Friday, September 04, 2009

University of Oregon Football

By Robert Villwock and Matt Denhart

LeGarrette Blount, a running back at the University of Oregon, punched a player of the opposing team last night after Oregon’s loss on national television. Afterward, he pushed around teammates and tried to fight Boise State fans before being forced off the field by police. Upon hearing about this chain of events we went to Youtube to see what actually happened.

After watching the footage, a quote by former Kansas State Athletic Director Tim Weiser immediately came to mind:

“Athletics can be thought of as the front porch of a house. People will often see the university through the athletic program in a way that they might not otherwise see the university. . . .[I]f you drive by a house and you see a front porch that is not well-kept, with shingles falling off, you are likely to draw the conclusion that the rest of the house must also be in bad shape. Conversely, if you have a well-kept front porch, the rest of the university will take on the same image. So when it is done right, athletics give people all across the country the chance to draw very positive conclusions about the rest of the University.”

Unfortunately in this case, athletics was not done right and people all across the country draw very negative conclusions about the University of Oregon and its student athletes. Blount had already been excused from practices over the summer for emotional outbreaks such as this. Had Blount been an average football player instead of a starting tailback, he likely would have already been excused from the team.

Unfortunately given the culture of Division 1 FBS athletics, the costs and benefits of excusing a talent like Blount are skewed.

Blount was suspended by former coach Mike Bellotti in February for ‘failure to fulfill team obligations.’ However, Bellotti stepped down as head coach to take the athletic director position at the school and Blount was reinstated by new head coach Chip Kelly.

Given the fact that this is Blount’s third meltdown since February, it may be better to let somebody outside the athletics department decide his punishment.

The championship hungry alumni and coaches dependent on winning seasons to keep jobs once again showcase the flawed incentive structure of the NCAA Division 1 FBS.

For more about the current structure of the NCAA Division 1 FBS see our study here.

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