Around the Quack: Assessing the recent Oregon legal troubles

It's been a busy last few weeks for Oregon football, and not in a good way. With multiple arrests and dismissals, Chip Kelly and his players have been in the spotlight. Last week, Kelly dismissed team co-MVP Jeremiah Masoli after Masoli plead guilty to a misdemeanor second degree burglary charge. He also suspended LaMichael James and Rob Beard for the first game of the 2010 season after both plead guilty to harassment charges. 

So how did Kelly do during this time? Was he too harsh on Masoli? Did James get off easy?

Takimoto

Should we start writing the "We're sorry we doubted you Lear Pilot, clearly we should have listened back in 2010" post now, for when we need it in three years after Chip gets fired? /sarcasm

My guess was between 3-6 games for James, season for Masoli. Trust is extremely important to Chip Kelly, that is incredibly clear. If he can trust you, he will give you the benefit of the doubt.

jtlight

I think that both James and Beard were had fairly appropriate responses. I would understand if more games were given, but we also don't know the exact details of the situation. What I think is also important, in James' case especially, was how he accepted responsibility for his actions. This helped with with the DA as well as with Kelly.

PaulSF

I agree with Tako. Masoli's crime wasn't so much the theft, but the dishonesty. Had he come clean initially, he'd probably be looking at a one-game suspension like Beard and James. But Chip desperately needs to take control of this program, and in order for him to be able to do that, he's got to draw a line in the sand. As he said (and I'm paraphrasing, "If I can't trust my players, they can't play here."

With James and Beard, I think they got off a little easy. Sure, we don't know what happened, but it doesn't change the fact that both plead guilty to charges involving some form of assault on a female. It just seems like they're walking away unscathed, but I guess that's as much of a critique of the justice system as it is a critique of the message Kelly's sending with the severity (or lack thereof) of the punishments.

jtlight

I can definitely understand that position. Looking at it certain ways, it can look like they got off pretty easily. Then again, both charges were limited to harassment, a crime described as "subjecting the victim to offensive physical contact." which I think says something regarding the nature of what happened. From what we know of the situations, that sounds about right. It does not sound like the line into assault was crossed, so I feel that their punishment was fair. I think one of the big problems in James' case is that due to the nature of domestic violence laws, the worst will always be charged initially, so he was not given the benefit of the doubt. Everyone jumped to assume the worst, but it sounds like justice was served in the end.

But another part of the problem is that both of these situations could have been much worse. Both Beard and James were in bad positions that could have ended up much worse. With James, it was very important that the confrontation ended when it did (though we may want to give him some credit, as he likely had a role in it coming to an end as well). Beard is lucky he didn't do any lasting damage while he was blacked out.

In contrast, Masoli made a conscious decision to take property that wasn't his, and then lied about it to both police and Coach Kelly.

For what Chip Kelly is trying to do, reinforce that he's in charge of the program and misdeeds won't be tolerated, I think this will accomplish that, while at the same time establishing a level of trust between him and his players. He obviously has his players backs, and trusts them, and expects honesty from them. I like this precedent.

Takimoto

I think it's incredibly important that Chip Kelly sticks to his suspension of Masoli. This can't be another Blount situation. He's had ample time to render a decision.

Let's hope Beard's situation teaches a lesson for the team that just because you're a big, athletic guy doesn't mean you should try and impress anyone with your drinking ability. Know your limits. Blacking out is waaaaaay too far.

Going off on that, with alcohol playing a role in at least four incidents (Bowlin, Beard, Alonso, Kaddu), is this a more specific issue the coaching staff needs to address? It's clearly hindering decision making.

PaulSF

Sticking to all of the suspensions is important -- but the Masoli punishment is clearly the one that everyone will be focused on. He's come down pretty hard on the players (imo), and creating a pattern of reducing any punishments will seriously undermine his credibility.

jtlight

With how the Blount situation went down, the changing of the suspension was understandable, and I applaud that Kelly can admit to making a mistake. But these decisions have been much more deliberate and he's had plenty of time to think on them. If he rescinds parts of Masoli's suspension, he will definitely lose credibility.

As far as the alcohol issue, I'm not going to be making judgments about college students drinking, because I don't think there are too many people that are in a place to do that.

