Rachel Bachmann of The Oregonian has just detailed the back-and-forth nature of the University of Oregon's protestation that its deal with Nike was a trade secret.
She explains: "The university initially argued that financial figures of its Nike deal were "trade secrets" and thus exempt from disclosure under Oregon's open-records law -- an argument supported by a ruling from the office of former attorney general Hardy Myers.
In the Nike deal Oregon gets: $16.85 million to outfit the Ducks’ athletic teams : $1.375 million for personal use of Nike product: $4.5 million in cash - all in the 2010-18 contract period.
But an April 26 ruling from the office of current attorney general John Kroger said that even if the contract's financial details were considered trade secrets, the public deserved to see them.
"We will now be making the information available," UO spokesman Phil Weiler said. Lariviere, who was unavailable for an interview, previously pledged greater transparency in university operations in the wake of the March 19 revelation of a $2.3 million secret severance agreement for former athletic director Mike Bellotti.
On March 26, just two days after a request by The Oregonian, Oregon released a copy of the Nike contract. It included an amendment showing that more than a year earlier, the Ducks had quietly extended their all-sports outfitting agreement with Nike through 2018. But university officials had redacted the dollar amounts for current and future years of the contract. The Oregonian appealed the redactions to the attorney general, citing a previous version of the contract that was released in 2006 with no information withheld.
The AG's office overturned the decision under Myers on the trade-secret question and ordered the university to release an uncensored copy of the contract to The Oregonian within seven days. Monday was the last day for Oregon to comply. The ruling, written by deputy attorney general Mary H. Williams, reads in part, "Regardless of whether the requested information could qualify as a trade secret, we conclude that the public interest requires disclosure of the price at which UO agreed to confer the various marketing rights to Nike."
Athletic shoe and apparel deals in recent years have become a growing source of income for top athletic departments nationwide, bringing in mountains of free gear and cash payments of up to several million dollars annually. In exchange, universities grant to the companies certain marketing and exclusivity rights. In 2009-10, Oregon athletics received more than $2 million in gear and $500,000 in cash from Nike -- increases over the previous agreement's $1.5 million in gear and $250,000 in cash. Oregon's athletics budget is $66 million this year.
But the contract's value goes beyond dollars. Having its teams outfitted in exclusively designed Nike uniforms has become one of the Ducks' hallmarks. The Oregonian has requested from the seven other public schools in the Pacific-10 Conference, including Oregon State, information regarding their contracts with athletic shoe and apparel companies. Those requests are pending.
Many schools routinely share the details of their outfitting/marketing deals, which gained prominence in the late 1990s. The University of North Carolina in 2008 issued a news release to announce its 10-year contract with Nike worth $37.7 million. The nation's top contract appears to be the University of Michigan's eight-year agreement with Adidas, signed in 2007 and worth $60 million in cash and merchandise plus an unprecedented $6.5 million signing bonus. The college-sports giant left Nike to make the deal.