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U. of Oregon President to Board: Take Phil Knight’s Money, or Else

The Oregonian reports that the University of Oregon will once again accept money for athletics facilities from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike. The university will take the money, this time for a football facility, even amid recent questions from lawmakers about a lack of oversight on an arena project now under way, also supported by Mr. Knight. The newspaper notes that Mr. Knight has given more than $200-million to the university over the years, mainly to athletics projects. (See a Chronicle story about the transformation of Oregon’s athletics program here.)

At a meeting of the State Board of Higher Education held to approve the project, the university’s president, Richard Lariviere, told the members that if they didn’t approve the project, they would be unlikely to get money for similar projects in the future, the article says. 

“If we don’t accept this gift, what will be the negative consequences for the university’s education and research mission?” Mr. Lariviere said. “Probably not much, immediately, in the short term. … But they could be really, really profound over the longer term. Really profound. This is an important gift for our future.”

People in the state have questioned Mr. Knight’s deals because of the control he demands. In this deal, as in past projects, his financing group will lease land from the university, build an 80,000-square-foot expansion to the football-operations center, then donate the finished project to the university. That will allow Mr. Knight to have control of the design and to avoid public oversight.

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