Got to thinking today about the Univ. of Oregon playing the Tony Dungy card in its case for the reinstatement of LeGarrette Blount’s playing career. (Along with the other prominent figures cited by UO Coach Chip Kelly as party to Blount’s image overhaul: Dr. Harry Edwards, Kermit Washington and Jon Gruden.)
Considering that virtually every media account of Blount’s future reinstatement included a mention of Dungy visiting with the player, I set out today to find out just how much time Dungy has spent with Blount.
After an extensive online search resulted in virtually no details, I contacted prominent OREGONIAN columnist John Canzano and Univ. of Oregon Executive Assistant Athletic Director of Media Services (SID) David Williford to find out what they knew.
Williford emailed this response about the Dungy-Blount exchange: “I don’t have info regarding Blount’s contact with Coach Dungy, other than I know it was by phone. I don’t know how many times or how long.”
Canzano’s responds after the jump.
I had a few graphs on it in my column the night Blount was (maybe) reinstated. Edwards spent six hours talking to Blount in a hotel room in Eugene. Dungy was on the phone, we’re told. So was Kermit Washington.
I mean, these are all helpful people but it’s clear that someone at the University of Oregon understands the formula for laundering someone in the eyes of public opinion.
Love to see Blount make something positive from this but I’m thinking there must have been someone on campus in Eugene able to impart some wisdom. Why not announce those voices too?
We know why.
Based on the seemingly opaque framing of the relationship between Blount and Dungy & Co. by the school - and the above reax of Canzano - is it unreasonable to think the Ducks were using Dungy and others as cover for the reinstatement?
Of course not.
To be fair, it’s also the Oregon media’s job to press Kelly & Co. about the nature of the relationship, and to my knowledge all of Kelly’s statements about Blount’s comeback - as it pertains to Dungy - have gone largely unchallenged.
But if you’re Kelly, and you knew of significant contact between Blount and Dungy, wouldn’t you trumpet that fact?
Another under-the-rug detail of UO’s reversal on Blount’s punishment is the role the player’s lawyer may have had in causing Kelly to cave. A charge that Kelly has strongly denied.
Not to mention rumors that Kelly succumbed to internal pressures from within the athletic dept. and/or boosters to bring Blount back.
I’m not a subscriber to the latter, as the Ducks have played their best football since Blount’s departure, with replacement LaMichael James having established himself as a proficient Pac-10 running back. Sure Blount could probably help the team, but what about possible further distractions? Why take that risk, especially if the team is playing better without him?
I do expect a drill-down from the media about Dungy’s contact with Blount in the coming days, especially as the player prepares to make his return in November.
And if the Dungy mention, which was heralded far and wide by online and electronic media, turns out to be based on a cursory call, it’ll further chip away at the credibility of a coach who contradicted himself in ditching Blount’s original punishment.