Cliff Harris has made headlines in the last week, for getting pulled over for going 118 with a suspended license. To top it off, he was driving a rental car that was in the name of a university employee. UO compliance is trying to get to the bottom of the rental car situation, and this may be the most important part of this discussion, as Harris' use of that car could end up being an NCAA violation. But that's not what has some people up in arms. Cliff's apathy towards traffic laws has been a near-constant during his time at Oregon. According to Rob Moseley:
Harris, a native of Fresno, Calif., is not licensed to drive in either California or Oregon, and has been cited for speeding and driving without a license in Oregon no less than three times, including just last month.
Predictably, this has led to a whole host of outrage among the media. John Canzano has already called for Cliff to be suspended for the season opener against LSU. Always the voice of moderation and reason, he wrote that Harris is "self-destructing." From a speeding ticket. But Canzano isn't the story here. He's always bound to say something ridiculous.
But Canzano's overall feeling, that Cliff should be suspended for the season opener, seems to be becoming the norm. On College Football Live yesterday, John Hunt framed the debate in this manner, saying that Chip Kelly had to decide what to do with Harris, coming at the argument under the assumption that something had to be done about Harris. In fact, he later said on Canzano's radio show that Kelly should step in. It also seems that there is a large number of Duck fans that agree, and believe that Harris should be punished by Coach Kelly.
While there's no doubt that Cliff Harris has made some very dumb decisions, I firmly disagree with this assessment. Cliff Harris' traffic history does not (significantly) impact his ability to be a productive member of society, to be a good student, or to be a leader on the football team.
There seems to be this underlying belief that because Cliff Harris broke a law, Chip Kelly must hold him accountable. This is absurd. It is not the job of Chip Kelly to ensure that his players follow the laws of any federal, state, or local government. It is the job of those governments to enforce their laws. Chip Kelly should hold his players to a standard, but that should be his standard, not the standard of the government. It is his job to educate young men, on and off the field. By all accounts, he's done that. The Oregon football team set a GPA record during the fall quarter.
It's also been very clear on this team, that when you do not live up to Chip's standards, you will face a heavy penalty. Players have missed playing time for not going to class. Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off the team. LeGarrette Blount missed 8 games. Kiko Alonso missed an entire year, and will likely miss a lot more. As far as I can tell, Chip has done an excellent job differentiating between real offenses, and the other meaningless actions that columnists love to rail against.
Cliff Harris deserves to face the consequences for his actions. He deserves to pay some hefty fines. He knew the possible consequences when he was driving, and he apparently did not care about that possibility. That was his decision.
But this decision should not affect Harris' football future. I mean, it was a freaking speeding ticket.