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Bellotti tries new job on for size.

He wore a fine tweed sport coat, a neutral shirt, a muted blue-green tie. But you should pay the most attention to Mike Bellotti's choice of footwear.

It's the size 12' Bragano loafers, crafted in Italy (but purchased, it's important to know, at the Nike store), that best illustrate Bellotti's new lot in life.

If Oregon's about-to-be athletic director had his druthers, he and Chip Kelly would not have worn ties Saturday morning. This was a special occasion. Or else they'd have taken questions while wearing golf shirts and shorts.

And no one who's spent any time at the Casanova Center would have been surprised if Bellotti had shown up in flip-flops.

But for Bellotti, those days are over.

The retiring football coach spoke convincingly about how he looks forward to stepping away from the constant demands - "24/7/365," he called the lifestyle - and spending more time with family.

Kelly noted Bellotti would only be "a hop, skip and a jump" away, and Bellotti suggested the distance was "a short 9-iron." Which makes you wonder just how much free time he thinks he's going to have, and how he'll fill his schedule in the other corner of the Cas Center.

"I don't have a next opponent," he said happily.

Except he does. A bunch of them. Boise State is Kelly's problem, sure. Bellotti only has to be concerned with completing several major building projects, creating and cultivating revenue streams in a bad economy, and caring for a machine that's bigger and more complex than a football program - and not nearly so well-oiled.

Simple stuff like that. And the scoring system is a lot more difficult to calculate.

As football coach, winning and losing was measured almost solely by, well, wins and losses. Now, there's a lot more to it, and perception becomes a large part of the equation.

So Bellotti must dress for success. He has traded in one set of shoes for another - and one type of stress for another, too.

These are tough times, filled with uncertainty everywhere. At Oregon, too.

In addition to Bellotti's decision, we also learned Friday of another little change. Richard Lariviere will replace Dave Frohnmayer as the UO's president. After a brief conversation with his new boss, Bellotti reports: "He seemed to be awesome."

We'll take the coach's - sorry, athletic director's - word for it. But the point is, things are changing. And who knows how all of this shakes out?

Bellotti grew up in an era when football coaches retired to become athletic directors, but that's not the natural order anymore. He's more well-rounded than the caricature of the average football coach, but we don't know how well he'll handle the myriad issues he'll face.

This is without considering the future of the men's and women's basketball programs. Because Bellotti doesn't plan to do that - at least, not right away.

Pat Kilkenny says he will determine what happens to Ernie Kent and Bev Smith. He'll meet with Smith today or Monday. And though no one is saying it, they'll announce her exit sometime very soon after.

Kilkenny will talk with Kent a few days later, or maybe next week. No one is saying what will happen next, but it's very possible Kent has coached his last game at Oregon, too.

If changes are made, Bellotti would be part of the hiring process. And he said he wouldn't shy away from difficult personnel decisions.

"Down the road," he said, "I'll be very willing to make changes if I deem that necessary."

What kind of A.D. will Bellotti be?

It's hard to say. Bellotti plans to study the A.D. 101 manual - an actual, real document Kilkenny has been preparing - and try to soak up as much information as he can during the next three months, when he serves as "senior counselor."

Also, he'll conduct meetings with every employee, to get an idea of what they do and how they see their roles. And then, he'll have more meetings, a lot of them, because "I'm a meetings kind of person."

He'll pay special attention to fund-raising, and the care and feeding of donors. And if past is prologue, he'll be very good at that.

Bellotti figures to lead like a CEO, delegating responsibility to others, trusting them to get things done.

Mostly, it seems Bellotti sees himself as less change agent than caretaker. As his essential priorities, he listed gender equity, racial diversity, relationships with the academics side of campus and managing finances in a grim economy.

He noted the current building projects, and suggested once they're finished, a couple of others might begin - refurbishing the offices in the Cas Center, for example, or expanding Autzen Stadium.

All of the above are important, but there's nothing earth-shattering on the agenda. Someone referenced Kilkenny's addition of baseball, and elimination of wrestling, and asked Bellotti what bold changes he might have in mind.

"I'm hopeful (Kilkenny) has taken care of a lot of the business," he said. "My job is to manage it."

A couple of other things to ponder. Bellotti told me he sees this as a "four- to five-year proposal," with an option for 10 more if he likes the job. And yet, he wouldn't completely rule out a return to coaching.

That's extremely improbable. Those days appear over.

Just like the sight of Bellotti padding around the Cas Center in flip-flops.
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Title Annotation:By George Schroeder The Register-Guard
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 15, 2009
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