But, come on guys. Pull it freaking together.

Takimoto

There is a difference between responsible drinking and getting DUIs, MIPs, and getting in fights.

jtlight

Yes. If you're gonna be drinking to a level where you can't control yourself, you have to put yourself in a position where you're not going to be getting into serious trouble.

The level of idiocy has been fairly astounding.

Takimoto

Theres a level of machismo among college-aged males, and among athletes especially, and I'm sure there is a certain level of peer pressure involved in the decision making involved. Our guys have got to hold themselves to a higher standard. The coaching staff obviously can't spend their nights policing their players, but it's something that should be reiterated.

PaulSF

I think if you're focused on alcohol being involved in many of these incidents, you're missing the bigger picture. Alcohol abuse is not merely an epidemic among Oregon football players or even athletes, it's an epidemic among college students all across the country. And although I think it's probably fair to say alcohol was the catalyst in many of these incidents, I also think there's a bigger issue, and that's that the Oregon football program has outgrown itself too quickly. Fame brings unwanted attention, and heavy public scrutiny can lead to error-prone behavior.

jtlight

I don't necessarily think that scrutiny leads to bad behavior, but if you're not aware of that scrutiny, and continue to act in the same manner, that can lead to problems.

Matt Daddy

I'd like to know what everyone thinks of a question Jared ask me earlier today. Where does the Alonso punishment fit between Masoli, Beard and James? IS DUII worse than harrassment, and just as bad as lying and theft?

Takimoto

Let's compare the Alonso and Beard situations (because alcohol played a role in both). Would I rather a guy get in a fight while drunk, or drive a car? Personally, I'd rather hear about assault than vehicular manslaughter.

jtlight

On top of that, I think there's a big difference between starting fights and what happened with Beard. This wasn't a group of drunk college guys going around and trying to start fights. It was someone incredibly drunk that probably had no control of his faculties that most likely did something accidentally that caused no long term physical problems for the victim.

While this is obviously still unacceptable, I can deal with this much better than I can with someone getting in a car in this state.

As far as Alonso goes, I was waffling on his suspension, but the more I think about it, the more I'm glad that this happened. DUII simply cannot happen and was easily the most physically dangerous act committed by any of the offending players during this time.

PaulSF

I can't say I agree with either of you. I think driving under the influence is incredibly dangerous, but getting so intoxicated you don't remember throwing a female to the ground? That's far worse, in my opinion. And this wasn't a matter of assault vs. vehicular manslaughter. Sure, there's the potential for that, but let's be fair. This is assault versus driving under the influence. Those are two very different comparisons.

But either way you slice it, both were incredibly alarming incidents, but one received a far worse punishment. It does make you wonder when the starting kicker gets a game when a back-up linebacker gets the whole season.

Takimoto

Not only a starting kicker, but a star running back too. I don't think there's any way Chip could have given Beard and James different punishments considering they both pled to the same crime.

An unfortunate bi-product of this fallout is we almost definitely lose the chance to redshirt Alejandro Maldonado, seeing as we won't have Beard or Bowlin for the opening game. Unless Jackson Rice wants to handle kicking and punting duties for New Mexico.

Matt Daddy

So, to recap all the incidents (The Oregonian has the complete list):

Rob Beard - Bar Fight - Harrassment - 1 game suspension
LaMichael James - Fight with girlfriend - Harrassment - 1 game suspension
Kiko Alonso - DUII - Plead not guilty - Full Season suspension
Jeremiah Masoli - Burglary - Misdemeanor - Full Season suspension

Others:
Garrett Embry - Dismissed from team (not law related)
Josh Kaddu - Minor in Possession
Jamere Holland - Facebook Moron - Dismissed from team
Matt Simms - Beard Fight Revenge - Dismissed from team
Mike Bowlin - Starting the Beard fight, among other things - Dismissed from team

All in all I think Kelly's been pretty consistent with his punishments and at the same time pretty severe too

ntrebon

The Alonso suspension is the only that gives me pause, particularly considering he ended up pleading not guilty to the charges. I can only assume that the timing of the incident also played a part.

