On February 17, Oregon running back LaMichael James was arrested on charges of domestic violence, yet the all-American tailback immediately proclaimed his innocence, prompting head coach Chip Kelly to postpone any serious punishment until all of the "facts were presented." However, as of this afternoon, it remains evident that some form of reprehension will be in store for James, as the freshman running back was sentenced to ten days in jail after pleading guilty misdemeanor harassment. Whether he actually spends any time in jail is one thing, but his plea further embarrasses himself and the university, which will likely prompt Kelly to take further action. From ESPNLosAngeles.com:
James, who appeared in Lane County Circuit Court on Friday morning, will then spend 24 months on probation as part of the plea agreement with prosecutors.
He must report to jail on Friday afternoon, but it was unclear whether he would serve any time.
Deputy District Attorney Alex Gardner said jail time was up to the Lane County Sheriff's Department, which would likely place James in a diversion program instead because of overcrowding.
James, who set a Pac-10 freshman record with more than 1,500 yards rushing last season, originally faced five misdemeanor charges, including menacing, strangulation and assault. All but the harassment charge were dropped.
James was in court with his attorney for the hearing before Judge Maurice K. Merten, which lasted just a little more than five minutes. The running back left the courtroom without comment.
In a statement that was included in court documents related to the case, James apologized to the victim, a former girlfriend. She claimed he grabbed her neck and pushed her to the ground during an argument on Feb. 15.
"I hope to put this matter behind me now and learn from it. I have made a mistake and accept the consequences," the statement said. "I look forward to demonstrating to my university, to my team and to the community that I am a better man than recent events suggest."
Kelly has received a lot of flack this offseason for the way he has handled all the arrests and police run-ins by his players, but in reality, what is he supposed to do? It's impossible for a college coach, in this day and age, to constantly monitor an entire roster of 18-22 year-old athletes. It's just not going to happen. However, it is essential for a coach such as Kelly to react swiftly and appropriately when such a misfortune event does occur.
Has Kelly done that in this instance? I'm not so sure. James has yet to be fully punished, and nothing has been done with starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who is actually set to appear in court later today on an unrelated felony burglary charge. If Kelly eventually takes action against the Ducks' two most high-profiled players, then he will certainly deserve some credit. However, if he lets Masoli and James off free, while booting others off the roster, a lot more questioned will be raised than answers will be provided.
More Updates after the jump:
SB Nation's very own Addicted To Quack has some new information on Masoli:
Jeremiah Masoli was also in court, and plead guilt to misdemeanor second degree burglary. The plea bargain kept the conviction as a misdemeanor, and Masoli will face 12 months probation and 140 hours of community service, and will need to pay over $5,000 in restitution within 10 days.
Unfortunately, Masoli's outlook as part of the Oregon football team is much more unclear. If he lied previously to Coach Kelly regarding these events, you can be sure that he will feel the full repercussions.
At his press conference this afternoon, Chip Kelly announced that he would suspend James for the season opener against New Mexico, a team that went 1-11 a year ago, while further suspending Masoli, who still has a redshirt available, for the entire 2010 season.
With all the speculation that has been happening over the past few weeks, I think that these punishments are fair. James and Beard made mistakes, and when presented with poor situations, made the wrong decisions.
Jeremiah Masoli's crime was much more premeditated, and he reportedly broke Chip Kelly's number one rule: he lied to the coach. I'm honestly surprised he wasn't entirely kicked off the team, though I support the University standing by the student-athletes and helping them compete their education.
All three players will have unspecified goals they will need to meet to earn full reinstatement. I don't imagine that James or Beard will have problems with that, but Masoli will have a long road ahead.
For now, this seems to bring for a close a fairly hectic time for Oregon football, though I'm happy with the response of the University. I'm confident that the players know their will be consequences for their actions, and hope that will affect their behavior. Here's hoping they can keep a low profile over the next few months.
Off the bat, I don't have any major objections regarding the severity of Kelly's punishments. As of right now, it appears as if Masoli was more than fairly reprimanded, as there is still no guarantee that he even suits up for the Ducks in 2011. However, it does appear as the suspension for James may be a little "light," especially in lieu of his recent guilty plea. Anyway, that's my take. What are your thoughts?