After my evening walk on Thursday, I ventured over to my favorite watering hole, the Velvet Lips, to watch ESPN Sports Center on a big screen and yes, have a glass of wine. Suffice it to say, Boise State’s upset of the University of Oregon, which should have been the story, was not the focus of the airwaves. It was the after game punch from Lagarrette Blount to the face of Byron Hoot of Boise State. Now, some of the sports casters were sympathetic with of Blount. I was pretty disgusted. I found it ironic that less than two hours after Blount and his team had shaken hands with the Boise State team, Blount had punched Hoot. This was not a friendly hit, but a serious punch.
The next day, on my RBR reader, I received this superb column by Kevin Eubanks, from the Bakersfield Sports Examiner. Eubanks wrote an excellent column, praising the University of Oregon for responding to the incident as a University should–this was something that should not be tolerated. (http://www.examiner.com/x-20983-Bakersfield-Sports-Examiner~y2009m9d4-Oregon-earns-more-respect-for-quick-response-to-Blount-incident).
The University of Oregon, with a new President (Richard Lariviere, introduced to the fans at the USA Outdoor Champs), a new football coach (Chip Kelly) responded better than most of us would have in that situation. Kelly took the team into the locker room and told them that Blount’s response was unacceptable. Lariviere wrote even more explicitly: a response like Blounts would not be tolerated at the U of Oregon, in fact, Lariviere used the word REPREHENSIBLE. Good word. Nothing lost in the translation there. The next response was that the U of Oregon’s first year coach announced that Mr. Blount would not be participating in any more U of O regular season or post-season games. As Mr. Blount is a senior, his senior year just ended in a big way.
As a former coach, I applaud the actions and words of Coach Kelly and President Lariviere. The University of Oregon is a university, a place of higher learning, a place where both body and intellect are to be challenged. If one does not learn, early in life, that being an intercollegiate athlete comes with strings attached–ie., one actually goes to class, makes workouts, treats fellow competitors in victory and defeat with respect, then the chance to educate has been lost forever. Conflict is part of life, and good things can come from conflict. Punching someone, however, is not on my list of
Athletes must answer to a higher authority. Athletes are role models. They are the focal point of many who aspire to run faster, jump farther, throw longer, but, who, for a variety of reasons, just do not and can not. Athletes are heroes, and for that special treatment, they do have the eyes of the media, fans and the NCAA all over them. Pressure is understandable. Mistakes can and will be made. But, part of education is making sure that we learn that life is not easy, and that a price comes with all decisions in life.
We have seen a huge rise in the quality of the University of Oregon track & cross country programs over the past few years. We have seen an unbelievable Olympic
Trials in 2008, and Nationals in 2009. We have now seen a football coach put team legacy and University ethos above a won-loss record.
At Oregon, the Ducks do have wings.
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