SBD/Issue 136/Collegiate Sports

"OTL" Examines Phil Knight's Role In Univ. Of Oregon Athletics

ESPN's "OTL" Examines Knight's
Influence On Univ. Of Oregon Athletics
Sunday’s edition of ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” examined the ongoing influence Nike Chair Phil Knight has on the Univ. of Oregon (UO). The report focused on Knight’s role in the hiring of his friend, Pat Kilkenny, as the school’s AD in February '07 despite Kilkenny not having a college degree and also being a former booster of the school. When ESPN’s Steve Delsohn asked UO President Dave Frohnmayer how much influence Knight has on the school, Frohnmayer said, “Phil Knight, like a lot of people, is consulted and informed about decisions that affect the athletic future of the University of Oregon. But he’s very careful not to dictate what the department does.” But Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics co-Founder and former UO professor James Earl said Knight controlled the athletic department and that large donors “pose a problem because they always present a certain potential for conflict of interest and control that you are ceding to them because you need them so much." Earl: "When a donor comes forward with major money, are there strings attached?” Chronicle of Higher Education Senior Editor Brad Wolverton: “Like a lot of major donors in college sports, Phil Knight has been increasingly involved in the decision-making on campus as he’s given more and more money.” Temple Univ. AD Bill Bradshaw: "When does input become influence and when does influence become interference?”

KNIGHT'S ROLE IN MOOS DEPARTURE: Delsohn noted when former AD Bill Moos left the school in '07, he and UO had an agreement that paid him over $1.8M from the university, “which has fueled the speculation that Moos did not leave voluntarily.” Frohnmayer: “I don’t know that Phil Knight even had a conversation with Bill Moos about his departure and so as far as I’m concerned, he didn’t have any role (in Moos leaving).” But The Oregonian’s Rachel Bachman said, "It’s safe to say that if Phil Knight liked what Bill Moos was doing, he would still be at the University of Oregon.” Frohnmayer said that Knight was called “only after I had made the selection of Pat Kilkenny.” Bachman noted of the hiring of Kilkenny, a former booster, was “interesting because the NCAA spends a lot of its time warning athletic departments, warning student-athletes, to be wary of boosters ... and I think those lines have become a little bit blurred.” Kilkenny was asked if he would talk to Knight the next time a new coach needed to hired, saying, “I would probably talk to him about it and I would probably talk to some other donors too.” Knight declined to be interviewed for the report ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 4/6).

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