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Bellotti advocates for NCAA change.

Byline: Ryan Thorburn The Register-Guard

Mike Bellotti misses the excitement of fall Saturdays at Autzen Stadium.

Although the itch to be on the sideline is still there, the former Oregon coach said "sometimes it's impossible to find it to scratch it."

Bellotti still stays involved in college football and the issues facing the sport as an ESPN analyst.

"I enjoy the ability to talk about the game without having to worry about losing, injuries or suspensions," Bellotti said during a conference call with reporters last week after being selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

There is a lot to talk about as the NCAA braces for the fast-moving winds of change.

Commissioners of the Big 5 conferences are pushing for their own set of rules, which could allow athletic departments to compensate student-athletes for full cost of attendance.

Bellotti believes it's time for players to get their share of a growing pie.

"I'm not just talking about football players," Bellotti said. "I am fully for the full cost of attendance for any scholarship athlete. I think they should be taken care of from a physical standpoint, in terms of health insurance. Any injuries that occur in practice or games need to be taken care of permanently."

The Pac-12 university presidents recently sent a letter to their colleagues in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC calling for sweeping changes to the NCAA's current model.

In the aftermath of the realignment frenzy, the five remaining power conferences are seeking autonomy from the other conferences in implementing new rules.

Perhaps motivated by the Northwestern football players' attempt to unionize, the Pac-12 presidents' 10-point plan for reform includes a stipend, ongoing medical coverage and liberalizing current rules limiting the ability of athletes to transfer.

"What our presidents want to make clear is what we intend to do, and that it was important to send a signal," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said during a speaking engagement last Wednesday in San Francisco alongside Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "There's a lot of carping going on. This is a statement that the leaders of our institutions intend to do more."

According to USA Today, the Pac-12 reported $334 million in total revenue for the 2012-13 fiscal year, a $158.1 million increase from the previous year and more than tripling the $111.8 million the conference reported two years earlier.

The bulk of the money comes from the television rights deal with ESPN and Fox, as well as the launch of the conference-owned Pac-12 Network.

"I think television has been great for the game because it's helped supply money to improve facilities," Bellotti said. "But it has also changed the traditional scheduling of the game and that's a little bit difficult for some of the fans."

Scott is trying to negotiate fewer night kickoffs but noted that providing prime-time games was a fundamental part of the Pac-12's lucrative TV deal.

In 2013, 50 FBS head coaches made over $2 million. Oregon's Mark Helfrich ($1.8 million) was in the next tier of 20 coaches making between $1 million and $1.9 million.

"When I got into college coaching 40 years ago, it wasn't about money," Bellotti said. "You never thought about, 'Gee, I'm going to go get rich being a college football coach.'

"It was more about: I'm just going to do it because I love the game, I love being involved with young men and all that. I think sometimes now the money involved has put some people's priorities out of whack a little bit."

After six years as an assistant to Rich Brooks, 14 years as head coach and one year as athletic director, Bellotti retired from Oregon as its top PERS recipient, receiving an annual payout of over $513,000.

In an explanatory story posted on the Five Thirty Eight website by economics professors Peter Hunsberger of Johns Hopkins University and Seth Gitter of Towson, their formula determined Marcus Mariota's marginal value to Oregon last year to be $2.57 million.

The star quarterback decided to return to school and play for the Ducks in 2014 instead of entering the NFL draft. Mariota plans to take part in graduation ceremonies next month.

"To be able to get that degree, I wouldn't say it's priceless, but I would say it fulfills what we need," Mariota said this spring when asked about his peers at Northwestern possibly unionizing. "Obviously there's always an argument to getting more money. Guys will always want a little more money, that's just the nature of college athletics."

Rodrigues heading to SDSU

Jake Rodrigues, who announced he planned to transfer from Oregon after a meeting with Helfrich two weeks ago, has found a new home at San Diego State, according to Rivals.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound redshirt sophomore will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Aztecs of the Mountain West after sitting out the 2014 season per NCAA transfer rules.

"I want to get to San Diego as soon as possible and start working, I don't want any time to be wasted," Rodrigues told Rivals.com "I'm very glad this process is over with and I'm very glad I found my new home. I couldn't be happier with my decision and I feel like this is the right choice for me and what's best for my family, too. I'm happy where I'm going to be and I'm happy for my future."

Redshirt freshman Damion Hobbs also is expected to transfer from Oregon, leaving redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie and walk-on Taylor Alie as the backups to Mariota.

Incoming freshman Morgan Mahalak, a touted member of the 2014 recruiting class, arrives on campus next month.

Scholarships winners

Walk-ons Grant Thompson and Kenny Bassett have been awarded scholarships by Helfrich.

"It's very exciting to acknowledge and reward the hard work and dedication that these two young men have demonstrated on and off the field," Helfrich said.

Both players are fifth-year seniors who have stuck with the team despite limited playing time. Thompson is a linebacker from Cottage Grove, and Bassett is a running back from Beverly Hills, Calif.

"I love it. People look at it like, 'I don't know how you still do it.' But I really love football," Bassett said during spring practice. "I love my teammates and I love being here. It's really hard to walk away when you love something."

Follow Ryan on Twitter @rgduckfootball. Email ryan.thorburn@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Oregon Football; The former Oregon and new Hall of Fame coach says all college athletes deserve "full cost of attendance"
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:May 26, 2014
Words:1073
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