This is the time of the year when Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Sporting News and anybody else with a keyboard are penning their lists of "The Hottest Seats in College Football." Invariably, the list will include the current position-holder in Pullman, Washington, as well as coaches who have failed to get their teams over the .500 hump.
However, the hottest seat in the country should be in Eugene, Oregon. No, not for the team's on-field performances, but for their actions off it.
Some have come to Chip Kelly's defense as he's shown to be a disciplinarian, but he's made a mockery of discipline time and time again.
The most shining example of this is the current status of preseason All-American Cliff Harris. I might be exaggerating here, but if someone were to print out his rap sheet and place them end to end, they would be longer than one of his kickoff returns.
Recently, Harris was nabbed for going 118 mph in a 65 mph zone, driving with a suspended license, failure to appear in court, etc., etc., etc. Repeat: etc., etc. Coach Kelly suspended him indefinitely. Then the footage came out of the traffic stop and Kelly came to Harris and Thomas' defense, basically saying, "Hey, nobody was arrested."
This response makes a mockery of his discipline of Jemere Holland, who made the mistake of typing 65 words per minute on his Facebook account.
When called into question about Darron Thomas' character as a leader, Coach Kelly fired back, "He's as good as I've been around."
When questioned about possible repercussions for Thomas for smoking pot in the car, Kelly's response to the reporter was, "Was he smoking marijuana in the car? Do you know that for a fact?"
Okay, coach, I do know for a fact that Thomas did smoke marijuana in the car. You see, I believe him when he said they smoked it all. That the reporter wasn't able to prove it shouldn't be the basis for a lack of discipline.
So, let's look at the facts: Harris, famously, passes the field sobriety test—implying that he hadn't been driving under the influence (however, much of the buzz would have worn off as Harris was not tested for a good 45 minutes—not to mention that Harris is an elite athlete with great balance, so he could probably have passed it both drunk and high).
But, let's go with Kelly's contention that the reporter had no proof that Thomas had smoked any pot. If the reporter had no facts to back up his question, then Kelly must be okay with Thomas lying to the police when he said that they smoked it all. Or, Harris had been driving under the influence. He can't have it both ways.
It appears to me that Kelly only cares about wins and losses—not the personal lives of his players, the integrity of his team or the University of Oregon institution.
Kelly's ship is rudderless when it comes to discipline. The "W" on his moral compass doesn't stand for "west," it stands for "win at all costs."
I do believe that Kelly is serious about Thomas being as fine a leader as HE has ever seen, but then, he's in his first head coaching stint and Jeremiah Masoli is his only point of reference.
In fact, it was Thomas who was in Jeremiah Masoli's car when he was busted for pot, resulting in Masoli's dismissal from the team. What sort of lessons did Thomas learn from Masoli? The example should have been to not screw around, yet he found himself as a passenger in two other cars where marijuana was involved.
But what lessons may have been learned by Masoli's dismissal must have been negated by the impression left on Thomas from his coach's actions. When the example Thomas aspires to is an unprincipled coach who is skirting the laws and finding gray areas, then that head coach can expect to find himself defending players' off-field actions.
At the University of Washington, under coach Rick Neuheisal, Jerramy Stevens should have been dismissed from the team following his run-in with the law—virtually every Husky fan will tell you that. The problem for many though, wasn't just Stevens, it was the head coach failing to lay down the law.
By failing to lay down the law, it ultimately shows that the coach truly does not care for the individual, the team or the university as an institution.
In fact, one big reason that Neuheisal was run out of town was that he had little regard for the University of Washington as a whole. The "Scoreboard, baby!" philosophy came at the expense of the university's image—a cost that Washington is still paying off.
This is a big reason that Paul Wulf is now head coach at WSU as well. The university was tired of losing, sure, but the players had become a disgrace to the university.
Now, in Eugene, the Duck fans should be equally as disdainful of the characters representing the University of Oregon.
Has Coach Kelly, in fact, lost his team?
On the field, the players love him. Off the field, their actions and legal troubles show they have little respect for him.
No matter how I look at the situation in Oregon, I'm certain that something bad is going to happen if some changes aren't made at the top. Let's hope that some innocent person doesn't die as a result of the mockery Coach Kelly has made of "discipline."
"Win the day." It sounds clever, but it doesn't work in a real war. Win the battle, lose the war. The war that Kelly should be fighting should be for the lives of his team.
Kelly won that battle with the reporter, but he's losing his team.