SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
February 09, 1981
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February 09, 1981


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Barred from last fall's Pac-10 football race because of academic-transcript abuses and buffeted by the indictment of a number of its athletes on various criminal charges, the University of Oregon is now in the news again. This time there are indications that a wealthy lumberman tried to impose onerous conditions on a pledge to give the school $250,000 toward construction of a domed basketball arena. The lumberman, Aaron Jones, has reportedly threatened to cancel his proffered gift unless the university disbands a five-year-old clinic run by its law school.

The object of Jones' purported threat is the Pacific Northwest Resources Clinic, one of a number of organizations established by law schools in recent years as a means of giving students real-life legal experience. The Oregon clinic's work has been mostly on behalf of public-interest groups fighting for environmental causes, earning the clinic the full wrath of the timber industry, which exercises great influence in the Pacific Northwest. Lumbermen have been particularly unhappy about the clinic's role in representing the Idaho Wildlife Federation in a suit to restrict logging near the South Fork of Idaho's Salmon River. The suit maintains that certain types of timber harvesting could further hurt the river's salmon runs, which already have been decimated.

The attacks by the timber industry have been none too subtle. For example, John Runft, an attorney for Idaho-based Evergreen Forests Products, Inc., wrote to a University of Oregon official, saying the clinic's work was "against the interest of the timber industry" and was therefore "incredibly antipathetic to the interests of the university since I understand many of the large supporters of the university are to be found among such business interests." Then there are the machinations of Jones, who owns Seneca Sawmill Co. of Eugene and also is a prominent breeder and owner of race-horses. Jones hasn't commented publicly, but his attorney, Lewis Hoffman, was quoted in the Eugene Register-Guard as confirming that Jones threatened to cancel his $250,000 pledge if the university didn't close the clinic. Hoffman has been quoted elsewhere as saying of the clinic, "What they are doing, as far as my client is concerned, is hurting the economy of the state of Oregon."

Hoffman and Jones are entitled to question the policies of their state university. But any effort to influence those policies with money is another matter. One Oregon state senator, Ted Kulongoski, asserted on the floor of the legislature last week that the threat to withhold the $250,000 gift amounted to "extortion." However the threat might be characterized, it will probably surprise some people to learn that donors of large sums of money to universities don't always throw their weight around—at least not so overtly. Robert Odegard, vice-president for alumni and development at the University of Minnesota, says, "Few people try to tie strings to gifts. Most people understand the autonomy of the university and don't even ask." That Jones apparently did ask may have something to do with the fact that his gift was for athletic purposes, which seem to be particularly susceptible to undue outside influence—witness the excessive control boosters wield over many athletic departments. To its credit, the University of Oregon says it has no intention of closing the clinic. It ought to go even further and directly repudiate Jones' ultimatum—and his now-tainted gift. No school needs a new gym that badly.


American University of Washington, D.C. has a name rich in promotional possibilities. Thus, in the early '70s, American's publicists hailed the star of the school's basketball team, Kermit Washington, as "the Center of the American Revolution." Kermit Washington, get it? To publicize its current star, Russell Boo) Bowers, American distributed Frisbee-like discs bearing the inscription RED, WHITE & BOO, a play on the school's inevitable colors, and dubbed the 6'5" senior forward "The American Express," going so far as to print up facsimile American Express cards bearing Bowers' likeness. Sports Information Director Rick Vaughn also issued a "statement" detailing Bowers' "transactions"—i.e., points and rebounds—and spread the word that Coach Gary Williams "never leaves home without him."

But all that was before Jan. 14, when Bowers, who was among the nation's leaders with a 25.5-point scoring average and had led American to an 8-2 record, was sidelined with ligament damage in his right knee. Since then the Eagles (what else?) have won five of six games, including a 63-55 victory last week at West Chester (Pa.) State, and they'll have to continue leaving home without Bowers until his expected return later this month. This will almost certainly prevent Bowers, who has scored 2,052 career points, from reaching the 2,500-point mark, a milestone achieved by only 16 collegians. Too bad. Vaughn was planning to commemorate the accomplishment by issuing facsimiles of the American Express "Gold Card."


Track fans are understandably excited about Renaldo Nehemiah's avowed intention to train for the 400-meter intermediate hurdles. They figure that the upshot could be a series of dream races between Nehemiah, who has the four fastest clockings of all time in the 110-meter high hurdles, and Edwin Moses, who has the nine fastest times in the 400. But contrary to popular belief, Nehemiah and Moses have competed in a hurdles race already. It happened in 1978, when both were entered in a little-noted 110-meter race in Zurich. Nehemiah was on the verge of becoming the best in that event, and Moses was using the race to tune up for his 400-meter specialty later that evening. Nehemiah won in 13.23, followed by Charles Foster in 13.58 and Moses in 13.65.

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