So, what else can go wrong at Oregon?
Ducks can't seem to find a basketball coach, have seen several football players get into legal trouble and suffered through the ugly departure of AD Mike Bellotti.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
One of these days, Oregon's search for a new basketball coach might turn up a signee with some sizzle, somebody like Florida's Billy Donovan or Missouri's Mike Anderson.
Or the Ducks might announce the new guy is from Jackrabbit JC in Tumbleweed, Texas, and hope that by now, nobody is believing what they do anyway.
Have a year, Oregon.
I'd always held to the notion that, in the category of Pac-10 schools over a year's time generating off-field headlines that leave us slack-jawed and stupefied, Washington retired the trophy in 2003.
In a mere eight months that year, the Huskies regaled us with Rick Neuheisel's no-I-didn't-yes-I-did affair with the San Francisco 49ers; his firing for participating in NCAA basketball pools; revelations of the infamous "drug doctor" dealing pills like Reese's Pieces; and the unveiling of the Jim Owens statue off Montlake, bringing cries of insensitivity from prominent African-American leaders.
But Oregon-Washington is a rivalry, and the Ducks have decided not to go down quietly. Their year, starting in March 2009, is a bit more nuanced but has the same sort of Keystone Kops quality.
For a while now, Pat Kilkenny, their former athletic director, has been combing the country looking for a basketball coach. If you think Oregon fans are getting antsy with Kilkenny, imagine how his AD colleagues around the country feel about him.
Just call him "Bump." His advances have ratcheted up new deals for everybody from Jamie Dixon of Pitt to Mark Turgeon of Texas A&M to Brad Stevens of Butler and who knows who else?
In the bigger picture, it's apparent that 13 months ago, when Mike Bellotti surrendered his coaching hat to successor-in-waiting Chip Kelly and moved into the athletic director's chair, he had to be nudged there. Kilkenny was ready to be done with his short tenure as AD, and people were concerned Kelly would take his splashy playbook to another job.
Before Kelly could unspool those schemes that dazzled defenses all the way to a Rose Bowl in his first season, Sept. 3 happened. That was the night LeGarrette Blount went Floyd Mayweather at Boise State, flinging a postgame jab at the jaw of a Broncos player and getting suspended for the season.
Until a month later, when Kelly un-suspended him.
Anyway, the Ducks lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, and then proceeded to make "Animal House" look like it was based on life at Oxford.
There were a couple of brawls and assaults, a DUI offense, running back LaMichael James' guilty plea to a misdemeanor physical harassment charge against a female, and the capper, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli copping to a reduced charge of misdemeanor second-degree burglary, not the kind of thing that moves a candidate up Heisman watch lists. Masoli is suspended for the 2010 season.
The basketball team didn't do anything to steal the spotlight, and privately, coach Ernie Kent was told in late February he'd be fired (you know, to help speed the search for his successor).
In mid-March came the news that Bellotti was stepping down to go to ESPN, with a golden parachute of $2.3 million from the Ducks. That invited inquiries from the state Board of Higher Education and the Justice Department.
Naturally, Bellotti's contract became the issue. Contract? Whoops, he had no contract, nothing in writing. This would have been known earlier, but Melinda Grier, UO general counsel famous for staving off public-records requests, had stonewalled three such attempts from the Eugene Register-Guard months before. (If Grier had suited up on Jan. 1 against Ohio State, the Buckeyes never would have crossed midfield.)
The whole thing came full circle at an edgy news conference recently featuring Bellotti and university president Richard Lariviere, who took over last summer. Lariviere made it clear he had eased Bellotti out and said he was uncomfortable with some of Oregon's business practices of the past.
That implicated Kilkenny — the very guy at that moment trying to chase down Lariviere's next basketball coach.
What must the lords at Nike be thinking? Probably not a slogan for Oregon's misbegotten sporting year: Just blew it.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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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