Down South, players don’t get suspended for rape charges or savage beatings, and Urban Meyer wouldn’t discipline a player for ten minutes if he could find a way to keep it out of the media.
Oregon wants to be different, win the right way and send the right message. After a season where maybe the team got too loose and a little self-involved, showed some chinks in both preparation and discipline, Mark Helfrich sent a message with his handling of the snowball fight/stopping traffic/intimidating-a-former-professor incident that involved some Oregon football players (kval.com photo).
Helfrich stepped right in. He reviewed the tape and got the facts. He acted quickly and made a decisive, clear statement:
“On Saturday, I was made aware of an incident that occurred Friday afternoon during the snow day involving multiple Oregon students including members of the football team,” Helfrich’s statement said. “The behavior exhibited in the video is completely unacceptable and dangerous. We take this matter very seriously and disciplinary actions have begun.”
Today the team announced that tight end Pharaoh Brown would be suspended for the Alamo Bowl, and other players that were involved would also be disciplined.
It was the right thing to do. The incident made Good Morning America and espn.com. It threatened to become a part of a pattern that has given the Ducks, rightly or wrongly, a reputation as a spoiled, entitled, undisciplined team, soft against physical opponents, exposed in big games. It’s not particularly rational but it all gets woven together in the narrative.
Brown is a good football player and not a bad kid. This was a snowball fight that got out of hand, and the kids got caught up in rowdy behavior the way young people will. The behavior wasn’t acceptable, but no one was hurt, and the adults who were targeted don’t intend to press charges. Even so, Helfrich stepping in and saying, “this isn’t how we act and not how we want to represent our University” is exactly right.
It’s ironic that Brown gets more punishment for dumping a box of snow over someone than an LSU tailback gets for beating a man severely enough to send him to the hospital, but Oregon fans have to like that the coaches and players are committed to handling this responsibly and being accountable. Lesson learned, and accepted. Pharaoh is a good player and he will be welcomed back next year. On the field in the Alamodome, Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt will fill in capably.