A.G.: No wrongdoing in payment

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Oregon attorney general on Thursday offered the following advice to the Ducks: Put it in writing next time you hire an athletic director, especially if you're going to pay him $2.3 million before he leaves for ESPN.

The state Department of Justice found no criminal wrongdoing but it faulted University of Oregon lawyers for failing to provide Mike Bellotti with a written contract when he took over the AD's job after 14 seasons as football coach.

The review also found that the amount he was paid "was not unreasonable."

Bellotti, whose last day on the job is Friday, announced in March that he was stepping down as athletic director to become an ESPN analyst, leading to questions about his compensation package.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger ordered the review March 29 after learning there was no written contract.

"Uncertainty as to key terms -- including the amount of compensation due and the duration of the agreement -- created substantial legal risk for the UO," Kroger said in a statement.

University president Richard Lariviere, who took over last year with the retirement of former president Dave Frohnmayer, has said the school did not follow acceptable business practices with Bellotti and that mistake will not be repeated.

Lariviere announced last week that the university's general counsel, Melinda Grier, will not have her contract renewed when it expires next year.

He said no public funds would be used for Bellotti's buyout, which will come from donor funds earmarked for the athletic department.

After a meeting Thursday of the state Board of Higher Education's governance and policy committee, officials said a separate Oregon University System audit also showed that "rules, policies and procedures were unclear and in some circumstances not followed."

Paul Kelly, the board president, said the final audit report will provide recommendations to improve handling of contracts for all state university athletic programs.

"The board believes it's critical to ensure that all campuses are thorough and transparent in their contracting practices and procedures," Kelly said in a statement.

Bellotti took the Ducks to 12 bowl games and compiled a 116-55 record as coach, including 11 wins in 2001 to finish ranked No. 2 with a 38-16 victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.

Bellotti announced his departure amid upheaval in the athletic department, including legal problems for several football players and the firing of longtime head basketball coach Ernie Kent after two disappointing seasons.