Canzano: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown absent and out to lunch on college basketball stance

Turns out if that if the Portland State and University of Portland men’s and women’s basketball teams wanted to go bowling or ice skating, they could.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown must enjoy those activities. She cleared the way for them with an Executive Order. Now, she needs to get out of the way of the University of Portland and Portland State men’s and women’s basketball teams. They remain the only two out of the 350 Division I basketball programs in the country still not cleared to practice.


That’s the question. It’s a simple one. Gov. Brown hasn’t answered it. In fact, she hasn’t talked directly with anyone involved at either institution. Instead, she’s hid behind her spokespeople like an empty suit in charge of an underperforming office.

The state employment office is a mess. DMV is a disaster. Those are symptoms, folks. This college basketball inequity is, too. Oregon is getting some embarrassing leadership and that’s on Gov. Brown.

A pandemic and wildfire recovery are absolutely much bigger things than college sports. Save the sanctimonious tweets. Lots of things are bigger than sports. While Gov. Brown was clearing recreational bowlers and ice skaters for their return, maybe she should have picked up the phone and talked with UP or PSU.

I doubt she cares about them. Or knows much, either.

PSU and UP compete in the same NCAA classification as Oregon and Oregon State. They’re vying for the same NCAA Tournament shares. Unlike, football and some other sports, they’re equals in the eyes of the NCAA. I’ve asked the governor’s office if she understands that. I’m not being trite here. I really want to know. Because the governor also included college basketball as a fall sport in her initial COVID-19 news conference. It was dismissed as an oversight, but I’m not so sure now.

The last couple of winters our governor showed up at Oregon Ducks women’s basketball games. She was quick to seize the photo ops with Sabrina Ionescu and was in a courtside seat in Corvallis when the Ducks and Beavers played last February. Those were high-visibility moments for an elected official. But she’s out to lunch when it comes to the state’s lower profile college programs, ones that deserve much better than being blown off.


A simple question.

Why hasn’t Gov. Brown granted an exemption to the Pilots and Vikings for full-contact practices? Why are they different in her eyes than Oregon and OSU? Why isn’t UP and PSU’s plan to perform daily rapid-result testing worthy of the same exception she recently approved for the Ducks and Beavers?

Why are those such difficult questions to answer?

A spokesperson for the governor sent me a 350-word response to my Thursday column. It amounted to a bowl of word salad. Part of it read: “With case counts on the rise across Oregon, our office has paused offering exemptions to additional indoor collegiate contact sports activities at this time.”

The focus is on getting our state’s K-12 kids back in schools. That’s wonderful. But why does that mean PSU and UP can’t follow careful protocols and begin to practice?

It’s maddening stuff. From the beginning of the pandemic, the lack of consistency in application of rules has parents, athletes and administrators all frustrated. Her guidance amounts to a fog. It’s created societal gridlock. I asked University of Portland athletic director Scott Leykam on Thursday if he would give up. I’ve wondered if that’s the governor’s strategy.

“I owe it to my kids to keep fighting for them,” Leykam said. “I have not received an explanation that I can understand yet.”

Players will transfer. Recruits will make other plans. Oregon and OSU will have to travel outside our state and pay for games instead of playing UP and PSU in the preseason. Those damages could be avoided with a simple exemption for the last two college basketball programs in America waiting to get back on the court.

The last two.

Think about that.

That part has me “shook” — as the kids say.

350 universities are practicing safely and using strict testing protocols. Only two are left out. Not because because they’re unwilling to spend the money on daily testing. Rather, because the Governor drew the line at their feet.

Small colleges all over are state have to wonder where they stand, too. They won’t likely get an answer from Salem, so I’ll help out: You’re behind the bowling alleys and ice skating rinks, too.


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