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Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Are stars aligned to kill history?

Seattle Times colleges reporter

News item: Oregon agrees to give outgoing athletic director Bill Moos $1.825 million over 10 years, plus interest, to forgo the final 15 months of his contract.

News item: McArthur Court turns 80.

News item: Aaron Brooks hits another winning shot, and the Ducks bring down a second top-10 team in eight days, allowing Oregon to crash that list.

Hmm. Are circumstances aligning that would finally push Oregon toward construction of a new arena to replace the cozy but creaking Mac Court?

Maybe.

"It's not a very usable building," said Ducks coach Ernie Kent. "It's aging by the day. At some point in time, it's going to have to be done."

Three years ago, when players like Bryce Taylor and Malik Hairston were being recruited, it was partly on the suggestion they'd be in a new arena by now, a mega-playpen that was estimated at $160 million, far in excess of other comparable new gyms.

That got tabled for its cost, the Ducks hit a competitive dead spot, and the arena went to the back burner. Then Moos' departure was announced, and the widespread assumption — because of public differences between Moos and uber-donor Phil Knight — is that Knight now is more willing to unpeel about $100 million from a wad of bills in his Nike warmups.

And he might. But there could be more to it. Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer hinted recently the $160 million figure is too much — three years later — while Knight is known to be cool to any edifice less than a lasting monument to Nike, himself and the wonderfulness of Oregon.

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Meanwhile, the academicians are increasingly being heard in Eugene. Two former faculty senate presidents just co-authored an op-ed piece in The Register-Guard newspaper, complaining that athletic spending is out of control. Frohnmayer crafted a response Wednesday, promising to keep the reins on it.

At issue is the most endearing, if outdated, college basketball venue west of Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse, one that hosted its first game Jan. 14, 1927, eight months ahead of Babe Ruth's 60th home run.

It has hosted untold rich moments, none bigger than the 1974 day when Oregon beat top-ranked UCLA to hand John Wooden's Bruins a second defeat atop the one Oregon State administered less than 24 hours earlier.

Oregon center Gerald Willett, who famously battled Bill Walton that day and found himself on the cover of the next week's Sports Illustrated, summed up the dilemma the other day to the Times:

"You've got to have a new arena sometime, so you might as well do it," he said. "When (ex-coach) Jerry Green was here, I was kind of fighting it. I realized it was going to have to happen.

"I just know they're not going to be able to replace not just the history, but the emotion."

Cops and 'Cats

There aren't a lot of dull moments at the McKale Center in Tucson, but it was unexpectedly lively for league doormat Oregon State's arrival last Thursday.

First, there was 19-year-old fan Avinash Murthy, who, apparently as a form of protest against a lack of crowd involvement, decided to stand the entire game against the wishes of those seated behind him, and was escorted out in handcuffs by university police.

Suzy Mason, an assistant athletic director, said Murthy claimed to be doing it to bother those around him, and added, "If one individual is going to be making a sideshow, we're going to address that."

About 192 readers weighed in on the ejection to the Arizona Daily Star, split about evenly. Not that Arizona basketball is a big deal in Tucson, but the newspaper played the story on Page A1.

Murthy said he missed the old, more frenzied days of McKale, adding, "You don't deserve to be at the game if you don't have enough desire and energy to stand up for five to 10 minutes."

About the time that settled down, there was an altercation between fans and OSU forward Kyle Jeffers as he exited a hallway after Arizona's victory, causing security to detain him. Beavers coach Jay John downplayed the incident.

And What's More ...

• It could get worse before it gets better for Arizona (13-3 overall, 4-2 Pac-10), loser of two of its last three. Among the next four games are USC, UCLA and No. 4 North Carolina, while backup big man Bret Brielmayer is out another two to five weeks with a knee problem and reserve guard Nic Wise is sidelined temporarily by what is thought to be grade problems.

• OSU's John, on having added redshirting center C.J. Giles, the troubled former Rainier Beach High standout: "Having C.J. around has been a giant boost of energy. No one's contacted me with any kind of negative feedback. It's all been positive."

• UCLA and Washington State get most of the notice for their defenses, but it's USC with a startling .352 field-goal percentage allowed, third in the nation and the only Pac-10 school in the top 50.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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