Whether they realize it or not, the people of Eugene, Ore., have already had a taste of Bill Moos’ business acumen.
Today, Moos is the new athletic director at the University of Oregon. But in the late ‘70s as a young restaurateur, he and his partners opened a chuck wagon in Eugene and dubbed it the Oregon Electric Station. No doubt every soul on the UO selection committee has supped there at least once.
“I told them when I was going through my interview that I hoped it was no indication of my intelligence,” Moos said. “After we designed and built it and I ran it for a year, I got out of it.
“Now it’s worth millions.”
Of course, the same is true of the business he now heads. Things are really cooking these days in Oregon athletics.
The football team found its way to the Rose Bowl in January after a 37-year absence, and soon thereafter the men’s basketball team reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 34 years. Heck, Sports Illustrated even dispatched a hireling to Eugene recently to bat out a couple of pages on spring football.
Not spring ball at Nebraska or Penn State. Oregon.
Into this King Koil of clover falls Bill Moos, direct from five years as athletic director at the University of Montana but better known hereabouts for his stint as Washington State’s rainmaker for athletic funding and - above all - the ultimate Cougar raconteur.
He came by the distinction honestly, due to his way with an anecdote and his having been an all-conference tackle for Jim Sweeney, a storyteller’s motherlode. He grew up in the fields around Edwall; he could talk winter wheat with the farmers who slapped Cougar stickers on their combines.
That flair and his updated resume seemed to make him a natural for the A.D. job at WSU when it opened up last year, but for one thing.
The school hired someone else.
Since Rick Dickson has been nothing short of a smash in his 13 months on the job, there has been no fallout. Yet with another Pacific-10 Conference school settling on Moos, it’s only natural the subject come up.
Fact is, when Moos went to Montana in 1990, he was following a pretty standard blueprint. He had served in WSU’s athletic administration for eight years under three different bosses and left to prove he could run his own store. Jim Livengood had gone the same route, only through Southern Illinois.
So when Moos was passed over by his alma mater “obviously I was hurt and frustrated,” he admitted.
“But I’ve got wonderful memories of WSU. My entire undergraduate experience was terrific, and Sam Jankovich and Jim took a chance on me when I didn’t know which end was up. The school gave me my start in this business - and the people at WSU helped me get the job at Montana.
“When the process (last year) took place, president (Sam) Smith picked his guy and Rick’s doing a fine job. My feeling was, once it was over I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time licking my wounds.”
There would be other jobs. That the one he found happened to be in the same conference doesn’t necessarily qualify as irony in Moos’ eyes.
“I really had the same thing to offer to WSU as I had to offer to Oregon,” he said. “Some people said I was too close to the situation at Washington State and maybe that’s true, but I’d hate to think that.”
You’d hate to think WSU did Moos a favor, but it did. He traded up. Not that the Ducks are necessarily superior athletically - call that a wash, for now - but in the matter of facilities and demographics, Moos has advantages he wouldn’t have had in Pullman.
“This is one of the premier programs in the Pac-10 at this point,” Moos said. “It’s healthy, it’s solvent, it has tremendous administration support and a good-sized community that can support it. The facilities are great. And they’ve seen success, they’ve smelled it. It’s not a matter of taking it to the next level - Oregon is at that level. The challenge is finding the ways and means to stay there, to really capture the state of Oregon.”
It’s not unlike the situation Moos encountered at Montana - relative to the two schools’ disparate stations. The Grizzlies won championships in the major sports before Moos and continued to win after. Where Moos made his mark was in academic enhancement, in gender-equity issues, in facilities upgrades - and fund-raising. Private and corporate gifts were increased 300 percent during his tenure.
But then, it’s easier to ask if your football and basketball teams are winning.
“I kind of like that the expectations are there, because there’s commitment with that,” Moos said. “I feel that attitude here and you read about it in that SI article. They aren’t just satisfied with having gone to the Rose Bowl - they want to go back and win it. Something like that is easier to achieve the next time around.”
Bottom line, though, it’ll be strange to think of Bill Moos overhauling his wardrobe in lemon and emerald.
“Bobby Knight isn’t identified with anything but Indiana basketball, but he played at Ohio State,” Moos said. “Rich Brooks was a diehard (Oregon State) Beaver who coached at Oregon for 18 years. John McKay and John Robinson are synonymous with USC, but they coached and played at Oregon.
“You don’t always have to go home.”
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review