Gerald A. Jones, president of the Pac-12 Conference, told Oregon lawmakers on Tuesday that the conference’s return to the Oregon Stadium lot in Eugene was not directly tied to the league’s decision to play a men’s soccer game there.
Speaking to a joint session of the Oregon House and Senate, Mr. Jones, a former executive director of the NCAA, said Pac-12 officials returned to Eugene because the stadium had already been named the home of a women’s soccer team in 2012. When discussing the issue of return to Oregon Stadium, he said, “I think our research told us that there was a home for women’s soccer there.”
The football game against Rutgers will be the Pac-12’s return to Oregon Stadium since the conference vacated the site in 2005, after it staged a 2007 men’s football game there and a basketball game there in 2001. Mr. Jones said the league returned to Oregon Stadium because of space constraints at the Galen Center, its men’s basketball home. (By comparison, Ohio State plays all its home basketball games at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.)
The game on Sept. 15 was rescheduled from another date after Rutgers was named a participant in the early round of the College Football Playoff.
“There was no money traded,” Mr. Jones said. “No dollars were swapped for the return to Eugene.”
Some Oregon lawmakers were unhappy about the decision to return to Oregon Stadium, with Senator Richard Devlin asking that the name of the stadium be changed to “Oregon Stadium.”
But Mr. Jones said the league would consider other options, and he said Oregon had the opportunity to host Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball games. He also talked about “Conference Champions,” the school’s name for future bowl games. (Alma mater Western Oregon University will host the inaugural meeting of Conference Champions in a bowl game this year. The Sun Belt is taking over that and other title games this year.)
Mr. Jones was initially scheduled to appear before the Joint Committee on Reorganization on Wednesday, but he postponed the appearance because his wife was being treated for a life-threatening infection and he needed to be home with her, he said. He is scheduled to appear before the committee on Monday.
“I really want to come and be before this committee, but I can’t,” he said.
Mr. Jones was among several major sports commissioners to testify before the committee on Tuesday, which has been held an occasional meeting of its subcommittee on university affairs to hear their testimony and hear from people who might need or want their help. (The committee’s chairman, Representative Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, was the lead sponsor of legislation that passed last year, which led to Oregon letting the Pac-12 play in Oregon Stadium.)
Also among the witnesses was former University of Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, who told the committee that a unanimous decision among University of Notre Dame trustees in 2013 to accept the law school’s offer to vacate trophies and championships won by former football coach Brian Kelly may have put the school at a disadvantage at that point in the football season.
Mr. Jenkins said that the decision was a “transition point” for Notre Dame. The law school that Mr. Kelly now leads, the University of Notre Dame Law School, was founded in 2015 and has campuses in Chicago and Washington, Mr. Jenkins said.
“A person who is the head football coach at a program cannot build a successful program without a winning football team,” he said. “So to be in a position where our coach, our leading head football coach, no longer had things in his control, not being a part of the ultimate awards … Was that a setback? Yes, it was a setback.”
Mr. Jenkins said Notre Dame has been a member of the Big Ten Conference in football for many years. He said it was “very uncommon” for one university to join another in a partnership, but he said Notre Dame had faced the same challenge and decided it was better to remain in the Big Ten.
“Many, many universities have challenged us,” he said. “Several, now have it, and they continue to build their own programs. Notre Dame has, over time, wisely chosen to be involved in a partnership of some type.”