auxiliary that built them. They will not burden the E&G fund. But it is true that we will need to fund a portion of the day-to-day expenses of Tykeson, Pacific, and Klamath halls out of tuition or state funds, which is completely appropriate.

The UO needs to invest in the future. Indeed, one of the reasons we needed to invest in renovating our science laboratories over the past five years is that most hadn’t been touched since they were built. To be a great research university—to attract and retain top faculty members, to provide world-class education to undergraduates, and to train graduate students—we must provide facilities and equipment that allow the people inside them to produce knowledge. And to fulfill our commitment to students that if they come here they will graduate in a timely fashion, we must provide them with a place to get advising. If the maintenance of these facilities or some of the debt service hits our E&G budget, that is a good investment that benefits our students and faculty.

Let me finally turn to the place some members of our community have suggested could relieve the pressure on the E&G budget—athletics. I would like to start by clearing up a misconception—that the athletics department doesn’t already pitch in to relieve pressure on our educational budget. It does. Many of our peer institutions waive tuition for student-athletes. We don’t do that at the UO; athletics pays full tuition for the resident and nonresident athletes, which equates to about $12 million annually that flows back to the E&G budget. They also contribute over $3 million in administrative overhead each year. In recognition of the unusual schedules and time constraints that student-athletes encounter, the UO provides about $2 million per year out of the E&G budget for academic support services. The vast majority of universities in the United States subsidize, sometimes deeply, their athletics departments. We are one of the lucky few—the only public institution in Oregon—that has a self-sufficient athletics department.

Taking money from athletics could come with side effects, particularly if it were to have a negative impact on the playing fields or courts. Prior to my time here at the UO, I might have said that would be okay. But, as president of the UO, I see day after day what athletics means to our university. Not only does it enrich our student experience and provide a rallying point for our alumni and community, but it also provides us with a powerful front porch to the rest of the nation. Those benefits were driven home quite poignantly by our recent win at the Rose Bowl, which drove measurable increases in traffic to our recruitment and admissions websites. Although the UO is increasingly recognized for all of the wonderful faculty and research going on in Eugene, athletics remains one of the principal ways prospective students first hear about the UO. And those students, especially those drawn to the UO from outside Oregon, serve as the central lifeblood of our operating budget. A strong athletics program is synergistic with our academic program and, through its impact on enrollment, actually benefits our efforts to keep tuition low and fund decent wage increases for our faculty and staff.

If you have stayed with me thus far, you can see there is no silver bullet for our fragile operating budget. It isn’t lost on me that the UO can appear to be two universities—one in which new, gleaming buildings and ambitious programs grow and another where tuition goes up and expenditures need to be reduced or at least controlled.

Ultimately, it is vital that we make sure that the investments we are making pay off, because these are the programs, people, and initiatives that will set the UO up over the long term to solve our budget and operational challenges. The research and teaching that will take place in these buildings will enhance the reputation of our school, add new and innovative curricula, and fuel enrollment growth in what promises to be an evermore competitive environment. The focus and attention given to student advising and career counseling in Tykeson Hall will enable us to achieve our mission of student success with similar reputational advantages. These changes may not happen next year or even in the next five years, but I believe the steps we are taking now and the excellence we are building will position the UO to move into a new era of financial stability in the future.

My hope in writing this Open Mike is to be as transparent as possible about this challenging issue. On that topic, we have recently launched a new transparency website to provide our community with easier access to all of our financial, student, employment, and other data. We also try in the FAQs to answer similar questions such as the one posed in this Open Mike, albeit more briefly.

In closing, I have great hopes and aspirations for our university. I am excited about working with those of you who, like me, see the endless possibilities of our university as we get better and better. The effort will require hard work, not silver bullets. But it is achievable.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

PAC-12 bosses make millions off unpaid athletes

Steve Berkowitz has the story in USA Today, here. $3.5M for Larry Scott – not bad for running what the IRS still considers to be a non-profit organization:

The conference reported just over $374 million in total revenue for a fiscal year ending June 30, 2014 — a figure that includes income from the wholly conference-owned Pac-12 Networks; the conference’s marketing and media arm, Pac-12 Enterprises; and Pac-12 Broadband Network. (Under IRS rules, a non-profit must report its revenue and expense data based on its fiscal year; but it must report compensation data based on the calendar year completed during its fiscal year).

