Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer

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  • Covers the Pac-12
  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • Graduate of the University of Michigan

People outside of Eugene, Oregon, often criticize the Ducks for their finances. Most of the time it comes from a place of jealousy, that Oregon just happens to have a longstanding relationship with Phil Knight and Nike. Because chances are if Knight/Nike approached any other school in the country with the same kinds of contributions, fans and programs would start whistling a different tune.

But now, people in Eugene are starting to make similar criticisms.

At a Friday meeting of the City Club of Eugene, former business school dean Dennis Howard and Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh provided some interior criticism of Oregon and its budget, wrote The Register-Guard’s Diane Dietz.

“Our administration needs to take more responsibility to fully exploit the opportunity that our athletic department provides — on behalf of our students, our faculty and our institution,” Howard told members.

They are frustrated because the athletic department always seems to spend exactly what it makes, especially when it’s pulling in so much money. As pointed out by USA Today, Oregon’s athletic department is the wealthiest in the nation. Harbaugh and Howard feel the entire difference of the department’s revenue and expenses were just given back to the coaches and athletic director Rob Mullen as year-end raises (though, The Oregonian’s Andrew Greif presented a different way of looking at some of those numbers last month).

“It would be really good if we were all in this together and the athletic department was trying to help the rest of the university,” Harbaugh said.

According to Dietz, Harbaugh and Howard presented a few different solutions, some plausible others not (like pruning or privatizing the football program). But the overarching theme is that they want to see more collaboration between athletics and academics when using the money that flows so easily into the athletic side. Because let’s be honest, the kind of money thrown at the athletic department by tycoons wanting to invest yearly doesn’t exactly come as easily to an english or mathematics department.

One example Howard used was that scientists do experiments on the field at Nebraska on game days. He probably didn’t realize the low-key dig this was at Oregon, considering former Oregon State coach Mike Riley is now at the helm of the Cornhuskers’ program. Riley would probably be thrilled to hear that folks at Oregon want to do things his way, considering it was the other way around for his entire tenure in Corvallis.

The City Club of Eugene hosts meetings every Friday to discuss issues within the community, but this is coming up now because new Oregon president Mike Schill officially starts on Wednesday. With a new president (who, as Howard and Harbaugh pointed out, is making one fourth of what coach Mark Helfrich made in 2014) there could be changes within the university regarding how the athletic and academic sides coexist.

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