Retirement not FAR off for UO academic-athletic liaison

Jim O'Fallon
Jim O'Fallon

Jim O’Fallon, a University of Oregon professor emeritus of law, has been UO student-athletes' tenacious advocate for 25 years.

As the Faculty Athletic Representative, or FAR, he serves as a liaison between athletics and academics, represents the UO in PAC-12 Conference and NCAA issues, and works to ensure that the 500 students-athletes on campus balance their scholarly pursuits with their athletic endeavors. 

But O’Fallon is now ready to hang up his FAR whistle and rulebook.

President Michael Gottfredson has announced that O’Fallon is retiring as the university's FAR at the end of next academic year. The president praised O’Fallon’s unwavering advocacy for academic integrity.

“As the FAR he has provided a strong link between academics and athletics, working to ensure we have the right systems in place to ensure compliance with rules and responsibilities at every level,” President Gottfredson said. “He provided critical guidance and leadership during the NCAA investigation at the UO that was resolved last year, and is greatly admired and respected among his peers nationally.”

Athletic Director Rob Mullens called O’Fallon a pillar of strength for the institution.  Mullens said he is deeply appreciative of O’Fallon’s expertise and knowledge that helped the university through more than two decades of transition.

“The landscape of NCAA athletics as well as the success and profile of UO athletics has changed significantly,” Mullens said. “Jim’s leadership has been instrumental in allowing Oregon athletics to move forward to where we are today.”

The responsibility of a FAR can be challenging, seeking to make sure nothing upsets the integrity of the academic process. But O’Fallon said his work has always been interesting. He said he has never seen an issue at the UO of someone “trying to get away with something.”

“I think, unfortunately, some sports media too easily dismiss that we care about the academic side of these young folks,” O’Fallon said. “We have student-athletes here, and that is our objective, to advance their lives intellectually and physically.”

Over the many years, he said he’s learned that the UO coaches and athletic staff have a great concern for students. “They really buy into the idea that student-athletes need to be students,” he said.

O’Fallon is a national leader among faculty athletic representatives. He is the most senior member of the PAC-12 FAR committee and is among the longest-serving nationally. Many call him the “Dean of FARs” and credit him with improving athletic compliance on a national scale.

Shep Cooper, the Director of the NCAA Division 1 Committee on Infractions that O’Fallon has served on since 2009, said O’Fallon has been thorough and diligent in representing the UO.

“Jim’s insight and many years of experience in collegiate athletics are invaluable assets to this committee and contributed significantly to the development of new enforcement policies and procedures, in addition to the establishment of important case guidance that will assist the NCAA's infractions process for years to come,” Cooper said.

The commissioner of the PAC-12, Larry Scott, also praised O’Fallon’s depth of knowledge.

“His passion for college sports and the opportunities it provides to student-athletes has been tremendous,” Scott said. “We are pleased he will continue to serve through the 2014-15 academic year but we know it will be difficult to replace his experience and knowledge base as he retires from the position.”

President Gottfredson has appointed a committee to begin the search for O’Fallon’s replacement. The committee is chaired by Andrew Karduna, associate professor of human physiology and director of graduate studies.

- by Jennifer Winters, UO Office of Public Affairs Communication