Enough Is Enough

After a month's worth of requests, I was finally put in touch with Chicken Little last weekend and was assured that the sky was in fact, not falling in Eugene. I know how can that possibly be?

After all, sliced bread has nothing on "Frat-gate," contractual buyouts, DUI's, MIP's and any other three-letter-acronym sadly commonly found on or around college campuses everywhere. That's right, as hard as it may be to believe, DUI's, MIP's and fights aren't merely the result of a coach and program "out of control," but frequently occur in places of higher learning.

Shhh…don't tell anyone.

That's not to say any of these things are encouraged, accepted or tolerated at the University of Oregon, but that maybe…possibly…said activity has been slightly over-reported, over-reacted to, and overblown by agenda-driven constituents looking to pile-on a team and fan base with its soft underbelly exposed.

Sure, I understand that legal activity surrounding a team's highest profile players is worthy of attention. I also understand that crimes such as burglary and domestic violence are serious issues which are not to be taken lightly…especially the latter of the two. But I also understand that when you take fifteen to twenty thousand 18-23-year-olds, put them in the same location, add alcohol, freedom and in many cases entitlement, illicit behavior will occur. It doesn't make it right, but it does make it a fact of life.

Kids – and yes, in spite of reaching legal adulthood (18 years) the majority of college students are in fact still kids – make mistakes. Kids drink illegally, get into fights, and use poor judgment from time to time. Kids don't always do the right thing, turn the other cheek, or "squash it" during a heated exchange. And kids, believe it or not, don't always listen to their friends, their parents, or even their coach when it comes to the ways of the world. It doesn't necessarily make them "thugs" or "players running amok," but often makes them your friend, your neighbor or quite possibly your son or daughter learning life's lessons the hard way.

Since the outset of Oregon's legal problems more than two months ago, much of the commentary revolving around it has bordered on absurd. Vilification and finger pointing has become the media's favorite pastime. Everyone's the judge, jury and executioner, with the defendant dependent upon the day.

Be it Jeremiah Masoli, LaMichael James or Kiko Alonso. Rob Beard, Matt Simms or Jamere Holland. Or Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly or even Phil Knight, the righteous have spoken; guilty across the board, in spite of potential facts to the contrary.

No one wanted to hear that Jamere Holland's dismissal had more to do with his behavior prior to his infamous Facebook tirade, than after. No one was interested in the events that led to, occurred during, or followed the evening of LaMichael James' misconduct. And few cared to understand the manner in which Chip Kelly approached all of the aforementioned, opposed to painting it with a broad-brush of ineptitude in lieu of knowledge of the actual process.

There is a problem here, and it isn't merely Oregon football players crossing the line.

Certainly, the majority of negativity surrounding the football team in Eugene is primarily the fault of those directly involved. They broke the law, they used poor judgment and they conducted themselves less-than-perfectly during and after the fact.

And they're paying the price.

But where's the accountability for those fanning the fire?

At what point is an ex-player's involvement in an off-campus altercation not newsworthy? When does "one thing" have nothing to do with "the other?" And what's the statute of limitations on a "team running afoul?"

Does Oregon have any say in this or is it entirely dependent upon those waiting anxiously for the next act in a play titled Sensationalistic News?

Sadly, this isn't an isolated illness confined to our domicile, but an epidemic spread nationwide. One might think a headline is worthless without facts to back it up, but in today's world very few get beyond the headline before sending an email, text or typing in a blog. It's no longer what you know, but what you've been told...in spite of its legitimacy.

Certainly, I care what's happening off the field in Eugene. I believe players, coaches and administrators should be held to acceptable standards set by their predecessors, their peers and society as a whole, but I also believe in due process, innocent until proven guilty and journalistic integrity.

If there's a story…tell it all. If there's a hint of a story…tell us there's a hint. And if there's no story to tell…don't tell the one you wish there were.

Thankfully, Spring Football has arrived and with it comes normality, football speak and hopefully the beginning of the end of a three-month soap opera starring your Ducks. No more bouts with the law, no more coaching controversy, and no more contract disputes involving ex-coaches, ex-athletic directors and ex-contracts which may or may not have ever existed. Just personnel and strategic decision making, schedule and opponent discourse, and water-cooler rhetoric involving strengths and weaknesses of players, coaches and the programs they represent…on the field.

It's time to turn the page.

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