| DUCK THEN, ANALYST NOW: Bellotti on the sidelines in 2007 with Dennis Dixon. |
IMAGE: Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard
Just because “staying loyal to your team when times get tough” is a cliché doesn’t make it any less true.
And that’s what makes the choice of Mike Bellotti as Rogue this week easier than kicking an extra point after a touchdown.
Bellotti announced last week he’s leaving the athletic director’s job at the University of Oregon to take a job at ESPN as a college football analyst.
“I am really excited to join the best team in college football broadcasting,” Bellotti said in a prepared statement March 19. “Working as an analyst for ESPN is a dream come true and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I will bring the insight, experience and expertise I have gathered from 36 years of coaching college football to the studio and telecast booth. Spring ball is in full swing; I can’t wait to start.”
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with taking another job. But Bellotti’s departure as AD—accepting a $2.3 million golden parachute, according to The Oregonian—less than a year after stepping down as football coach is an atrocious bit of timing.
For one thing, the Oregon men’s basketball program is in disarray, having just canned longtime coach Ernie Kent. Moreover, men’s hoops is suffering from declining attendance at the same time as it’s moving into a new, bigger arena next season.
For another, there is the off-the-field train wreck of the football program, which starts spring practice March 30.
Weeks after coach Chip Kelly took the Ducks to the Rose Bowl, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James—both recruited on Bellotti’s watch when he coached the Ducks—pleaded guilty in court to various charges.
That’s not all. Backups like wide receivers Garrett Embry and Jamere Holland as well as kicker Mike Bowlin are gone after assorted violations, as is walk-on defensive end Matt Simms. Masoli and special teams standout Kiko Alonso have been suspended for the upcoming season. James and kicker Rob Beard have been suspended from the season opener. And injured linebacker Josh Kaddu awaits his football fate after pleading guilty to being a minor in possession of alcohol.
Obviously, the next year will be challenging for Oregon’s athletic director. Which most likely is exactly why Bellotti—after two decades at UO as an assistant and a head coach—is fleeing to ESPN, where his toughest challenge will be eliminating his conversational tic of starting sentences with the word “again.”
We are hardly Pollyannas when it comes to college athletics. But Bellotti’s vanishing act reveals—again—how the adults responsible for running college sports rarely have to stick around to clean up the mess.