As many of you have already heard, Oregon's Mike Bellotti resigned from his post as athletic director to take on a job as a college football analyst with ESPN. And you can't really blame the guy. Who wouldn't to sit in a Bristol studio and tirelessly praise his former employer. Oh, wait, that role is already filled by another guy.
But nonetheless, in his departure, there are a fair number of skeptics throughout the west coast claiming that his decision to step down is a preemptive move to avoid a possible NCAA investigation after a tumultuous offseason in which laptop burglaries become rather commonplace in Eugene. While a such prospect might excite the purple people in Seattle, such talk at this point in time is a little extreme. There is little to no evidence that his decision had anything to do with the arrests and suspensions of several Oregon football players. It's a possibility - albeit an unlikely one.
In greater likelihood, Bellotti's decision to head east for Bristol, has been spurred on by a burning desire to leave a position, which was not entirely satisfying for the former Ducks' head coach. In recent months, it had been rumored that he had not been entirely happy in his role as athletic director, which is a far more different role than he was accustomed too. ESPN's Ivan Maisel hits the nail right on the head:
Once upon a time, a head coach retired into the AD job, where he supported his coaches, played golf with his big donors and called it a day. In the modern age, athletic directors are CEOs of companies with eight-figure (sometimes nine) budgets. It is a corporate job.
"He's got so many things to do," Kelly said. "We don't spend a lot of time talking about other issues."
Athletic directors are marketers and fundraisers. They have degrees in sports management. They look like insurance agents. And they wouldn't know a coach from a coachman. Why else hire consultants to help them find a coach?
Bellotti didn't fit that mold. He stayed in the job long enough to know that when ESPN offered him an eject button, he should hit it. The viewers' gain will be Oregon's loss.
You can't put it much better than that.
An athletic director is no longer just asked to hire coaches and hobnob with big-time boosters. He's expected to be out there marketing the program to fans, soliciting funds from alumni, and to a certain degree, micro-managing particular programs. It's a demanding, full-time position that requires just as much energy as coaching. In some cases, even more. The perception that it's a step toward retirement just isn't the case in the world of modern college athletics.
Bellotti understands this, and as result, he decided to step down and pursue other interests. Only, if someone else we know would take the hint.
So with everything considered, all the chatter about him leaving Oregon to avoid the pending NCAA hammer is a tad bit presumptuous, especially at this point. Just because there's smoke, doesn't mean there is a fire.