Lately the Oregon Ducks have been in the news—and not in a good way.
In a matter of weeks, six of the 2010 Rose Bowl Duck football players have found themselves no longer a part of the team or suspended.
This recent rash of decidedly unacceptable behavior is, to say the least, troubling—and all this is falling on the seemingly already weary shoulders of new head coach Chip Kelly.
The question is, is Kelly the cause of these disciplinary shortcomings, or is he simply in the right place at the wrong time?
Unless you were living in a cave at the start of the 2009 college football season, you no doubt saw Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount throw a mean right jab at taunting Boise State DE Byron Hout. This was supposed to be Coach Kelly's trial by fire. He acted swiftly after seeing the videotape of what took place and promptly suspended Blount for the season.
He later reinstated Blount after Blount completed a series of academic and behavioral benchmarks. However, Blount saw minimal game time even after reinstatement, playing only a few snaps in the Civil War victory against Oregon State before losing in the Rose Bowl Game against Ohio State.
Much to the dismay of Coach Kelly, as well as ardent Oregon football fans, his trial was just beginning.
Two kickers, a defensive end, a star running back, a star quarterback, two wide receivers, and an inside linebacker later, Oregon football is mired in negative attention, and Coach Kelly's ability to discipline his players has been seriously thrown into question.
How will Oregon's 2010 compare to 2009 (10-3)?
Believe me, this isn't a new phenomenon.
College athletes screw up. Seemingly, the better they are on the field, the worse they are off of it. A cursory look at some of the top programs in the country confirms this very tellingly.
The fatherly Jim Tressel with his famous sweater vest is the poster boy of discipline and straight-laced, blue-blood football. But in his first three years at OSU, 14 players were arrested.
Under coach Urban Meyer, Florida had 27 players arrested in four years, including star DE Carlos Dunlap, who upon getting a DUI was suspended for only one game and still allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl.
Coach Nick Saban is considered one of the most disciplined coaches in college football, yet in his first year and a half on campus, 10 of his players were arrested, one of whom was accused of dealing cocaine.
The legendary JoePa is the quintessential Old World coach, yet from 2002-2008 there were a whopping 46 player arrests for the Nittany Lions.
None of these examples excuse what the Oregon players are doing. They simply illustrate that the only thing that makes Oregon's players' cases noteworthy is the fact that they happened within such a short period of time.
So can Chip Kelly still put together the Ducks to make another charge for a repeat Pac-10 title? Well, lest we all forget, he did it last year with a freshman running back stepping in for his previous 1,000-yard starting rusher.
This year? That new freshman running back is five-star recruit Lache Seastrunk.
With dual-threat QB Jeremiah Masoli, dynamic RB/KR Kenjon Barner, and WRs Jeff Maehl, D.J. Davis, and Lavasier Tuinei still around, I think Chip's brain of a dolphin will have plenty of weapons to keep Oregon's offense "prolific."
Don't lose faith, Ducks—it ain't over yet.