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Are College Sports ‘Worth it’?

Thursday, March 19, 2015


This Friday, the City Club of Portland will devote its weekly "Friday Forum" at Portland's Sentinel Hotel to the question of "Are big-time college sports worth it?"

Give credit to the nearly century-old Portland institution for picking a relevant question this week, given the existence of at least five topical issues dealing with college sports both in Portland and in Oregon:

1. The Friday Forum lands in between the Moda Center hosting second- and third-round games Thursday and Saturday across the Willamette in the big-bucks NCAA men's basketball tournament.

2. The University of Oregon will play in the NCAA men’s tournament Friday in Omaha, about one year after a female student said three basketball players sexually assaulted her days before the Ducks played in the 2014 tournament. The three players participated in the 2014 tournament and ultimately were not charged. But litigation ensued, the players were dismissed from the university and coach Dana Altman somehow survived the controversy. In fact, he won Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors this season and is among 16 finalists nationally for the Skip Prosser man of the year award that honors coaches for achieving success on the court and displaying “moral integrity” off the court.

3. Oregonian sports columnist John Canzano's reporting last fall on Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor from an attack she alleges happened 17 years ago in Corvallis at the hands of three Oregon State football players and a fourth man. The four were arrested but the case was dropped when the survivor said at the time that she did not want to go forward with charges.

4. Oregon's football team advanced to the national championship game for the second time in four years, this time led by a player sent seemingly from central casting at the NCAA—Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

5. Portland State University’s recently announced plans in conjunction with Oregon Health & Science University to build a “Viking Pavilion and Academic Center,” which includes academic space and a 3,500-seat sports facility.

And give City Club credit for what promises to be an intriguing panel of former Ducks football and basketball player Jordan Kent, now an analyst at Comcast Sportsnet NW; University of Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh of the watchdog UO Matters blog; and retired Oregon State University professor of American literature and culture Michael Oriard, who played football at Notre Dame and in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here are 11 questions I'd like moderator Ryan White or audience members to ask:

1. At a time when public universities struggle to make ends meet -- and levy cost increases that are outpacing inflation on non-athletes -- how can schools countenance any financial losses that stem from athletics?

2. When you look at all that football has provided for somebody who seemingly did everything right in the classroom such as Mariota, how can any opponent of college sports make a blanket statement that they're not worth it?

3. Has anybody visited Concordia University in Portland -- far from a sold-out Autzen Stadium or Reser Stadium -- which seems to be a great example of how college sports should be, for the athletes and the larger Concordia community both on campus and in the neighborhood? 

4. What substitute is there on a college campus on as large a scale as a packed football stadium or basketball arena that can bring students together?

5. Do you believe college athletes are more likely to be abusive to women?

6. How is athletics a core function of a university?

7. Should players be paid beyond the value of a scholarship?

8. When coaches can change schools without having to sit out a year, why can’t players?

9. How much do non-revenue sports need profits from football, and to a lesser degree basketball, to field teams?

10. Why is the NCAA even needed to police athletic departments? Isn’t that the responsibility of each university when each school ostensibly cares about its own reputation and standards?

11. Hasn’t the question of whether college sports are “worth it” been around since college sports began?  


A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.


Related Slideshow: Recent Data Breaches in Oregon

Here are some of the biggest data and security breaches in Oregon between 2015 and 2012, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:

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The Oregon Department of Administrative Services

March 20, 2015

The department's meta data, including time stamps the size of flies, was disclosed on Friday, March 20, by an unidentified hacker. 

The attack was detected by intrusion software, and investigated by the department, but no personally identifying information was compromise

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LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon

March, 2015

A cyber attack on LifeWise and it's parent company Premera Blue Cross exposed the personal identification of 250,000 Oregonians to unauthorized access.

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Oregon Employment Department

Date: Oct. 10, 2014

Location: Portland

Records Compromised: 820,000

A database containing personal information from people searching for jobs through WorkSource Oregon was breached. 

Prev Next

Made in Oregon

Date: Dec. 3, 2013

Location: Portland

Records Compromised: 1,700

The company’s website, with credit card information, may have been accessed by unauthorized parties. 

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Samaritan Family Medicine Resident Clinic

Date: Nov. 4, 2013

Location: Corvallis

Records Compromised: 1,222

Un-shredded medical documents were found in a dumpster near the offices. Prescriptions, diagnoses and sensitive medical information were on the documents. 

Prev Next

Bonneville Power Administration

Date: Aug. 27, 2013

Location: Portland

Records Compromised: 3,100

BPA employee names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth were distributed by a cyber attack.

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Oregon Health & Science University

Date: July 29, 2013

Location: Portland

Records Compromised: 3,000

OHSU patient information was placed on Google’s cloud computing system. OHSU did not have a contract with Google, so the information could have been used for promotional purposes due to the storage error.  

Prev Next

Oregon State University

Date: July 29, 2012

Location: Oregon State University

Records Compromised: 21,000

During a software upgrade, an unnamed check printing vender copied data that included student and employee names, IDs, check numbers, check amounts, and possibly some Social Security numbers. 

Prev Next

Eugene School District 4J

Date: June 11, 2012

Location: Eugene

Records Compromised: 16,000

An unauthorized source accessed confidential files containing student personal information, such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and phone numbers. 

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Office of Dr. Rex Smith

Date: April 20, 2012

Location: Eugene

Records Compromised: 20,915

During a burglary, a computer with patient names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth was stolen. 

Prev Next

Key Bank

Date: May 9, 2012

Location: Springfield

Records Compromised: 2,937

A bank manager gathered and transferred customer names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth.

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Applegate Valley Family Medicine

Date: April 2, 2012

Location: Grants Pass

Records Compromised: 2,300

Patient information was compromised when a laptop was stolen. 


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