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Moos deal not unusual in business.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

Welcome to College Athletics Inc.

That's how many people in the world of college sports greeted the news that Bill Moos, the University of Oregon's outgoing athletic director, is being paid almost $2 million to leave with just 15 months remaining on his contract.

That's not uncommon in the corporate world, and if it's uncommon in college sports now, it probably won't be for long.

"The more you look at college athletic departments now, the more they're run like a business," said Andy Fellingham of Inter-Collegiate Athletics Consulting in New York. "So the fact that someone is willing to give a person a golden handshake when they leave should not be viewed as unusual."

But even if they aren't surprised, Fellingham and several other consultants said it's the first time they've ever heard of an athletic director being offered a generous buyout to leave early. Such deals, also known as golden parachutes, are common among corporate CEOs and even high-profile college football and basketball coaches but much less so among athletic directors.

Moos' deal gives him $1.825 million plus interest over 10 years, which doesn't include his deferred compensation, Public Employees Retirement System benefits or any other retirement benefits he qualified for. In return, the UO gets two noncompete clauses, one that prevents Moos from taking an equivalent job at another major conference school and another that bars him from soliciting donations from UO donors on behalf of another school.

All of the money will come from a small group of private donors, led by UO alumnus and supporter Pat Kilkenny.

With little to compare it to, it's hard to know if the deal is unreasonably or unusually generous. But some observers were impressed by the amount.

"At $2 million, that's a golden parachute," said Fellingham. "I thought it might be tin, but that's golden. He must have done a very good job for the University of Oregon."

Lynn Lashbrook, president of Portland-based Sports Management Worldwide and a former AD himself, called the settlement generous but also justified. Because Moos leaves with an essentially blemish-free tenure and a list of major accomplishments, he said, the UO could only be hurt by emerging from the separation looking churlish.

"Seldom is the AD nudged out," Lashbrook said. "Usually, athletic directors can survive any kind of change unless there's a scandal. But since this is a scandal-free movement, it's an attractive goodwill gesture. It's probably the way you want things done."

If nothing else, the deal with Moos shows how much athletic departments have come to adopt a business model. And under Moos, business has been good.

He helped lead a major expansion of athletic facilities, made it one of the few major programs to operate entirely in the black, created winning teams and did it by the rules. While a few UO athletes have run afoul of the NCAA, the program has been one of the cleanest in the top collegiate division.

Given that, the settlement doesn't seem out of line to Jim Krause, president of the consulting firm Winning Sports Programs in Redmond, Wash.

"I think it strikes me as being consistent with the sports world that we live in," Krause said. "I don't think it's unusual and I think it's actually par for the course."

If Moos has faltered, it's in his relationship with mega-donor Phil Knight, the Nike co-founder, top UO athletics donor and expected benefactor of the now-stalled new basketball arena. That soured relationship and lack of progress on the arena are seen as major reasons behind Moos' departure.

"Bill did a great job; he upgraded everything across the board," Krause said. "Now it's time for basketball to take its turn, and as long as Phil Knight and Bill Moos aren't agreeing, something has got to give."

Publicly, Moos said he is leaving to spend more time with his family and return to his native Eastern Washington.

And there's no doubt that being an AD at a big-conference school is a high-pressure, 24/7 job that puts terrific strain on families.

But, some wondered, if all Moos wants is more family time, why is it costing the university $2 million? If anything has rankled people over the deal, it's the perceived failure to be up front about all the reasons.

"I was surprised to hear it," said art history professor Jeff Hurwit, president of the UO Senate.

"I thought the decision was a personal one. With a package of almost $2 million, it strikes me as more of a severance package, which suggests to me that his leaving the athletic department may not have been his own decision."

Jim Terborg, a professor of management in the UO's Lundquist College of Business and academic director of the Warsaw Center for Sports Marketing, came to the same conclusion. Even so, he said, it probably was the right thing to do.

"To me this clearly suggests that maybe Bill wasn't making the decision all himself," said Terborg, who praised Moos as a good manager. "I think nobody wins if this would have been an antagonistic situation with a lot of conflict. Clearly, behind the scenes there was some meeting of the minds."

So far, it doesn't appear that the deal has ruffled too many feathers, perhaps largely because no university funds are involved. Tim Campbell, president of the Oregon Club booster organization and a commercial real estate broker, said he hasn't heard any criticism.

"The only stuff I've heard is that it's a great business move by the UO," he said. "It's basically a noncompete agreement is how I understand it. In my business, that's a really smart, prudent move."

Timing also could be playing a role. Most of campus is focused on finishing up classes this week and final exams next week; it will be January before faculty and students have a chance to formally weigh in on the settlement.
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; But a golden parachute for a college athletics director is still considered a jump
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Words:986
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