Oregon acted too harshly in seasonlong suspension of LeGarrette Blount
Ducks made decision you might expect from first-year coach, AD and school president.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Somebody give me a hand, my head's spinning. One night into the college football season, and everything got turned upside down.
Nothing that happened in the Oregon-Boise State game, the immediate aftermath or a day later, made any sense. It's all so college football, a non sequitur waiting to happen.
Oregon, starting the season with seven straight three-and-outs? The Ducks don't go seven plays without a first down.
Mike Bellotti, now the athletic director, patrolling the sideline? Chip Kelly, the Oregon coach, said this week Bellotti never gave him any in-game counsel, but shouldn't Bellotti have known his presence would create a bad backdrop for a first-game coach, especially one struggling like Kelly was?
A Boise State player inciting LeGarrette Blount after the game, and not getting a week's suspension? Blount, going postal until they could lasso him into the locker room, and then coming out to talk to the media about it for fully 10 minutes? Boise State, showing the whole messy thing repeatedly on its video board?
Given a day to show some sanity, Oregon then whiffed just as badly.
My initial reaction was, Blount would get a three-game suspension. Half the season would have been understandable. To shove him out the door and say you'll never play here again was excessive.
Understand, what Blount did, punching Byron Hout, was abhorrent. The scene was ugly and potentially explosive. But the Ducks then made the kind of decision you make when you've got a first-year coach, a first-year athletic director and a president, Richard Lariviere, who's been on the job for two months.
Of course, we want our athletes to be incarnations of Chip Hilton, the fictitious hero of our adolescence. Almost every major-college program imports some players that you wouldn't necessarily invite for Sunday dinner, but as long as the beer's cold at the tailgate and we can brag around the office, we're OK with it.
Then when they act out, it's time to get outraged.
The night made a mockery of the silly gesture of a mass pregame handshake, inspired by the American Football Coaches Assn. Fellas, sportsmanship has to come from the heart, not from some initiative generated by a bunch of good old boys concerned that the game doesn't look the same as it did in the 1950s.
So the Oregon administration, even as it allows Blount to stay on scholarship and around the program, became all pious. Funny, I don't remember quite the outcry in 2004 when Bellotti accepted transfer Richie Incognito into the program after Nebraska kicked him off for what it called repeated violations of team rules, including a misdemeanor assault conviction.
And it was OK a year earlier for the Ducks to lobby a judge for a quicker court resolution so they could enroll Rodney Woods, who served almost a year's jail time for an assault at a party in high school where a teenager died in a separate beating.
But nobody could see any of that stuff. It was all distant, made hazy by court filings and Oregon's pleas for mitigation. Blount's terrible night was so public — coming after the best matchup on the first night of the season, played endlessly by ESPN, discussed on Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption.
The perfect postscript to the incident came at the Duck Store by Oregon's athletic headquarters, where they sold Blount replica No. 9 jerseys. You know, the ones that make money for the school, none of which goes to the players.
As it happens, the only youth size available leading up to the game was Blount's. And there was a policy that if they're washed or worn, they can't be returned.
Well, a clerk told The Eugene Register-Guard they waived that policy. So everybody can take them back and wash their hands entirely of Blount.
The Oregon administration beat them to it.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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