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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

June 25, 2014 at 5:56 PM

Inside a sordid mess in Eugene, there’s a teaching moment

You might have heard about it only peripherally, but a firestorm continues to burn around the Oregon men’s basketball program, as as a result of a rape investigation that encircled three Duck players — Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin. Charges weren’t brought in the case, which stemmed from an early-March night gone wrong.

But there are a lot of “charges” flying now.

For a refresher on what happened, here’s what I wrote six weeks ago. In a nutshell, what’s taken place lately is that the players were first banished from the UO team, then banned from the university. And now everybody’s lawyered up (surprise). Attorneys for the players teamed up to release a detailed statement decrying the actions by the Oregon administration, and the lawyer for the woman in the case has assailed that statement.

Here are a couple of worthwhile updates from the Oregonian, one summarizing the crossfire from attorneys, the other a column by John Canzano.

To me, the case revisits an old debate that surrounds discipline by coaches of athletes, and whether they can/should be held to a higher standard, within the team, than the law dictates.

They can and they should.

There’s a lot of reason to cast aspersions on the story of the alleged victim; reading a seamy police report will tell you that. But there’s also reason to expect more from three guys who represent a program that — in various ways — begs for public approval than to become embroiled in this.

Oregon seems to have acted at polar extremes: It didn’t suspend the players when it was notified of the investigation, and then it hammered the players by barring them from school (as if they wanted to hang around, anyway). It’s difficult to come to grips with such disparate reaction. If Oregon wanted to honor the investigation by not prejudging, then why did it come down strongly when no charges were filed?

In the meantime, cue the lawsuits. Artis is said to have been close to moving on to St. John’s, but the Red Storm supposedly shied away because of the Oregon administration’s sanction against Artis. Doesn’t seem like such a stretch for him to allege that was wrongful termination, as it were.

The case should be a powerful message for every coach to his athletes: Yeah, you might not get charged. It’s a lot easier simply not to get involved.

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