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Originally published Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 4:20 PM

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Pac-10 commissioner sent "suggestion" to UW president on dealing with AD Scott Woodward's comments about Oregon

After Washington athletic director Scott Woodward was critical of the University of Oregon in November, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott sent a note to interim UW president Phyllis Wise advising Wise how to handle the incident.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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When Larry Scott took over as Pac-10 commissioner in the summer of 2009, he promised to install an aggressive brand of leadership.

Last November, when Washington athletic director Scott Woodward found himself embroiled in controversy for questioning Oregon's academic standing, that appeared to have been on display.

On the Monday following the Nov. 6 game, Scott sent to UW interim president Phyllis Wise what was referred to as "our suggestion" of a one-paragraph statement UW could release, apologizing for the incident. Woodward had released his own statement earlier in the day, apologizing.

The following day, Wise released a letter with a similar tone, though longer and with different wording in most sections, asking Woodward to personally apologize to Oregon officials for the comments.

Scott's letter to Wise surfaced through a public-records request by The Seattle Times and provided some insight into how the school handled the controversy.

The incident began when Woodward made comments on UW's pregame radio show, which he reiterated in an interview later that day with The Times, saying it was "embarrassing" the level to which public funding for education in the state had slipped and calling Oregon a "once-great academic university."

Wise, in written comments to The Times this week, said she had already decided to release a statement asking Woodward to apologize further before hearing from Scott. "I had composed a letter to Scott Woodward before communicating with Larry Scott," Wise wrote. "Thus the commissioner had no influence on that letter."

Wise, on Tuesday afternoon following the game, released a letter she had sent to Woodward admonishing him for an "uncharacteristic lack of judgment" and asking that he personally apologize to Oregon President Richard Lariviere. Scott's letter to Wise had not sought a personal Woodward apology.

One sentence in Scott's letter is almost identical to what Wise released, stating that Wise had called Lariviere and "reinforced that these comments do not reflect the views of our administration."

In a statement from a conference spokesman, Scott said that he "does speak to the members of the CEO Group with some consistency. He has never shared the details of those conversations publicly, but in this particular case he agreed with the way President Wise handled the situation."

In an e-mail to two members of her administration, Wise wrote, "I wonder whether Larry would have pushed (former UW President) Mark (Emmert) as hard as he pushed me," an apparent reference to Scott's requesting that UW make a written statement of apology for Woodward's comments. Emmert left to become head of the NCAA in the fall of 2010 and UW is in the process of hiring a permanent president.

Wise also wrote that she wondered "whether I could have done anything differently to avoid this whole exchange" and if UW could have done anything to "get ahead of this" and could "have avoided looking reactive."

In her comments to The Times, Wise said, "I believe we handled this situation in a way that was appropriate. This was my first exchange with the commissioner and I am not familiar with other similar situations with other Pac-10 universities. Therefore, I do not know whether this was unusual. I cannot speculate about how the commissioner might have handled the situation if Mark Emmert were still here. It might have been different since he had known Mark for a longer period of time."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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