While the Pac-12’s payouts to its schools have grown substantially during the past two years, the expenses associated with its television and marketing ventures mean that in 2013-14, Pac-12 schools continued to get smaller shares of conference revenues — about $21.2 million per school — than did schools in the Big Ten, which distributed about $27.6 million per school receiving a full share.

75% of this year’s donations to UO went to athletics. Endowment earnings are below benchmarks

8/19/2013 update: “Around the O” reports UO raised $200M this FY in donations. It’s difficult to tell from the press release, and as explained below UO Foundation CEO Paul Weinhold has refused to release breakdowns, but it appears that about 57% of the donations to the Foundation went to the jocks. If you count the $140M or so Knight spent on the football sweat shop – and it’s hard to ignore – the jocks got about 75%.

It’s well past time for UO to start taking a percentage of the athletics donations for the academic side. But there’s still no substantive response from President Gottfredson to the May 8 Senate motion on this, just a letter saying maybe he’ll appoint a working group. It’s been 9 years since the original athletics task force recommendation.

The story also reports that chronically unlucky Chief Investment Officer Jay Namyet was able to earn only 13.8% on the endowment. Disastrous. The S&P 500 returned 18.6% over the same period, the Dow was up 16.3%, and the NASDAQ 17%. His underperformance is, conservatively, $11M in just one year. For perspective, the faculty union and the administration are currently about $5M apart on salaries.

The UO Foundation’s full annual report is typically released at the end of September. This early press release appears to be an attempt to divert attention from the latest athletic excesses. Good luck with that.

6/2/2013 update: The UO Foundation has been dominated by sports boosters for far too long. See past posts on the Foundation, including their (successful) effort to get an exemption from UO’s public records law, here. Tax deductible donations without transparency is not a recipe for trust, and not a good model for an independent UO Board of Trustees. Speaking of which, I still can’t get a
commitment from UO that SB270 as currently written will require the Board to follow that law – even to the feeble extent that UO currently obeys it.

6/2/2013: No sign of it on their website, but rumor has it the UO Foundation trustees are meeting today. The new board chair is Steven Holwerda:

From an online bio:

First choice for a new career: I started out in athletic administration, and if I had to pick a second career it would be to go back to working for the University of Oregon’s athletic department. Go Ducks.

How convenient. A former Duck athletic department and NCAA employee, whose dream is to work for the Duck athletic department, will now oversee the UO Foundation, which by law is supposed to support the university’s academic mission. Oregon law requires that

The Foundation will accept only gifts that: the University has approved, including all restrictive terms and conditions, has determined to be consistent with the core educational values of the University, and are compatible with the missions of the University and of its individual programs (Oregon Administrative Rules, Chapter 580, Div. 42 and Div. 46);

And those OAR’s prohibit accepting gifts that involve

(c) Creating a commitment for the institution or the state to continue support of a program funded through gifts, grants or contracts, in the event such funds are discontinued;

I suppose a creative lawyer could slip the Jaqua Center and the Knight Arena through. But in practice the foundation is now mostly a money laundering operation for the Duck Athletic Fund. That’s a very rewarding business, for some. Erika Funk filed 2 requests for extensions with the IRS, but finally had to make some salary info public on May 15, in their IRS 990. These numbers are now almost a year old:

Here are the donations they received for UO for current operations, from 2000 up to last year. The numbers are from the Council for Aid to Education:

In his investiture speech President Gottfredson announced a new $1B capital giving campaign. The previous campaign ended in 2006, and raised $850M in donations and pledges. How much of that was for athletics, and how much for academics? The UO Foundation won’t report UO’s breakdown for capital gifts and endowments – something most foundations, including the OSU Foundation, tell the CAE as a matter of course:

I did find this snippet from last summer:

Overall, giving in fiscal 2012 totaled $51,737,551 in support of academics, mainly for current purposes and endowments. Athletics programs received $55,950,231, which included significant support for expansion of the Len Casanova Center. 

