Player arrests cast negative light on Oregon, but Kelly not to blame
Just a few months ago, Oregon coach
It began in late January when a fraternity member accused star quarterback
The latest chapter in this soap opera unfolded last weekend, when, at 2:19 a.m. Saturday, less than 24 hours after Kelly held a press conference addressing his players' spat of misbehavior, police cited linebacker
The weekend's events, on top of all those incidents before them, prompted a slew of predictable,
I seriously doubt that.
College athletes get into trouble. It's unfortunate, but true. Oregon has experienced an unusually high amount of incidents in a short amount of time, but it's hardly unique.
According to the
My guess is that Kelly is facing more scrutiny than some of his peers simply because he's still fairly new to the job. Despite a triumphant first season that earned him national coach of the year nominations, his leadership came into question from the moment
Rrrright. You mean to tell me that when James allegedly confronted his girlfriend, he was thinking to himself, "Hey, if I get in trouble, at least Coach will reinstate me?"
There are no shortage of things for which you can blame the coach -- from a bad loss to poor recruiting to picking the wrong starting quarterback to burning his last timeout -- but I've long been skittish about these unfounded assumptions that a coach's leadership is somehow to blame when his linebacker stupidly gets behind the wheel after a night of drinking. There's no coach in the country who doesn't give his team the requisite lectures on responsibility and accountability, yet guys still inevitably find trouble. Is that the fault of the coach, or an unfortunate reality of the college environment?
There are two legitimate criticisms one might direct toward a coach when it comes to player misbehavior. One is whether a coach is recruiting "bad seeds," whether, in the zeal to win games, he is overlooking character flaws when bringing in potential stars. It's a fair point, but in most cases there are only a handful of people who know a particular 19-year-old well enough to say whether he's a good guy who made one bad decision or an all-together bad dude. Generally speaking, those people don't write blogs or newspaper columns.
Secondly, there are always questions surrounding a coach's response to misdeeds. It's no secret that many apply double standards based on the stature of the player.
On Monday, Kelly suspended Alonso -- a two-year backup -- for the 2010 season, presumably to send a "message" that he's laying down the law. That's a far harsher sentence than the typical DUI case. As you may recall, Meyer suspended star defensive end
Critics invariably wring their hands over these stories, too. While I would never, ever condone someone driving while impaired -- or committing any other similarly dangerous crime -- I can't bring myself to get indignant when a coach gives an offending player the star treatment. Why? Because whatever outrage fans or media may feign about a player bringing shame to his university, they still care far more that their coaches win, or else.
Take the case of LSU's
Meanwhile, Miami -- the original "Thug U" -- has cleaned itself up to the point where it's had just one player arrest in three years under coach
Clearly, this hasn't been the most pleasant few weeks for Kelly. His star running back spent two nights in jail last week and his eligibility may be in limbo since he currently isn't
But the question of whether Kelly has "lost control of his program," or whether this was simply an unfortunate cluster of episodes, won't likely be answered until the fall. I wouldn't go drawing conclusions from one troubled malcontent's Facebook page. (Holland, a USC transfer, had well-documented academic and attitude issues during his short time in Eugene.)
The Ducks, expected to return 17 starters from last year's 10-3 team (one of them being James, whose status is obviously up in the air), sit on the short list of potential BCS contenders. Should they fulfill those expectations, these headlines of the past few weeks will become a distant memory. Should they tank, Kelly will feel the brunt of it, and many may rightly wonder whether recent events paved the way for Oregon's downturn.
The type of headlines coming out of Eugene these days are unfortunate, yet sadly a reality of big-time college football today. We read them all the time, involving players all around the country; we're just not used to reading them about Oregon, a relatively new player on the national scene.
There's no evidence to suggest Kelly's program is any more "out of control" than Florida, Alabama, Ohio State or Penn State. The only difference is Oregon's coach doesn't hold a national title ring.