Hometown Report

UC Davis graduate Mike Bellotti played role in Oregon’s national prominence

Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti talks about accepting a new position as a college football analyst for ESPN, during a news conference in Eugene, Ore. Oregon Attorney General John Kroger on Thursday, April 29, 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 lawyers for failing to provide Bellotti with a written contract when he took over the AD’s job after 14 seasons as football coach.
Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti talks about accepting a new position as a college football analyst for ESPN, during a news conference in Eugene, Ore. Oregon Attorney General John Kroger on Thursday, April 29, 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 lawyers for failing to provide Bellotti with a written contract when he took over the AD’s job after 14 seasons as football coach. AP

Mike Bellotti had a vision about how his Oregon Ducks could get into college football’s national championship picture.

“Facilities,” the former Oregon football coach said 12 years ago in his office, seemingly large enough to house goal posts. “We’re getting those now, and then you get the ‘wow’ factor that kids like so much. And then you really have a chance.”

The conversation took place when Bellotti, a UC Davis graduate, was in the middle of his run as the Ducks’ coach, a year after Oregon finished No. 2 and well before the College Football Playoff became reality. Bellotti, who stepped down following the 2008 season and now works as a college football analyst on ESPN, admits he pulled for the Ducks to reach Monday night’s championship against Ohio State.

The discussion about upgrading the facilities at Oregon began when Nike founder and Oregon alum Phil Knight asked Bellotti after the 1996 Cotton Bowl, in which Colorado drubbed the Ducks 38-6, what he needed to improve the program. Bellotti said an indoor practice building, for starters. And anything else, thank you very much.

Knight has donated more than $300 million to Oregon athletics, including $60 million for football stadium upgrades, $60 million for an academic center and $70 million for a football performance facility.

They say you can’t buy championships, but you certainly can pay for construction of buildings that help.

Big impact

Arik Armstead, Oregon’s 6-foot-8 defensive end from Pleasant Grove High School, played host earlier this season, showing his old prep coach, Joe Cattolico, and Cattolico’s sons Joseph and Dominic the facilities at Oregon.

Cattolico wasn’t suprised.

“Fantastic player and person,” Cattolico said Monday before his family watched Armstead and the Ducks on TV in Monday’s title game. “Excellent student, great personality. Played hurt all year as a senior because he wanted to help his teammates with a league and section championship.”

Said Cattolico of the Oregon tour for his sons: “Made their year!”

Career path

Before winning football championships as the coach at Woodland High School, his alma mater, and over the past nine seasons at Whitney before stepping down last week, Mike Gimenez threw a pretty ball at Colorado State.

He led the Rams to the 1990 Freedom Bowl, their first bowl game since the 1949 Raisin Bowl.

“Oh yeah, never forget,” Gimenez said. “Beat Oregon 32-31 in Anaheim. I scored on a quarterback sneak, had a touchdown pass, threw a pick. Complete game for me. Overall, it was a great memory, my last game.

“We started the season thinking, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to get to a bowl game?’ I knew I wasn’t going to play after that, in the pros, and my dad said, ‘Hey, you better find something to do.’ Best advice I ever got, so I got into teaching and coaching.”

Coach’s delight

Jamar Cain (Valley High School, Sacramento City College) was one of the jubilant coaches in the dog pile after North Dakota State beat Illinois State 29-27 Saturday in Frisco, Texas, to four-peat as Football Championship Subdivision champion.

Cain, who also coached at Cal Poly and Wyoming, touts the Bison’s championships when he recruits in the Sacramento region. North Dakota State has won 12 national titles.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.

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