What steps will President Gottfredson take to make sure the UO Athletic department doesn’t siphon off potential academic donations for the Ducks? The Athletic department runs its own independent fundraising program, which currently competes with the UO’s development office without check, and with great success – for the jocks:

UO Professor Dennis Howard – holder of a Philip H. Knight Chair in Sports Marketing at UO and former Business School Dean – has written the definitive paper on how the Ducks have done this in the past, comparing data on donations to UO sports and to UO academics, from 1994 to 2002. His conclusion?

Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.


For every $100 of new revenue raised from major donors by the University of Oregon, over 80% is being directed to the athletic department. Even with the large increases in numbers of total donors since 1994, academic giving struggles to remain stable while donations to athletics experience huge growth. In three out of the past five years (1998, 2000, 2001), the total dollars donated to academics by non-alumni has fallen despite annual increases in the number of non-alumni donors. Total dollars donated to academics by alumni fell in only one year (2000), again despite an increase in the total number of donors. This suggests new donors are not making academic gifts, and current donors are shifting dollars from academic giving to donations directed to the athletic program. Additionally, as discussed above, proportional giving by alumni is predominantly directed to the athletic program. If these trends continue, total academic giving will fall for both alumni and non-alumni despite continued increases in the total numbers of both types of donors.

To add to the insanity, under the secret Frohnmayer/Kilkenny agreement President Gottfredson’s office has to pay the AD $350K, so that they can then use his Autzen presidential skybox to schmooze with their boosters and get still more donations for the Ducks. I’m not making that up.

One obvious solution is for UO to tax donations to athletics, sending say half to the academic side. Another would be allow donations to the athletic side count for determining season ticket priority. Athletic Director laughed at both these proposals when we brought them up in the IAC. He even refused to consider a ticket surcharge – even just a dollar – to be earmarked for academic scholarships.

Currently the transfers run the other way. President Gottfredson has until July 8th to respond to the Senate resolution calling for

  1. an end to two of the more egregious annual subsidies for athletics – the $2M Jaqua Center operations costs, and the $467K we pay for Knight Arena land, and 
  2. a modest payment from the AD towards need and merit scholarships for regular UO students: just 2% of the AD’s spending on sports.

Meanwhile, up in Corvallis, OSU’s foundation is in the midst of their own capital campaign: See their list of contributions here. Their athletic budget is only about half UO’s, their subsidies are out in the open, and they manage to bring in plenty of giving for academic programs.

Here’s another Duck/Beaver comparison: Research and Athletics spending:

Diane Dietz has the story and data on UO here. I got the OSU data from their very complete Research Office data page, here. Both are “Federal Flow Through” totals, which are the easiest to find directly comparable data. They include spending on outreach and instruction, but it’s mostly research money and the trends look similar no matter how you cut it. That’s the table on the left. The table on the right shows athletic department spending, from USAToday. (Official UO and OSU numbers for 2012.)

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.

State legislators call for investigation of former AG’s ties to athletic scandal

It’s not Oregon’s Frohnmayer and Kilkenny, it’s Pennsylvania’s Corbett and Sandusky. But the expensive fallout from Frohnmayer’s secret jock deals are on Gottfredson’s plate, according to the notes from his meeting with the heads:

Q: Has UO considered taxing the athletics program?
A: Evaluating relationship with athletic program


Pres Gottfredson to watch Arkansas game?

If so he’ll do it from the “Presidential Skybox”, which costs UO’s academic side $375,000 a year. We pay the jocks because Dave Frohnmayer put his signature to this secret deal two weeks before he stepped down as UO President:

This was after Kilkenny had contributed some serious money to Frohnmayer’s Fanconi Foundation. A sad story in many ways. It took a petition to Attorney General Kroger to make UO give up the documentation on this, the complete file is here. After it came out, UO spokesperson Phil Weiler told KEZI reporter Kate Renner the $375,000 came from donations to the UO Foundation. It turns out that wasn’t true – it all comes directly from UO’s academic budget:

