Mike Bellotti will be officially taking over as Athletic Director for the University of Oregon on Wednesday and with that, the Pat Kilkenny Era will be officially over. He didn't even want the job initially, so much so that he tried to lure former UO Football Coach Rich Brooks into taking it. Here we are in 2009, 3 years have gone by with Kilkenny at the helm. Let's take a look at some of the notable efforts during his time.
Landed a $100 million donation from Nike co-founder Phil Knight to construct what would become Matthew Knight Arena
Getting this donation broke down the dam that was holding back the new arena project for years. You can't argue with friends talking friends into spending a bunch of money and that's just what Pat did to Phil. Today, construction is underway for the new arena and whether or not you buy into the politics of how the financing came about, the project is still creating jobs for Eugene and the surrounding areas during a time when unemployment is very high. I wonder about how much money basketball will bring in with the new arena but having a mid-sized stadium in the middle of the state is good for a lot more than just Ducks Basketball Games.
Revived the baseball program after a 28 year absence
I'm not a baseball guy at all. That being said, I gave it my best to follow Oregon Duck Baseball. This was a victory for people that have a lot more invested in the sport than I do. How this plays out long term will be interesting but I take issue with a number of items surrounding baseball's return. First off, the claim by Kilkenny that Oregon State national championships in 2006 and 2007 played no role in bringing baseball back. Right. Sure. Although I buy the argument that college baseball will be a bigger deal in a few years than it is right now, making the claim that baseball coming back at this time is completely unrelated to their national championships and Phil Knight's donation to keep Pat Casey at OSU just isn't believable. Second, what's up with the shady deal of adding in the Eugene Emerald revenue into the projected budget when you don't even have a deal in place for them to play at PK Park? For the Ems, they either need to pony up major cash to revitalize Civic Stadium, pump about $2 million into PK Park to make it minor league baseball compatible or move the team. Counting on this money, when you are already over-budget because of the hiring of George Horton, is funky.
Dropped the wrestling program
Wrestling was never going to make the kind of money that other sports were. Even if you roll with the whole "Oregon's tradition is that there is no tradition!" argument that football uses, then wrestling was definitely on the chopping block. I understand Title IX and the importance of it but this whole situation could have been handled a lot better. I view this as a big black eye on Kilkenny where members of the wrestling team even tried to sue the University in efforts to keep the program alive.
Added Team Stunts & Gymnastics (competitive cheer, whatever it is being called these days)
I like gymnastics. I think those that participate in the sport are amazing athletes. What I don't like is that given how much attention baseball has received in a short amount time versus how much Stunts has been given, you can tell right away that Stunts was added strictly for bare bones of Title IX compliance. All of the resources being pumped into baseball, a new facility, marketing effort. Baseball hit the ground running. Team Stunts? Not even competing yet. Will we see them in 2009? Supposedly they have 29 members of the team but no updates on goducks.com since March. Given how wrestling was dropped and how little attention Stunts has been given, the addition of baseball gets a mixed review from me.
Secured a multimedia rights deal with IMG College worth $67 million over 10 years
New video board! IMG College is a huge player in multimedia rights across the country, having deals with tons of colleges and universities. The revenue from the deal is double what the University was receiving before...jumping from $2.15 million to over $5 million a year. Not too bad.
Setting up a new standard of athletic excellence
One of the main features present in the athletic department over the past few years has been this notion of "consistently being in the top tier of the conference", no matter what sport you belong to. I'm all for raising the bar high and I like this focus on winning but I didn't see how the decision to keep Ernie Kent fits into this model. I'm a big supporter of Ernie but he hasn't fit this new mantra laid out by PK. While other coaches get ousted after seasons of non-compliance, Ernie Kent remains. The excuse given? Basketball doesn't have the facilities and advantages that other sports have. What? That didn't stop Bev Smith from getting fired. With Mike Bellotti taking over, will he continue this "win or die" metric that has been established or will he seek to put his own stamp on things.
It's hard to shoehorn in all of the events that took place during the Pat Kilkenny Era but the simple truth of the matter is that Oregon has a higher profile on the national stage than ever before. Revenues coming into the athletic department have grown and facilities have been improved. Mike Bellotti will have some big shoes to fill. I'm just forced to wonder if we are in a position to determine what Pat Kilkenny's legacy will be. He has been here for 3 years. He won't be AD when the majority of the decisions he made fully blossom. Bellotti might be in the driver's seat but he also might be the one to clean up the horse manure left in the barn.