COMMENTARY: Weighing in on Riley's decision

CORVALLIS -- I remember getting in trouble my freshman year of high school. A decision Mike Riley made this week prompted the memory.

I was grounded, and told not to leave the house that weekend. It just happened to be Homecoming Weekend.

I reminded my parents of this. I explained to them how devastated my girlfriend would be if I wasn't allowed to attend Saturday's dance.

"It's not fair to her!" I pleaded.

My parents respected my girlfriend – big fans they were. So my pleading worked. They agreed to temporarily lift my house arrest so I could attend the dance, delaying my punishment until the following weekend.


If one of my high school buddies is reading this, they're probably very confused. That "memory" wasn't prompted. It was actually created. A fictional scenario I made up.

But if I did get in the trouble the week before Homecoming and I did have a girlfriend, I guarantee my parents wouldn't have cared how she was affected.

"Who cares if it's not fair to her? You should have thought of that BEFORE you screwed up," they would have said.

That's exactly what Riley should have said to Castro Masaniai, Connor Hamlett and Joe Lopez this week.

Masaniai was handed a one-game suspension after he was charged with attempted coercion, a misdemeanor, earlier this month. Hamlett and Lopez were two of four players – along with Will Storey and Tyler Perry – cited for minors in possession the morning of August 14, resulting in a one-game suspension for each.

Storey is expected to redshirt and Perry is out with a knee injury.

But Masaniai, Hamlett and Lopez will each suit up Saturday for the season-opener against Sacramento State. They'll serve their suspensions later this season.

The reason?

It's not fair to the rest of the team, per Riley.

Masaniai and Lopez each play defensive tackle. Starting defensive tackle Kevin Frahm is recovering from knee surgery and is still at least a week from returning. Dominic Glover has unresolved academic issues, leaving a cloud of doubt over his availability for Saturday.

Hamlett is one of two healthy tight ends on the roster. Perry, star Joe Halahuni and freshman Kellen Clute are out of commission due to injury.

Basically, Oregon State is razor thin at both positions.

"You have to think of the team," said Riley.

Masaniai clearly wasn't thinking of the team when he got in an altercation with his girlfriend at a McDonald's restaurant in May and ended up spending the night in jail. Hamlett and Lopez clearly didn't have the team's best interests in mind when they hosted a party six days after fall camp began.

You are told from a young age that you're responsible for your actions, and that your actions do not just affect you, but they affect others as well.

This is especially true when you are a part of a team. As the saying goes, you're only as strong as your weakest link.

That is, unless your coach interferes.

I did not talk to Masaniai following his arrest in May, but I'd bet my next paycheck that if I did, he would have said something to the effect of "I'm disappointed in myself for letting my teammates down."

But he didn't end up letting them down as much as he may have thought. Coach made sure of that.

The next time an Oregon State football player goes out and makes a mistake off the field, he may not be as prone to think of the effect it will have on his teammates.

I would have rather Riley said that he chose to let the players in question play because it was a non-conference game against a Division I FCS school, and that he'd rather suspend them for a more meaningful, conference game.

I wouldn't have a problem with that.

But to say it's not fair to the rest of the team? Who cares?!

Riley maintained all along – until this week – that he hadn't decided what game the players would sit out. He never specifically said they'd miss the Sacramento State game, so this isn't a matter of him going against his word. The code of conduct does not state that the suspension must be served the first game of the season.

There's no doubt in my mind Masaniai, Hamlett and Lopez will serve their suspensions at some point this season – albeit, they'll sit out a game they probably wouldn't have played in much anyway (can be said for Hamlett and Lopez).

Therefore, I am not bashing Riley for bending the rules, because he didn't bend any rules.

I am just questioning his reasoning.

I've tried to put myself in Riley's shoes. Perhaps he's protecting his players from injury, I thought.

Nope, that wouldn't make any sense.

It's football. Most of these players played multiple positions, both ways, in high school. It's not like a player will be more prone to injury if he switches from defensive end to defensive tackle for a game, so it can't be that.

The only thing Riley could possibly be protecting his players from is an embarrassingly close game Saturday – due to "lack of depth" – or even a devastating loss. Potentially losing to a Big Sky team because of a few players' mistakes wouldn't be "fair" to the team, would it?

For Riley's sake, let's hope they don't blow it anyway.

That'd be like if I went to the dance after all that pleading and ended up having a horrible time.

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