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Friday, March 19, 2010
Bellotti announces he's stepping down as Oregon AD

Associated Press

Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti is stepping down after less than a year in the position to become a college football analyst with ESPN.

Bellotti was head coach of the Ducks for 14 seasons before he formally took over as athletic director last July. His resignation is effective April 5 and he'll make his debut on ESPN on April 17.

Bellotti's announcement Friday came as a surprise. At a hastily called news conference he said that working in television was something that he'd "thought about and maybe aspired to over the years."

He paused to collect his composure several times while speaking about his decision.

His tenure as AD has been tumultuous. Earlier this week, he dismissed men's basketball coach Ernie Kent because of mounting losses and dropping attendance.

He's also seen a spate of misconduct by players on the football team. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, was suspended for the upcoming season last week after pleading guilty to a second-degree burglary charge.

Running back LaMichael James, who set the Pac-10 freshman rushing record last season, pleaded guilty to an unrelated harassment charge and was suspended by coach Chip Kelly last week for the season opener on Sept. 4.

Last season, running back LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player in the aftermath of the opener and was suspended for the season, but returned late in the season after meeting certain academic and behavioral requirements.

"Timing in life is everything. This is not the most appropriate timing, in my perception, just because of the situations that have occurred," Bellotti said. "I want everyone understand that I'm not running from anything at all. I've faced much more difficult situations as a football coach and weathered those. And I was planning on weathering these storms also as we move forward."

The 59-year-old Bellotti had already been named as the successor to Pat Kilkenny when he took office last July. Kelly had been promoted in March from offensive coordinator to head coach.

Bellotti went 116-55 as coach of the Ducks and took the team to 12 bowl games. In 2001, Oregon won 11 games, including a 38-16 victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to finish ranked No. 2.

Last season under Kelly the Ducks went 10-3, winning their first Pac-10 title since 2001 and earning their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1995.

Bellotti, who joined the Ducks as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Rich Brooks in 1989, said he will continue to make Eugene his home. His first broadcast will be the Auburn spring football game on ESPNU.

"Coach Bellotti ranks as one of the most successful head coaches in the perennial power Pac-10 Conference," Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president of production, said in a statement. "His knowledge and experience will deepen our roster of analysts and provide us with a unique perspective of someone who recently coached in the game."

Kilkenny was named AD in February 2007 and said at the time he planned to serve in that position for two years. A prominent booster, Kilkenny has spearheaded plans to build a new basketball arena to replace venerable McArthur Court.

Bellotti said Kilkenny will be involved in the search for a men's basketball coach to replace Kent.

University president Richard Lariviere is expected to appoint an interim athletic director in the coming days before a national search.

"As difficult as this is for the University of Oregon and for Duck fans everywhere, we recognize that this is an incredible opportunity for Coach Bellotti," Lariviere said. "Mike Bellotti will always be an icon at the University of Oregon and we wish him all the best as he embarks on this exciting new career."