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UO taps Kentucky for AD.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

The tumult over leadership of the University of Oregon's athletic department came to an apparent end Thursday with the announcement that Rob Mullens, deputy athletics director at the University of Kentucky, will take over the program.

Neither a starting date nor the length of Mullens' contract have been finalized yet, but he will take over no later than Sept. 1 and the contract will be for at least three years. He will earn $500,000 a year in guaranteed salary and deferred compensation with the possibility of up to $150,000 in supplemental pay for meeting academic and athletic goals.

UO President Richard Lariviere picked Mullens from three finalists he met with Wednesday in Portland. He said Mullens "brings to this job exactly the sort of values and experience we're looking for."

"This is a day of great celebration for the University of Oregon and the entire Duck community," Lariviere said in introducing Mullens at a media conference at the Casanova Center.

Mullens, who turns 41 in a few days, has a strong background in finance, one of the key qualifications Lariviere set for the new athletic director. Lariviere needs an AD who can, among other things, ensure a revenue stream that will cover the athletic department's burgeoning costs and keep the department financially self- supporting.

For the past four years, Mullens has managed day-to-day operations for Kentucky's 22-sport program, which has an annual budget of $79 million.

He worked on the business side of sports at the University of Maryland and the University of Miami before joining the Kentucky program. Before getting into university athletics, he was an accountant and auditor at Ernst & Young.

Mullens said the UO job has everything he was looking for, including quality academics, athletic tradition, passionate fans and a strong community.

"This is where you want to be when you work in our business," he said. "This is a tremendous opportunity."

Mullens has been a candidate for other athletic director jobs, including one at West Virginia, without being chosen. Seated next to his wife, Jane, Mullens said he and his family have been very selective about which positions to seek and only looked at those that offered the best fit.

"This is exactly the type of place we want to bring our family and raise our boys," he said, noting that his wife is from the Northwest and has family here. "We're looking forward to contributing not only to athletics at the university but also to the community at large."

One of the first things Mullens did on his first full day as the athletic-director-to-be was call Phil Knight, the Nike co-founder and top donor to UO athletics. After the brief introductory call, he said he looks forward to meeting the university's most generous fan.

"When you work at athletic departments that are self-s upporting, the support of folks who share your passion for the university, for the athletic program, is important," Mullens said. "We share a passion. We share goals. And I look forward to working with all the donors and contributors and fans at the University of Oregon."

Mullens will be running a UO athletic department with an annual budget of almost $70 million that advertises itself as one of the few self-supporting major college programs in the country, a group Kentucky also claims membership in. Keeping it in the black will be one of his major challenges.

Part of that challenge will come with the opening late this year of Matt Court, the $227 million basketball arena now under construction. Generating enough revenue from the arena to avoid drawing too heavily on reserves - which are bolstered by a $100 million gift from Knight and his wife, Penny - will be one of Mullens' first big worries.

Mullens will take over from interim athletic director Lorraine Davis, a retired UO administrator who ran the department following the departure of former head football coach Mike Bellotti in April.

Bellotti's departure became part of a rocky year for the department when it was learned Bellotti had never signed a contract with the university but was being paid $2.3 million by the UO as part of a separation deal.

Bellotti, who held the AD job less than a year, was paid $975,000 for his first year as AD and was scheduled to be paid $675,000 the following year.

A contract for Mullens hasn't been finalized yet, but the university provided a list of terms to be included. One is that if Mullens cancels his contract or is terminated for cause he will receive no separation payments or other compensation.

If the university decides to dump Mullens, he will receive half of whatever guaranteed pay remains on the life of his contract. And if Mullens decides to leave the UO for another job, he will have to pay the university all of the annual base salary remaining on the agreement.

Mullens takes over after a string of embarrassing incidents involving misbehavior and criminal charges against members of the UO football team, ultimately leading to the UO dismissing several players, including the star quarterback. Mullens said he was aware of the problems but they didn't dissuade him from pursuing the job.

"It was very clear there's high expectations for all student athletes at the University of Oregon, and everyone is committed to those standards," he said. "And I share that commitment."

Lariviere said another reason he chose Mullens was his commitment to academics. Mullens said he will continue to emphasize that at the UO.

"We want to compete at the highest levels, and that means across the board," Mullens said. "That means academically; that means athletically. We want our student athletes to have an exceptional experience."

Mullens' commitment to academics garnered the support of faculty members who served on the search committee. Dev Sinha, a UO mathematics professor and chairman of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, said that of all the candidates Mullens was the clear choice for faculty on the search committee as well as for head football coach Chip Kelly.

"All of these people were great," he said. "He was a step above."

Sinha took part in the interviews of eight semifinalists and the three finalists for the post and said Mullens impressed him with his intelligence and his desire be a part of the whole community, not just the athletic department.

"He's smart," Sinha said. "We like smart."

Although Mullens is relatively young and has spent his whole life on the Atlantic seaboard, he said he doesn't look at the UO job as a stepping stone. Mullens grew up in Morgantown, W.Va., graduated from West Virginia University and speaks with a bit of a Southern drawl, but he said he looks forward to being a Northwesterner.

"The University of Oregon is a destination opportunity," he said. "It fits who we are. It's where we want to be. So I see us being here for a long time."

THE BOTTOM LINE

Highlights from Rob Mullens' employment deal

Starting date and length of contract not yet set

Annual guaranteed pay of $450,000

Deferred compensation of $50,000

Incentive pay of up to $150,000

Use of two vehicles or a vehicle stipend

Membership in the Downtown Athletic Club and Eugene Country Club, if available

Moving expense reimbursement as specified in UO policies

May not receive any other compensation from other sources without president's approval

May not seek or apply for other jobs without president's approval

UO not liable for any compensation if Mullens terminates contract or is fired for cause

UO will pay one-half of remaining guaranteed salary if Mullens is fired without cause

Mullens will pay the UO all remaining guaranteed salary if he leaves for another job

Mullens will abide by all rules and ethics codes of the NCAA, Pac-10, UO and state Board of Higher Education, with penalties for violation, even if they occurred before joining the UO
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Title Annotation:Sports; Rob Mullens is selected to fill the post vacated by Mike Bellotti; he will manage an athletic department with a $70 million annual budget
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 16, 2010
Words:1323
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