Weiler refused to correct his statement. I’ll go out on a limb and guess our current AD Rob Mullens is going claim those ungrateful students should be glad athletics gets their money, because the boosters in the box with the Pres are big donors to the academic side. That’s a nice story – but it’s not what the data show.  A few years back Stefan Verbano of the ODE had a great interview with former UO Business School Dean and current Warsaw Sports Marketing Prof Dennis Howard on the link between athletic contributions and the real University of Oregon:

“It’s called a donation or a contribution … when, in fact, as we have discovered in our research … it’s a transaction,” Howard said. “It has nothing to do with giving back to the University or a philanthropic motive. It is purely and simply a commercial transaction in which the individual in paying for tangible benefits: better seat location, access to the Autzen Club amenities. All of those things are driving those transactions.”

Howard’s paper, which uses data from UO donors, is brutal:

“Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.”

And here’s an update of the UO data on giving to the academic and athletic sides, showing that most of the growth in giving to UO over the past 11 years has indeed been to the athletic side – and this excludes most if not all of the Knight donations, which have all been to athletics since the WRC fiasco.

And last fall the UO Foundation’s annual report revealed a $1.4 million cut in the amount it provides for academic scholarships, and a $2 million increase in their own administrative expenses. 9/1/2012.

Duck giving reduces giving to UO academics

Presumably this includes the $5 million Robin Jaqua gift, which Rob Mullens swiped for the Jock Box back in January. Story today from Inside Oregon:

Overall, giving in fiscal 2012 totaled $51,737,551 in support of academics, mainly for current purposes and endowments. Athletics programs received $55,950,231, which included significant support for expansion of the Len Casanova Center. The university received 43,295 gifts and pledges from individuals, companies and foundations.

This is a continuation of a long trend in the increasing crowd-out of academic giving by sports, first documented at UO in 2004, by UO business school professor Dennis Howard:

Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.

This has if anything worsened over time at UO. (Link to data source here.) 8/23/2012.

UO needs a new Provost

Read Interim Provost Jim Bean’s 2010 op-ed in the Oregonian, defending the decision to spend $1.83 million a year of regular students’s tuition money on the athlete only Jacqua Center for Student Athletes – or as the NY Times calls it, the Jock Box. Then read about how Duck AD Rob Mullens was allowed to use all the earnings from a $5 million donation to UO to replace the tiny bit the athletic department was paying – nothing toward the academic side’s costs.

Then read today’s Register Guard story on the crunch in classroom space for regular UO students. I’m no economist, but the $1.83 million per year the students are paying the athletic department would have financed a $35,599,612.29 classroom building, with 30 year tax exempt bonds at 3.125%.

UO needs a new provost. 8/12/2012.

Update: In the comments, The Dog analyzes Chris Ramey’s statement in the article:

However, over the past two decades, spending on academic buildings and sports facilities — not counting housing and other student-focused buildings — has been roughly equal, according to Ramey’s analysis, although it doesn’t include the football operations center that’s under construction. 

I don’t see how Ramey’s math works here either – and even if it does, is it really OK that 50% of all new construction over the past 20 years has been for the jocks? Amazing. UO needs to tax contributions to the Ducks.

Because the lesson from Penn State is

that coaches need private hot tubs with waterproof video displays. Diane Dietz of the RG on UO’s newest football palace.

FWIW, AD Rob Mullens never completed the report to OUS on how he’d cover the operating expenses. My suggestion – cut baseball. $76,274,142 in expenses for crap like this, but ask Mullens what the Ducks can afford to give UO back for academic scholarships, and his answer is $0. From the report to the NCAA:

The full report is available on the Ducks financial info page here – created after a few public records requests and petitions to the AG.

Update: The RG is reporting that the Ducks falsely claimed that there were never any private hot tub plans – sorry, it’s right there in the blueprints. That’s transparency for you.

But Duck spokesperson Craig Pintens is now saying that there will be no private hot tub – damn NCAA lawyers.

