THE SELLING OF EUGENEOregon, Cal's opponent tonight, is in the news for something other than basketball.
In late November, the Ducks' Athletic Director Bill Moos resigned under pressure from Oregon boosters. Phil Knight, in particular, thought Moos insufficiently quiescent to the needs of his ilk. Despite a pretty impressive record of achievement over eleven years at the helm (BCS bowl, Sweet 16), Moos was shown the door after said boosters cobbled the money together to buy out his contract.
Today Oregon at long last has found Moos' replacement. It is Pat Kilkenny. Who, you say? Why the same Pat Kilkenny who helped buy out Moos' contract in the first place.
You see, Kilkenny is one of Oregon's largest boosters.
Kilkenny has no background in sports, other than attending games, mailing checks and doing other things that boosters do (buying Playstations, lobster dinners, etc). He built his fortune in insurance, and has never held an administrative position in sport beyond perhaps coaching Little League. His surname graces the Oregon football practice fields. And, importantly, he is good pals with Papa Phil and his fellow boosters whose cash will be needed to build the replacement for ancient Mac Court.
And now he is the man who is charged with institutional oversight of recruiting and all other aspects of the Oregon athletic program. I don't even know where to start with this. I've seen plenty of schools with a "lack of institutional control." I've never before seen one orchestrate a lack of institutional control.
Oregon prides themselves as trend-setters. The uniforms and helmets, the ad campaigns, the over-the-top recruiting. They've now set a new trend, ceding operational control of their athletic program to the guys who write the checks. UO President Dave Frohmayer has abandoned all pretenses that a buffer exists between the Ducks on the field and the moneybags in the skyboxes.
Cal fans sometime grouse that we lack a dominant booster like Knight, who could make some of our problems (not the legal ones) go away. As this announcement suggests, we should be careful what we wish for. We should also thank our stars that the Haas family and other big boosters have been content to cut their checks, name their facilities, and let the program run itself.
Hats off to Dave at Addicted to Quack for a frank and honest assessment of this decision. I'll quote him:
"I know college sports hasn't been 'pure' for several decades now. But for all intents and purposes, we have an owner (Knight) who controls the pursestrings of the program and is making the personnel decisions. We are basically a professional sports franchise. Not only that, but if I were the NCAA, I'd be watching Oregon like a hawk.If only there were a few more like him in Eugene. God willing, this latest Oregon trend will remain confined to their campus.
"Its obvious that for everything Bill Moos did for this program, he got a raw deal. But that's neither here nor there. The fact is that Oregon hired a candidate with no experience who bought the job. Its just like being a big contributor to a presidential campaign, then getting a nice job as Ambassador to Luxembourg once that candidate enters office.
"I really hope that this works out, but I could alse see this ending really badly for the Ducks. I also think that it sets a dangerous precedent.
"At the VERY least, it is very sketchy. I don't like the smell of it one bit."