Coach's Corner

Is college football spinning out of control? Scandal after scandal has rocked the college football world, and now with opening kickoffs beginning, no less than four programs are now knee-deep in covering their tracks. Miami, Auburn, and LSU have all come under the microscope, and nobody is forgetting about the recruiting scandal and subsequent cover-up attempt on campus in Eugene.

They have suspended Duck star Cliff Harris for going 118 miles per hour in a car that smelled of pot, and for arguably their biggest game of the season.

I about choked when I heard that the LSU Tigers were going to be missing some more of their key players for their opener against the Ducks in Texas Stadium Saturday. Let's just call the game what it now is: the Ineligi-Bowl.

It's also interesting that LSU has been tied to the exact same Willie Lyles (or Will Lyles, depending on who you talk to) that claims Oregon paid him for his inside influence with certain Houston prospective athletes. Which, the Ducks, of course, deny.

LSU is policing itself and suspending two players involved in a bar fight. Oregon refuses to admit any guilt in its recruiting scandal, and have successfully eliminated a big part of their problem with the transfer of Lache Seastrunk to Baylor. Seastrunk is the main kid supposedly "delivered" to Oregon by Lyles for a hefty fee of 25K.

The latest scandal at LSU has nothing to do with NCAA rules, but rather a stupid act by some of their players who went to a local bar and got into a fight in which their quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, allegedly kicked a man in the head. They did this in the middle of training camp.

Obviously, college football has now become the poster child for out-of-control behavior and in today's media driven "scandals" there is a distinct difference to me from allegations against players already enrolled and those who are being recruited.

In every big time program there are a certain element of hanger-on'ers who lurk around and want to be associated with the kids who play for their teams. Boosters are usually the source of most of the major problems, and vulnerable kids will put their hand out if someone is going to put something in it. That natural greed is precisely why I'm against paying players, because if you give them more than a scholarship they are simply going to ask for more. Where does it end?

Just recently, Danny Sheridan, of USA Today claims he knows the name of the person who paid Cam Newton's dad to enroll his son at Auburn. Where there is smoke there is usually fire, and I find it interesting that the smoke in Eugene has been effectively snuffed out while the scandals in the deep south continue to flame. It's called damage control and it has given UO coach Chip Kelly a "gag order" to hide behind.

The irony of having scandals at both teams in the marquee college game to open the football season just falls in line with what's been happening all summer. Oregon will be without their best defensive player, Cliff Harris, but probably won't suffer any penalties at all for this coming season. It will take the NCAA until at least next summer before it decides if the Ducks are guilty or innocent in their use of Lyles and his "recruiting service".

In Harris' case, he was guilty of the same stupidity displayed by the two LSU kids. All Harris did was get pulled over at 4:30 a.m. for doing 118 in a car that was rented by a UO athletic department member (another potential violation). The car also reeked of marijuana, according to the police officers on the scene. With Harris in the car was Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, who naturally pleaded innocent to smoking the dope, and was therefore an innocent passenger. Harris was driving without a license because he also had gotten another ticket for speeding in May and failed to appear in court for that one.

When asked if there was any more pot in the car, the answer was, "No, we smoked it all." When it all came to light - it was recorded on the patrol car camera - Harris was indefinitely suspended by Kelly. When asked about Thomas' status, Kelly replied, "I'm not punishing someone for being a passenger.", even though Thomas was also present in a car pulled over the year before driven by Jeremiah Masoli that also had pot involved. Ever think about drug testing, coach?

How many games Harris will miss is totally up to Kelly, but it obviously helps to be the starting quarterback if you land in the Dog… er Duck house.

As stupid as Harris and Thomas were this summer, the bar fight involving the two LSU players was even worse. It was right in the middle of training camp, and it was justified by the players because it's supposedly breaking curfew and going out to a bar is an LSU camp tradition spanning decades. It is obvious that being a quarterback doesn't help you in coach Les Miles' program, as the Tigers will be without their starter versus the Ducks. Of course the Ducks will have theirs, despite Thomas' extremely poor judgement at best, and probable criminal behavior at worst. Last time I checked, pot is still against the law. Even in Eugene.

I'm not equating what Jefferson did to Thomas; Jefferson clearly doesn't deserve to play in the game. But Thomas has been in enough "wrong places" at the "wrong times" to pass the sniff test. And you know what kind of sniff test I'm talking about.

Then, as I'm working on this story, two Rainbow Warriors of the University of Hawaii - Washington's second opponent - also get busted for being in a bar fight at the Zanzabar Nightclub on Waikiki Beach right after they finish training camp. Wow. Come on fellas, don't you realize what you're doing to your team? Don't you realize you're in the public eye when you play for a high-profile program? With today's technology, someone could be taking your picture right now - and with their phone, no less.

Of course, driving at 118 mph without a license and in the middle of the night might get you some attention too.

Life is so unfair.


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