A billboard depicting eight current and former Oregon Ducks football players as clowns has recently gone up in downtown Eugene, Oregon. The local media is all over the display, which includes quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James.
The billboard is a response to the myriad off-field legal issues plaguing the program the last four months, with this likely only the beginning of the backlash. (Just wait until next year’s Civil War game between Oregon State and Oregon.)
But if Oregon Coach Chip Kelly had done the right thing and kicked Masoli off the team after his guilty plea to burglary last week, I highly doubt such ridicule would’ve been heaped on the team.
Kelly, who recently completed his first season as Ducks Coach, failed Management 101 in allowing Masoli to remain on the team after his burglary conviction, raising fresh questions about the coach’s ability to maintain discipline.
Any first-time business manager will tell you, the first employee you fire is usually the toughest decision you’ll ever make. But the more experience you have as a manager, the more you realize that if you don’t fire irresponsible and unproductive workers, they may end up getting you fired.
Whether Oregon Athletic Director Mike Bellotti stuck up for Masoli or Kelly couldn’t extract emotion from his evaluation of the situation, either way he blew a great opportunity to put all questions to rest about his control over the Ducks players.
Remember, Masoli already had a record of strong-armed burglaries in his past and he lied to Kelly and police about his most-recent crime. Honestly, what do you have to do to get kicked of Kelly’s team? Hopefully we won’t soon find out.
It’s time for Kelly to take off the training wheels strapped on him by Bellotti and assert his autonomy over the team. If he doesn’t do that fast, I have a feeling Phil Knight and the Univ. of Oregon administration won’t be nearly as sensitive to Kelly’s emotional needs as he was to Masoli’s.