Oregon AG says no wrongdoing in Ducks' deal with coach

Chris Rizo Apr. 29, 2010, 3:39pm

John Kroger (D)

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said Thursday that he found no wrongdoing in the University of Oregon's $2.3 million severance package for its departing athletic director.

Kroger did say that he did, however, find "deficient legal representation" in the university's deal with Mike Bellotti.

The attorney general said the "most significant legal error" disclosed in his review and a separate internal audit by the Oregon University System was the failure to outline the terms of Bellotti's employment contract in writing.

"Uncertainty as to key terms -- including the amount of compensation due and the duration of the agreement -- created substantial legal risk" for the Eugene campus, Kroger said.

He added: "In view of the resulting legal risks, the UO's decision to resolve the dispute for $2.3 million (plus interest on a portion) was not unreasonable."

The university announced last week its general counsel, Melinda Grier, would not have her contract renewed next year. It was unclear if the decision was related to the Bellotti matter.

Bellotti was the Oregon Ducks' football coach for 14 seasons, compiling a 116-55 record as coach.

He announced March 19 he was stepping down as athletic director after less than a year on the job, to be a college football analyst for ESPN.

Bellotti, whose last day was Friday, replaced Pat Kilkenny as the University of Oregon's athletic director last July.

University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere acknowledged the school should have had a written contract for Bellotti. He said no public funds would be used to pay Bellotti's buyout. Instead, the money will come from the school's athletic department donors.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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