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Bellotti's severance a buyout

PORTLAND — University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere characterized the $2.3 million golden parachute for outgoing athletic director Mike Bellotti as a buyout — but he stopped short of saying that the former football coach was fired.

Bellotti coached the Ducks for 14 seasons before sliding into the AD's job last year. He abruptly announced on March 19 that he was stepping down as athletic director after nine months on the job to become an ESPN analyst.

Lariviere called the move a "mutually agreed-upon resignation."

"I told Mike we were going to have a change at athletic director," said Lariviere. "I was struggling with when and how I was going to effect that, and when the ESPN deal came up, that seemed the right moment. I felt that I had to explain to Mike what the options were before he made a decision regarding ESPN."

Bellotti first broached the possibility of working in television with Lariviere several months ago. He appeared somewhat awkwardly with Lariviere at Tuesday's news conference, insisting he resigned.

"In a perfect world I would have done both (serving as AD and working for ESPN)," Bellotti said. "But that was not possible."

The university did not have a written contract with Bellotti, so terms of the "separation agreement" were determined by Lariviere. Bellotti's deal was orally struck with former athletic director Pat Kilkenny. There are differing opinions as to its length.

Lariviere called the lack of documentation "a very odd situation."

"This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past," Lariviere said. "This will not be repeated under my administration."

Lariviere said that no public funds would be used for the buyout, which would come from donor funds earmarked for the athletic department.

He said: "$2.3 million is a lot of money, but I feel it was a fair settlement based on the commitments to Mike before I got here."

The Oregon Department of Justice said it would conduct a review of Bellotti's deal because of concerns raised by the media. The State Board of Higher Education also is looking at it.

Bellotti went 116-55 as coach of the Ducks. In 2001, Oregon won 11 games, including a 38-16 victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to finish ranked No. 2.

Offensive coordinator Chip Kelly took over as coach when Bellotti became AD after the 2008 season.

Bellotti's move comes as there is upheaval in the athletic department. Several football players — including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and top running back LaMichael James — have had well-publicized legal problems.

Masoli, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor burglary and was suspended for the entire upcoming season, while James pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in an altercation with his former girlfriend and was suspended for the home opener on Sept. 4.

Additionally, Bellotti fired longtime head basketball coach Ernie Kent after two disappointing seasons. The university is currently searching for a successor.

Oregon has named Lorraine Davis, the university's former vice president for student affairs, as interim athletic director while the university searches for Bellotti's replacement.

Bellotti's first broadcast in his new position will be the Auburn spring football game on ESPNU.