PaulSF

I agree with Nick. The Alonso suspension is most definitely the only punishment that seems inconsistent. Then again, we can't know the whole story.

jtlight

So, with all these events, I think we should really analyzed if Kelly has "lost control" of the team, and what needs to happen moving forward.

I still can't really buy that. Unfortunately, some mistakes of happened. Maybe the Rose Bowl played a part. This team worked their asses off for 6 months, fought through a lot, and now seem to be letting loose a bit. This is obviously something any successful team will face.

So, what's your guys' feel on the team? How are you feeling heading into spring practice?

Matt Daddy

I think if these acts were going unpunished or lightly punished I might have concerns. Right now it appears that Kelly is on top of what is going on, taking each case individually and handing down harsh punishment.

My problem is what is it going to take to get the players to stop? You see what happens to Holland, Simms, Alonso, and now Masoli, James and Beard. You have to realize that you are not going to skate by, right?

The players are the ones at fault here. Let's not make excuses for their stupid misdeeds.

Takimoto

I think with any coaching change, different things are bound to happen. This may be a reaction against the hardheaded-ness of the way Chip Kelly does things. I still think it's just bad timing.

jtlight

I agree with what Matt said above, but if this is a reaction to Chip's harshness, how will that play out in the long run? Would this team have been able to win a Pac-10 title with a coach they didn't trust?

Those questions make me also think that this is simply bad timing. I just hope our players can pull it together. This type of poor decision making has been pretty unbelievable.

Takimoto

The only way I can rationalize it is this is more of the same reaction from all the transfers last spring and summer (Roper, Pflugrad, etc...). Was it partially because these players were brought in expecting Bellotti's coaching style, which is a stark contrast from Kelly's?

Matt Daddy

I think what isn't being seen is the reaction of the kids who are doing right. On 1080 the fan in Portland the other day, they had a parent of one of the players on the show. They asked him about what is going on and whether they are concerned about their child and Kelly's coaching.

His reaction was quite surprising. He said that his son was happy Kelly is being hard on guys. He knows exactly where he stands on the team. Do the right thing, go to class, work hard and you will be on this team. If you fuck around (I'm paraphrasing of course), or try and be a jackass, you're going to be giving someone else a shot at your playing time.

Let's remember, Kelly goes to classes, himself, to make sure his players are there. Kelly is taking a firm hand to the action and responsibilities of his players. The good guys will love this.

jtlight

That's a great message. As much as the Canzano's of the world want to talk about how "no one knows where they stand" I don't think that is close to true. As you said, you work hard, you will get a shot.

And while there could be resentment over perceived double standards, I doubt think the players will see it that way. Masoli's decision was incredibly stupid. Alonso's decision was stupid as well. But I think that most players would be able to sympathize with James, who responded badly to a bad situation, but did his best to make immediate ammends.

It's really the message you need to send. As long as Chip doesn't reinstate these players.

PaulSF

So, going to back Masoli, what is everyone's immediate feeling on what he will do? Redshirt and stick around? Transfer to another DI school? Transfer down to a lower division to play immediately next year? When the suspension was announced, I was honestly surprised that he was not only still on the team, but also would have the opportunity (if Chip's guidelines are followed) to play in 2011. But, the more I think about it, the less surprising it is. Very reminiscent of his handling of Blount in that Kelly is offering to keep him on scholarship and in school and placing the ball squarely in Masoli's court.

Matt Daddy

I think he sticks around. I don't see him going somewhere to play for one year and learn a new system. I also think the team moves on without him. If DT wins the starting job, Masoli has to think about dropping down to a lower division and try and play.

I think it will become interesting if DT is not able to beat out Costa. Does Masoli see a window of hope then? Tell you one thing, this really makes Spring Ball a hell of a lot more interesting.

Takimoto

I think he stays, though we'll get a better picture after spring practice. If Masoli thinks he'll be able to come back in and play in 2011, he'll stay. If Thomas lights it up and proves he'll be the man for the rest of his career, he's gotta think about going elsewhere. I don't know how much interest other teams would have in him. A pro-style system isn't gonna want him. Same with a pass-first spread.

PaulSF

I've got to call you out on this one, Tak. You're kidding yourself if you don't think there are a bunch of D-II or even FCS teams champing at the bit to plug Masoli into their offense. He's proved he can throw a good ball, and is elusive enough to move the chains on the ground. Remember, Chipper came from an FCS program, and there are plenty of up-and-coming offensive gurus dying for an even-keel signal caller who can drive truck over secondary defenders.

