Kilkenny All Business as University of Oregon's Athletics Leader
Byline: Ron Bellamy The Register-Guard
Not a single personal photograph adorns the walls of Pat Kilkenny's office in the Casanova Center, and yet you get the sense that Oregon's new athletic director, each day, makes it more and more his place.
The athletic department, at least, if not the precise corner room where Bill Moos worked for 12 years.
In a short time - he was introduced as Oregon's new AD on Valentine's Day, signed his contract effective March 1 and moved into the office earlier this month after Moos' tenure ended officially March 31 - Kilkenny, with increasing confidence, has seized the reins of Oregon athletics.
He's reorganized the upper management of the athletic department; while he says it's "not totally" true that administrators had to apply for their old jobs, they underwent extensive interviews with Kilkenny and a consultant. Some have new roles, and former associate AD Jim Bartko has been rehired to oversee the project to construct a new basketball arena.
He's reached across the river, trying to bridge the "disconnect," perceived or not, between academics and athletics. He's attended meetings, been a presence on campus, made connections with UO student-athletes, and drawn on the athletes-oriented perspective and institutional history of former assistant football coach Neal Zoumboukos, now a special assistant to Kilkenny.
He's made it clear that it will be a priority of his administration to increase the financial base of the department and build reserves, which are virtually non-existent, while retaining the sense of innovation for which Oregon became famous - and infamous - during the Moos era. To those ends, he's hiring a full-time fundraiser, and will also soon advertise to hire a special assistant to focus on strategic planning.
And, with a sense of urgency - his contract expires in June 2009 - Kilkenny has literally brought the basketball arena project out of mothballs, determined to build something grand, if the donations support that vision, or something more modest, if that's what the finances dictate, but determined to build an arena, period, that will carry Oregon through the next 75 years.
His background is business - the former Oregon student who grew up in Heppner earned millions in the insurance industry in San Diego - and it's from the business world that Kilkenny draws inspiration and a sense of direction for the department. He distributed, within the athletic department, 250 copies of the book "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't," by Jim Collins.
In May, he's bringing in dynamic management expert Tom Peters - "In Search of Excellence" - for an athletic department seminar.
He's made it clear to staff members, in writing, what they can expect from him: "Honesty. Consistency. A commitment to communication. Positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. Leadership through effective decision making and staff empowerment. Passion for the University of Oregon and the athletic department. A focus on what I believe is in the best interest of Oregon athletics."
And he told them what he expects from them: "Honesty. Teamwork. An open mind. Commitment. Professionalism."
He's been moved by what he's seen.
"This entire building is full of people who care," he said. "My prior life, people cared, but it was more about their bottom line, what's in it for them. ... Our coaches are just good people. Mike Bellotti, what a great guy he is; I've always had a lot of respect for him, but now I work around him, and he's a great team guy. He cares about everybody else.
"Ernie Kent goes around this building and writes notes and does all kinds of nice things for the rest of the people in this department. You wouldn't know that, unless you worked here."
Since Valentine's Day, Kilkenny said, he's spent three nights in San Diego, "and one was just to get some clothes. …