August 10, 2001 11:00 pm

The University of Oregon has decided that it will maintain its policy for providing access to broadcast media for coverage of UO athletic events. Bill Moos, the universitys athletic director, announced the decision Wednesday, neglecting, of course, to mention that the proposal the university was considering would have infringed upon First Amendment rights. That proposed policy would have restricted the length of game highlights that could be shown by broadcast media.

The university of Oregon shouldnt be quite so smug about its decision. The fact that the university one that prides itself on a nationally-ranked journalism program and has been known over the years to encourage free expression even considered such a restrictive policy is cause for embarrassment. University officials claimed the proposal was being considered to protect broadcast rights holders ESPN and Eugenes ABC affiliate, KEZI-TV.

We are very pleased with the input and cooperation we received from media throughout the state in evaluating our current media policy, Moos said. Clearly, the media support Oregon athletics and want to continue to bring coverage of events to the Oregon public. Certainly, there were some unintended consequences in changes we considered as we looked to protect agreements with our rights holders. But we listened to the concerns broadcasters brought to us and will continue a policy that is in the best interest of all parties involved.

Oregon, which has been picked to win the Pac-10 this year and will be highly ranked nationally when The Associated Press Top 25 is announced Sunday, did itself and Quacker Backers everywhere a disservice by even considering such a self-centered proposal. The Ducks didnt even beat their No. 1 rival on the gridiron last season, yet the proposal smacked of laying the groundwork for positioning themselves for the highest broadcast bidders in the years to come. Thats self-centered and an embarrassment to Duck fans, not to mention just plain wrong.

The Ducks may or may not be a national powerhouse in the making. Regardless, the school cant get to a point that it puts its football team on a pedestal above everything else, including fans and the right to show game highlights.

Oregon and its nemesis, Oregon State, need to show they can win and make money for the program and the school by proving that they can do the right thing on and off the field, that they can follow the rules and avoid the egos that more often than not come with university football factories.

The UO athletic program came awfully close to shattering its fan and media base. That was not a wise move for a program that wants to show that it is a class act.

The Ducks made the only decision about their media policy that they could have and not lose the base that they depend on. Thank goodness Duck fans wont have to hide their heads or their duck calls in shame because of school policy.