Success Meets Scandal at Oregon
Once a school turns things around on the field, major problems off the field are sure to follow. That's been the case for many of college football's recent powerhouse programs since the 1980s and it holds true today.
Just ask Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State and Washington, along with USC, Louisiana State, Penn State, Alabama and Florida. They have all experienced college football's ugly tradeoff when winning and character issues clash.
The latest program to go through this process has been the Oregon Ducks, which finished 10-3 last season and reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995.
Since Ohio State handed Oregon a 26-17 defeat on New Year's Day, coach Chip Kelly has had to deal with one negative incident after another with the Ducks. Six players have been forced to leave the team with the latest being wide receiver Jamere Holland (pictured), who was dismissed Sunday for "violating team rules" when he included critical posts about race and Oregon's football program on his own Facebook prolife page.
"We're always going to do things the right way, and if a player doesn't live up to the standards we have for the football program, then they're not going to be here," Kelly told reporters last Friday afternoon in Eugene, Ore. "But I'm also not going to follow our kids around every Friday or Saturday night so I can see what happened to them."
In a perfect college football world, Kelly's words should be enough. But unfortunately, they are not. A head coach's desire to win is usually heard a lot louder than his willingness to recruit responsible student athletes.
That's the only way to explain how less than 24 hours after Kelly's "I'm a tough guy" speech, Oregon's Kiko Alonso was arrested on DUI charges early Saturday morning.
Kelly did not waste any time with a decision on Alonso, who played in 12 games as a backup linebacker last season. On Monday, Kelly suspended the third-year sophomore for the 2010 season.
For Holland, who was academically ineligible for the Rose Bowl, his Oregon career ended after he criticized the Ducks' program on Facebook following Alonso's arrest.
Holland's first post read: "How you [expletive] kick kinki (sic) off the team on some weak [expletive]....he slipped up but ive been sippn up, and I'm still here, that [expletive]....could damage for the ducks, that [expletive] is weak, weak [expletive], quote me."
Holland's second post, which was written after people responded to his first note, read: "chillin thinking of another status to [expletive] with the readers heads, I wish I could block whites as friends and only have blacks LOL, cause apparently I'm misunderstood."
The thing that's so scary about Alonso and Holland, is that both athletes should have known better. Their incidents both happened one week after Oregon running back LaMichael James was arrested on domestic violence charges and less than one month since three teammates were disciplined for their involvement in two separate fights.
And let's not forget, Alonso and Holland took action AFTER Kelly's "I'm a tough guy" speech.
"Whether you have a spotlight on you or whether you have a flashlight on you, if you're doing things the right way, then you've got nothing to worry about," Kelly said about keeping his players out of trouble.
It's safe to assume that the Ducks have policies against drinking and driving along with controversial personal statements made over the Internet, but somehow, Alonso and Holland did not feel the need to follow them.
Some believe that it's this type of above-the-law mentality that gives winning football programs an edge.
Just look at Florida, which has won multiple national championships under Urban Meyer but has had an eye-opening 27 players arrested since 2005, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
It's gotten to the point that the Gators can have a player [freshman defensive tackle Gary Brown] get arrested for misdemeanor battery and not have an eyebrow raised.
That's what happened last week with Brown, who was dismissed for breaking team rules after he allegedly slapped a woman and scratched another at an off-campus party. That would be big news for most programs, but not at Florida where off-the-field incidents seem to be accepted as part of the process.
It will be interesting to see how Kelly responds to Oregon's discipline woes. If Kelly follows the lead of other "winning-on-the-edge" coaches, he will handle each case according to the players' worth within the program.
If it's a player like Brown (considered a disappointment by the Gators after being a big-name recruit in 2009), cutting ties is the preferred way to go. If it's a player like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw, a promising junior linebacker, a second-chance is normally the choice.
Upshaw did not miss a game after he was ordered to take part in an anger management program for domestic battery, which happened days before the start of the 2009 season.
Kelly already has a reputation for changing his mind. He suspended running back LeGarrette Blount for the entire season after the senior landed a postgame punch against Boise State. A few weeks later, however, Kelly lifted the suspension and Blount was made eligible for the final weeks of the season.
It's this type of wavering that leads to a lack of discipline within a program and only time will tell if Kelly can fix the off-the-field problems and still win with the Ducks.