But now Duck spokesperson Dave Williford reports that the hot-tub and adjoining steam room are still in the plans, but will be open to all the football coaches, in a special shared “wet room”. 7/17/2012.

athletics success hurts academic side

2/14/2011: Stefan Verbano of the ODE quotes former UO Business School Dean and current marketing Prof Dennis Howard – strange, he doesn’t look like a revolutionary threat to the established order – on the link between athletic contributions and the real University of Oregon:

“It’s called a donation or a contribution … when, in fact, as we have discovered in our research … it’s a transaction,” Howard said. “It has nothing to do with giving back to the University or a philanthropic motive. It is purely and simply a commercial transaction in which the individual in paying for tangible benefits: better seat location, access to the Autzen Club amenities. All of those things are driving those transactions.”

A quirk in federal tax law makes 80% of those “donations” tax-deductible – meaning the federal and state government pays about 40% of them.

President Lariviere can do 2 simple things to fix this: require that AD Rob Mullens give academic donations full credit when he doles out perks, and/or tax the donations and give the revenue to the academic side. Both have been done at other schools, with good results.

Jim Earl talks truth, Lariviere is not helpless

1/30/2011: In a NY Times story on the UConn donor who pulled his sports donations when the AD didn’t ask him who to hire as coach. Professor Earl from English Lit, on Oregon.

“The world thinks of us as a sports franchise,” he added. “They don’t care what we do on the other side of campus. The team is owned by an institution that is flat broke, and a football game isn’t helping that at all.”

If you want to get boosters out of the picture, eliminate tax breaks for contributions to intercollegiate athletics.

“Maybe then they’d think of giving the university money that might have gone to a better cause,” Earl said. “Universities are starving. They are in terrible condition, while athletics departments are booming with millionaires giving millions of dollars.”

True enough, look at our classrooms:

 Enrollment is up 6000 students since I came here, we have one new classroom building (from the Lillis donations).

President Lariviere replies to the Times:

Lariviere defended the university’s relationship with Knight, pointing to the library that Knight and his wife, Penny, have renovated, the numerous academic chairs they have endowed and an estimated $230 million they have invested in the university, most of it for sports facilities. (emphasis added).

“They want what is in the best interests of the university,” Lariviere said. “People confuse entertainment and education. I really wish the American public would pay as much attention to Shakespeare and classic Indian literature, but they do not. They want football. Football is entertainment, and they want it.” 

Phil Knight has not given a dime to the academic side since the WRC fiasco in 2000. At the time President Frohnmayer told Knight that was stirred up by a bunch of pinko professors. (Which was partly true, Frohnmayer’s fear of the students didn’t help.) Knight’s athletics only donations since then have cost taxpayers $150 million or so, from the deductions.

IRS rules requires UO to certify that the donations to the athletic side help our academic mission. Otherwise, no deductions. Lariviere needs to deal with Knight’s love of UO’s jocks and his palpable hatred of UO’s professors. Tough job. But he’s hardly as unarmed as he is pretending.

Read this UO Foundation document:

POLICY: The Foundation will accept gifts for the benefit of the University, provided that such gifts are (i) acknowledged by the University to be consistent with the mission of the University and (ii) do not obligate the University or the Foundation to violate any applicable law or regulation. 

Just give us a third of the eggs.

1/4/2011: From Charles Clotfelter – an economist – in the Washington Post:

With the exception of the 80 percent rule for gifts that enable a donor to buy tickets, all these donations are subject to the same tax subsidy we reserve for charitable and educational institutions like hospitals, food pantries, arts organizations and universities. When a taxpayer at the 35 percent tax rate makes a donation of $10,000, he ends up shouldering only $6,500 of the cost, since his tax bill is trimmed by $3,500. That savings to the taxpayer amounts to reduced tax collections by the Treasury. Considering that the top college athletic programs collected a total of more than a billion dollars in 2008, the revenue hit from making these gifts tax deductible is not inconsequential.

But why wait for the Feds to get their act together? President Lariviere could institute this policy on his own, at UO, by requiring that the athletic department pay 35% of all donations towards support of the teaching and research mission of UO. He already has this power, as explained in this UO Foundation document:

The Foundation will accept gifts for the benefit of the University, provided that such
gifts are (i) acknowledged by the University to be consistent with the mission of the
University and (ii) do not obligate the University or the Foundation to violate any
applicable law or regulation.

We don’t want to pluck the duck, just give us a third of the eggs.