Canzano: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shoots back on basketball blockade of Portland State and University of Portland

Oregon Governor Kate Brown doubled down on her decision to shut out the men’s and women’s basketball teams at University of Portland and Portland State. She continues to refuse to grant either Division-I university the same exemption she gave to Oregon and Oregon State weeks ago.

Why?

A spokesperson for Gov. Brown’s office, said on Tuesday, “Here is where Governor Brown’s focus is: Getting kids back in schools who haven’t been in a classroom since last spring. Finding a way for families to safely visit the loved ones in long term care facilities they haven’t seen since early March. Making sure Oregonians who lost everything to wildfires have a warm place to call home before winter. Bringing case counts under control so that we can keep businesses open.”

All very important things. All deserving of focus and attention. Also, all emotionally loaded. It’s a smokescreen really. I also support kids being safely in schools and loved ones being welcome and safe in care facilities and I support wildfire recovery plans. Doing those things shouldn’t prohibit the Pilots and Vikings from being held to the same COVID-19 standards as the Ducks and Beavers.

A few thoughts:

♦ When Gov. Brown granted Oregon and OSU an exemption last month, I believe she believed she was clearing the way for the Pac-12 football programs to practice and eventually play. I’m beginning to think that her office didn’t consider that the Beavers and Ducks men’s and women’s basketball programs would seize the opportunity and start practicing under the blanket of that exemption. It’s possible our governor didn’t realize that her broad exemption technically extended to ALL intercollegiate athletics programs in Eugene and Corvallis. I also don’t blame those other programs for seeing that and slipping in under the football exemption.

♦ UP and PSU are practicing basketball. They’re running drills daily, shooting and performing “five on zero” work. It’s allowed. The exemption they’re seeking would allow them to escalate to full-contact practices. It seems to me that if the aim really is to keep people safe, the best way to do that is to grant the exemption and force UP and PSU to test its athletes daily like the two other Division I universities in our state.

♦ PSU has been quiet. The prevailing notion is that there’s some fear at Portland State that speaking out publicly against the governor’s stubborn position on this might cost the state-funded university some badly needed dollars. Stephen Percy, the PSU president, has been silent. Gagged? Or just strategically mum? Same to me. A question: Would our elected governor really get vindictive and pull state funding from PSU if it publicly cries foul here? If so, it will be noticed.

♦ The narrative on Gov. Kate Brown’s tenure is that she is only focused on what she perceives to help her politically and not what needs to be done to address an issue for everyone. I’ve watched this basketball debacle play out and I’m left thinking that the

Read more

Canzano: University of Portland basketball programs preparing to hurdle Gov. Kate Brown and move out of state

The University of Portland is exploring out-of-state options that would allow its men’s and women’s basketball programs the ability to hold practices and host games, The Oregonian/OregonLive has learned.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

Also, not shocked that the State of Oregon won’t recognize the role it played in sweeping a couple of Division 1 college basketball programs across state lines.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown refused to grant UP the same exception that she gave to both Oregon and Oregon State last month. The Pilots submitted protocols and procedures that mirrored those of the Pac-12 universities, but were denied twice. The governor’s office said it simply isn’t issuing any new exemptions and asked the programs to try again in six to 12 weeks.

Basically, the governor would like UP’s athletes to go away. And it turns out, they are listening to her.

Again, you can ice skate and go bowling in Oregon today. You can go to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. The governor issued exemptions to allow all of that. The Ducks and Beavers basketball programs can also hold full basketball practices today, too. But if UP — and Portland State — want to practice, even with stringent protocols and testing, they will have to drive into a neighboring state.

In fact, they’re apparently warming up the cars at UP.

Pilots athletic director Scott Leykam declined comment on Monday when I asked him if UP was planning to relocate the basketball programs for practices and games. Multiple sources, however, confirmed that the Pilots are exploring locations in Washington, Nevada and Idaho.

An employee at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver confirmed that someone acting on behalf of UP called on Friday and inquired about the ceiling height of the hotel’s ballroom. Also, if it would be OK with taking delivery of a hardwood basketball court.

Not a prank.

Just where we are today.

Sort of pathetic, isn’t it?

Turns out the ceiling height isn’t quite enough for basketball. But this is next-level absurdity, even for 2020. The right move is for Gov. Brown to announce that exemptions will not be selectively handed out and reserved only for her favorite programs.

If the aim of our state government is to keep students safe and limit the spread of the virus, chasing people across state lines doesn’t feel like the right tactic. Consistent and clear guidelines would be a good start. Daily testing, too. If UP can exactly copy the protocols approved at Oregon and OSU, doesn’t it work for everyone?

It’s beyond frustrating.

Leykam Tweeted last week in support of his athletes, asking Gov. Brown to treat UP’s athletes equally.

“They have prepared a lifetime for this moment,” Leykam’s tweet read. “We are willing to meet any and all protocols the state requests. Let us play.”

I keep thinking about the Pilots’ women’s basketball team. They were one of the great stories of March, winning the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas and earning the conference’s automatic berth to the

Read more

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.

Why?

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.

Why?

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

Read more

Canzano: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is officially adrift in college sports sea

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown must be drowning. There’s no other reasonable explanation for what’s happening when it comes to the events of the last few weeks involving college athletes in our state.

I can’t imagine it’s enjoyable to be lobbied on the COVID-19 front by an assortment of business groups, political entities, schools, unions and citizens. Gov. Brown has to be buried in a sea of requests to re-open, re-asses and provide fresh guidelines.

It’s the only possible explanation.

As it stands, there are 350 Division I colleges in America. Only two of them are prohibited by their respective state from being allowed to practice basketball. Any guess which two are at a staggering competitive disadvantage as the college basketball season approaches?

Answer: Portland State and University of Portland.

Officials at both universities did not respond to requests for comment. Why would they? Both receive state funding. They’re essentially gagged. But athletes, many of which grew up in this state, are now mobilizing. I won’t be surprised when they organize, lawyer-up and file a suit against our state that might be avoided with 90 seconds of sensical thought today.

Oregon and Oregon State men’s and women’s basketball programs were cleared for full-contact practices weeks ago. The Ducks and Beavers slid in under the exemption that Gov. Brown issued that was mostly intended to clear both university football programs for full-contact practices.

The Pac-12 provided operating procedures that included safe protocols for rapid-result testing and quarantine guidelines. Gov. Brown’s office along with the Oregon Health Authority granted an exemption. Portland State and UP saw that, copied the same guidelines, mirroring the request, and got told, “Go fish.”

I believed Gov. Brown over the summer when she announced she wouldn’t place our state’s athletes at a competitive disadvantage. But here they are. I’m left wondering if she’s simply drowning in bureaucratic requests, wildfire fallout, and protest hell, unable to see that she’s crushing the smaller-profile universities in our state. That’s not to mention the photo ops and appearances. I can’t imagine it’s been a fun six months for her. But someone needs to throw the governor a floatation device, get her a towel and ask her to spend a minute or two considering the inequity she’s caused.

The Pilots and Vikings need a fair shake. They need their request for exemption reconsidered. And if that request is not approved, they need to be told exactly what they need to do to be cleared like the Ducks and Beavers to practice.

College sports programs in other states have encountered strict county guidelines that required them to relocate practices. San Jose State, for example, was prohibited by Santa Clara County from starting full-contact football activities. It moved fall-camp practices to Humboldt County. But that was a county speed bump, not a state roadblock.

UP and PSU are prohibited from practicing anywhere in our state. That includes Benton or Lane County, where Oregon and OSU currently hold full-contact practices on a daily basis. They also

Read more
  • Partner links