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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oregon University Contracts With Sports Marketers: A Trade Secret?

Oregon and Oregon State's multimillion-dollar sports marketing contracts are trade secrets and can be hidden from public view, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said this week.

In a nine-page opinion released late Monday, Myers' office upheld both universities' contention that they could keep the amounts of their sports broadcast and marketing rights contracts confidential under the state public records law. The confidentiality helps them maintain a business advantage over marketing contractors and other schools, the opinion said.

"The state has an economic interest in maximizing payments made to its universities pursuant to sports marketing contracts," Deputy Attorney General Peter Shepherd wrote. "In sum, would-be contractors who know exactly what the UO or OSU agreed to accept in the past might offer less than they otherwise would have offered."

Shepherd said that because private marketing firms do business with scores of other universities, "the UO's negotiators will be at a disadvantage if they cannot offer would-be contractors protection for 'trade secrets.' "

Earlier this month, The Oregonian petitioned Myers after both schools released past and present sports media marketing contracts but blacked out the guaranteed annual amounts each receives, along with other financial benefits. Each cited an exemption under the Oregon Public Records Law that keeps trade secrets confidential.

"The Oregonian's role is to get as much information as possible in front of the public," said Sandy Rowe, editor of The Oregonian. "The university's refusal to release the information is surprising and disheartening since it has selectively released some information, and other colleges seem willing to share this information with the public."

Arizona, Arizona State, Washington, Washington State and California released similar contracts to The Oregonian without blacking out their amounts. Many other college's sports marketing contracts have been reported publicly.

More here.

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