SBD/Issue 151/Collegiate Sports

Oregon President Grappling With Athletic Department Issues

Oregon Athletic Department "Awash" In
Donations From Nike Chair Phil Knight

Univ. of Oregon President Richard Lariviere's academic goals "have been overshadowed by an athletic department awash in donations" from Nike Chair Phil Knight that "dominates the campus with aggressive expansion, new construction -- and scandal," according to Bill Graves of the Portland OREGONIAN. People are "watching how Lariviere handles the controversy over the $2.3[M] buyout he negotiated" with former AD Mike Bellotti. The Oregon Attorney General's Office and the State Board of Higher Education are "investigating the deal because Bellotti had no written contract," and the buyout "enraged some faculty members, who see themselves as underpaid and who go through rigorous reviews for their research contracts." UO American literature professor Gordon Sayre: "It is really damaging, and he needs to do something to restore confidence, especially to the faculty." Graves notes Lariviere recently "denounced the shoddy business practices" of the school's athletic department and "declared that a successful athletic program should not compromise the university's academic mission." State Board of Higher Education President Paul Kelly said that the board "expects him to 'get things under control' and put athletics 'in proper prospective.'" Kelly: "The indications are, he is going to be a good leader, assuming he meets the leadership test on this Bellotti matter." Lariviere said that he "tried to strike a deal that would protect the university from lawsuits while being fair to Bellotti" in offering him the buyout. Lariviere: "He is an iconic figure here and deserves this institution's respect." Meanwhile, Graves notes Lariviere "speaks highly of Knight and his contributions, but downplays the donor's control." Lariviere: "The notion there is sort of a red telephone on my desk and that whenever it blinks, I have to pick it up, and Phil Knight tells me what the marching orders are -- it is an entertaining fantasy, but it is a fantasy" (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/20).

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