Takimoto

I'm not saying there won't be a place for him. I do think that it won't be an FBS program that gives him a shot, even with his redshirt year. This is why the spring is so important, if Masoli thinks he has a shot at the 2011 starting job, he stays.

Matt Daddy

Something I was thinking. Looking back now (hindsight 20-20) was it the right thing for Kelly to not suspend James indefinitely?

My thought is that it was the right decision. How could Kelly only hand down a one game suspension if he had suspended him already? Ok, now you're off suspension for Spring Ball, but then you're back on, and then you're off again. Which punishment is the one applied to James' action?

This way, he's handing down one punishment, it's clear to James and the team what he is getting for his actions. This whole, "well he should have been suspended indefinitely" is utter garbage and doesn't actually hold up in practicality consistently.

jtlight

I know that it was reported that James was secretly suspended. The problem is that suspension in this instance doesn't actually do anything. If there had been a game the upcoming week, based on what LMJ told Kelly, I doubt that LMJ would have played.

If Kelly had suspended James, then it was have probably satiated the masses, but also given the message to the team that he doesn't trust them. I think this was a good middle ground.

PaulSF

This is kind of off-topic, but can we talk about the frat kid that pressed charges against Masoli? I mean, what self-respecting male college student wouldn't call Masoli up and just tell him, "Hey, listen, Jeremiah. I know you stole my Mac Book, so if you can just give it back and throw in a couple of season tickets, we can forget any of this ever happened." Or better yet, just call Uncle Phil and have him take care of business. How about a life-time pass to the Nike employee store? I mean, anything is better than ratting out your college team's starting QB and your lousy Apple products!

Apparently this kid didn't see Big Fan.

Matt Daddy

I think it plays into some of the rumors that have been said about this whole situation, which I would rather not perpetuate.

If you really want to go down this road, what about Embry's role in all of this. I'm sure he could have just fallen on the sword for Masoli. All in all, I think Masoli got what he deserves for being a dumbass.

PaulSF

I'm partly poking fun at those rumors. I read John Hunt's article on Max Wolfard, the victim, and I'm still relatively baffled. Of all the things said in the article, the one that shocked me the most was that Wolfard doesn't drink. So, let me get this straight: Masoli stole the laptop of the only self-righteous, do-gooder frat boy in America? That's not dumb. That's just bad luck!

 

All kidding aside, the blame should obviously fall squarely on Masoli's shoulders, as he is (admittedly) at fault. But it does make me wonder how many crimes like this are committed by college athletes against fellow students that they get away with. It's probably a lot more common than we think it is. 

 

Takimoto

I'd be asking for a job as Chip Kelly's personal assistant.

It's unfortunate that media attention is more important to these guys than keeping Masoli out of legal trouble. By that same token, would we really want these kids to sweep it under the rug like that? That goes against the ethics that Chip Kelly is trying to instill in the program.

jtlight

It honestly wouldn't be a shock to think that this type of behavior happens on a consistent basis at programs throughout the country. This obviously doesn't excuse Masoli, and I'm glad that he got caught. While I think Alonso's actions were the most dangerous, Masoli's were more repulsive. From the accounts that have come out, it sounds like he simply strolled into the frat house, took what he wanted, and left. This type of behavior is completely and totally unacceptable.

But as much as Beaver and Husky fans want to crow about "entitlement" at Oregon, the simple fact is that this is the case at every single big time school around the country. Oregon may be a bit more up-front about this divide, but it exists everywhere. We put the football players up on a pedastal, the University makes money off of them, and a sense of entitlement is inevitable.

I don't think that this division will ever end. There will always be strong lines between athletes (especially football and basketball players) and the rest of the campus. But that entitlement can never become a situation where these players will use that entitlement at the expense of others, whether that manifests itself in the taking of property, or in a physical or verbal form.

The last couple months have not been all that easy, but hopefully this will become another teachable moment, and the football players can better themselves on and off the field from these events.

Duck fans, how do you feel about this situation, and how Chip Kelly handled it? Continue the discussion in the comments below.

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