Sorting the Yellow from the Green


When I became a Duck in the mid- 90’s, I couldn’t wait to be part of the campus culture. To spread my wings, wear my green and yellow and embrace all that the University of Oregon had to offer. It quickly became apparent, that what the University had to offer me was very different than what it offered to its student athletes. From living situations to treatment in class and on campus, it was clear that we all didn’t wear the same green and yellow. Recently, students at the U of O have been voicing their own concerns over what seems to be, the university’s preferential treatment of its student athletes. It doesn’t appear that much has changed since I was on campus. So I decided to do some research.

Athlete’s at the University of Oregon are a class above the rest when it comes to training, practice, playing and learning facilities. In case you aren’t familiar, they are:

  • Autzen Stadium
  • Casanova Center
  • Ed Moshofsky Center
  • Hayward Field
  • Howe Field
  • John E. Jaqua Academic Center
  • Matthew Knight Arena
  • McArthur Court
  • Pape Field
  • PK Park
  • Student Recreation Center

The Athletic Department has claimed self-sufficiency for years now. Stating that revenue from the University’s athletic programs (ticket sales etc.) and donors is what keeps their $78 million dollar budget in the green. Of that, $31.6 million is spent on coaches and other staff. You could say it was money well spent if you consider the NCAA baseball tournament appearance, multiple top-two finishes in men’s and women’s track and cross-country, and Duck football’s first BCS championship berth. And yes, we do have a very gracious and generous donor in Phil Knight, but his donations do not cover the ongoing and long-term costs of running the department or the facilities.

While most of the Duck athletic earning power does come from football ($12.2 million in ticket sales last year), projected revenue in ticket and donations for men’s basketball next season is at $4.8 million. Not including a projected $600,000 in concession sales. I can’t help but wonder how much of this revenue goes to pay the coaches. The Duck’s elite coaches are among the nation’s highest paid in their sports. Chip Kelly’s initial five-year deal of $7 million, was replaced not long after with a six-year agreement that guarantees $20.5 million. This isn’t unheard of for schools who have elite athletic programs. Getting the Ducks to the BCS, secured Kelly a one-year contract extension and a guaranteed $4 million dollars to go with it. Well earned, you could argue. Others apparently didn’t see it that way. Kelly’s increase in compensation came at the same time Oregon’s President took a voluntary cut in salary and university employees were on their second year of negotiated furloughs due to budget problems.

According to files obtained by The Oregonian, they claim that for at least nine years, the athletics department has used hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from the university’s general fund to cover the cost of academic support for athletes. Paying nearly $8.5 million over the past nine years for academic support for athletes such as counseling and exclusive tutoring. At the same time, tuition has nearly doubled and state support has plummeted to 7% of the university’s overall budget. The rising cost of tuition doesn’t help the nearly 41% of full-time undergrads who receive some form of financial aid. With enrollment to the university increasing and a near 80% acceptance rate, I figured the university to be among the elite for academics as well. The U of O ranks 111th in the 2011 edition of Best Colleges, and has a 4-year graduation rate of only 46%.

University of Oregon Campus
Image by Erik R. Bishoff via Flickr

According to the university’s website (most current data being 2007-2008) a professor of Allied Arts makes an average of $63k a year. A biology professor will make about $82k a year and a law professor around $117k a year. Salaries at the university are well below those of other universities belonging to the Association of American Universities (AAU). One in three graduate classes are taught by graduate students and not by full-time faculty.

A report from the Oregon University System Fact Book for 2010 show the U of O currently has:

  • 225 Tenured Professors
  • 4 Non-Tenured
  • 227 Associate Professors (8 of them tenured)
  • 162 Assistant Professors
  • 142 Instructor/Lecturers

I can’t say I received the best education at the U of O,  I also wasn’t the best student. Then again, maybe if I had a $42 million dollar state of the art academic center back then, I would have been. I wonder what percentage of current students, not on track to graduate on time, would benefit from the services offered at the “Jock Box” as its called. Although part of their tuition paid for the The John E. Jaqua Academic Center, they cannot use it. Current tuition is around $4k for a resident undergraduate, which includes a building fee (for building maintenance on campus).

The list of athlete only facilities at the U of O is about to grow a bit bigger. A public hearing was held Wednesday March 16th in the Sloat Room of the Atrium Building at 99 W. 10th Ave to discuss two permits needed by the university to begin work on a new athletics building and playing field for its soccer and lacrosse teams. The proposed building and field would be housed in the athletics complex alongside Autzen Stadium. According to UO Matters, the new expansion would include space for a UO Football Hall of Fame and Museum, a covered parking facility for 300 cars, surface parking for 75 cars, a weight room of at least 20,000 square feet and space for a Duck Shop and ticket offices. That is in addition to the proposed soccer and lacrosse complex. Knight is footing the bill for the new additions, but the university has to pay an estimated $2 million to move existing underground utilities before the work can begin.

Image via Wikipedia

This news come on the heels of another recently completed parking area for athletes, this time for student-athletes using the John E. Jaqua Academic Center. It isn’t being met with open arms by all students and faculty. The lot is owned by the city and is being leased to the university for $63k a year. Despite the mixed reactions, some students see a bright side, “I don’t think it’s entirely fair, but maybe it’ll open up parking for the rest of the students elsewhere,” University sophomore Gary Freitas told the Oregon Daily Emerald.

The discussion around the U of O’s academics vs. athletics is a constant and ever evolving part of our community. I see both sides of the argument, having been a student myself, a long-time athlete and member of this community. I wore my green and yellow with pride then, as I do now. I will always be a Duck……but I’m beginning to wonder if my kids will even be able to get an education at the U of O without an athletic scholarship.

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