Friday, March 12 was one of the darkest days in the recent history of the Oregon athletic program. Two current stars and one former player were all in court to plead in their various court cases. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James both pled guilty to their respective charges, as did former wide receiver Garrett Embry.
While James received a one-game suspension from head coach Chip Kelly (a very reasonable suspension after reading the court memorandum of how the incident actually occurred), Masoli was suspended for the entire 2010 season.
While Masoli pled guilty to misdemeanor burglary, his suspension was warranted. In an affidavit that was released after his plea hearing, Masoli had said that he was not in the fraternity the night the incident occurred. This also means that he lied to Kelly about the incident. Kelly is big on trust and if his players lie to him, they will pay the price.
Kelly most likely forfeited a run at the national title, for the sake of character, more than we can say for new USC coach Lane Kiffin or Florida coach Urban Meyer.
Fans of Tennessee and Florida cannot argue this point, simply because Kiffin and Meyer allowed players who robbed other citizens at gunpoint, and were so drunk they passed out at a busy intersection while driving.
Media in the Northwest was tearing Kelly apart for being inconsistent on punishment, and that’s partially because people in the Northwest are very concerned at how they are perceived around the country. All these offseason problems will be quickly forgotten if the Ducks go 11-1 or 10-2 in 2010.
But back to the Masoli suspension, the interesting caveat here is that Masoli has an unused redshirt year that he could use to return as an eligible football player in 2011. This would be terrible for Oregon in many respects.
First, if he stayed at Oregon, Masoli would be allowed to participate in practice, which would be an interesting dynamic since he lied to Kelly’s face and would be watching the two or three guys competing for the spot he formerly had bolted down.
Second, if the Ducks go 8-4 or 7-5 this season, having Masoli come back in 2011 brings up the conversation of whether or not he should be the starter again. Oregon has a talented redshirt sophomore in Darron Thomas who has always been tabbed as the quarterback of the future, and possibly giving him the reigns in 2010 and taking them away in 2011 would be damaging to Thomas’ confidence.
You must move on now and let Thomas and the team develop, so that even though next year may no longer be the year, the future would remain bright. Thomas has been called one of the smartest players on the team by coaches, and the coaches know these players better than any fan does.
Thirdly, there is no doubt that Masoli was the most important and dynamic player on the Oregon Ducks offense, but Masoli was very inconsistent. He would seem unfocused at times and make decisions that left fans baffled.
His arm was never his biggest asset, and he was rarely an accurate quarterback. On the other hand, Thomas is taller than Masoli, with similar speed and a better arm. If Oregon gives Thomas the ball, he will develop quickly and become a more consistent player than Masoli.
Finally, I don’t want someone who is a burglar and lies about it on my team. I have been a Duck fan my entire life and will usually defend my team, but this incident is over the line. So thank you for the excitement and success you gave us Jeremiah Masoli, but here’s to hoping you transfer.