Oregon Duck Changes Plea, Kills Kelly’s Credibility

On February 23, Oregon football coach Chip Kelly did an interview with PORTLAND OREGONIAN columnist and KXTG-FM radio host John Canzano to talk about the Ducks off-field legal problems. (audio link)

ChipKelly Kiko Alonso DUI

(Not the first time Kelly has misjudged his players)

During the visit, Canzano asked Kelly why Oregon backup player Kiko Alonso was suspended for the season after being charged with DUI, while star running back LaMichael James had not been suspended after being charged with strangulation, fourth degree assault and menacing of a female. (James pleaded not guilty at the time. As did Alonso for his DUI charge.)

Kelly responded that he suspended Alonso because he “had all the facts” of the unsettled DUI case while he was not privy to the details of the James investigation.

LaMichael James mugshot

(’No contest‘ = ‘guilty’)

That’s a defensible statement from Kelly. But what he followed with in addressing Canzano’s charge of unequal treatment was not.

Kelly to Canzano:

“When the final truth comes out, put me on the air again and then apologize.”

With today’s development in the James case, I can safely say Kelly won’t be getting that apology.

KVAL-TV in Eugene reports today:

University of Oregon star running back LaMichael James is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a change of plea hearing and sentencing, according to court records.

Springfield police arrested James on Feb. 17 on suspicion of strangulation, fourth degree assault and menacing.

Canzano reported subsequently that James is likely to enter a “no contest” plea, which is essentially the same as pleading guilty in exchange for leniency from the court.

While it might’ve been advisable for James to cut his losses with the court, that legal strategy certainly was an embarrassing development for Kelly. If James does indeed plead guilty or no contest, then Kelly will be forced to dole out a significant punishment. A punishment that probably will include a suspension.

As we search for answers why the Oregon football program is experiencing so many behavior problems off-the-field, I think we may have found our answer. Kelly obviously doesn’t know his players as well as he thinks he does.

UPDATE (4:54p ET): I contacted Canzano for his thoughts about Kelly’s regrettable “apology” comment in light of today’s events. His response:

“I’ve invited Chip to come on the radio show today. The only real apology here is the one owed to the kids who work hard and stay out of trouble at Oregon. Chip owes those players something for the double-standard and lousy atmosphere he’s created.

“Those guys are the ones who have been most unfairly affected by the recent cluster of police activity.”

What’s the odds Kelly comes on the show today? None because James isn’t set to go to court until Friday.