Embarrassment at Oregon no longer limited to three dismissed players
What Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin did on March 8 has brought shame to the Oregon basketball program. But how the school's president, athletic director and basketball coach have handled the situation is also embarrassing.
Studies show that less than half of sexual assault allegations in this country are ever prosecuted because the crime is among the most difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and because physical evidence is not as common as you might think.
Often, it's very much a he-said/she-said deal.
I know enough to realize that.
So even after reading every disturbing word of a 24-page report released earlier this week by the Eugene (Ore.) Police Department, I completely understand why Oregon basketball players Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin won't be prosecuted for an alleged sexual assault on March 8. Regardless of what went down that night, a conviction would've forever seemed unlikely, if not impossible, for a variety of reasons. That's why I'm not here to rant about how wrong it is that these three young men are walking around free while a young woman may be scarred emotionally for life.
Given the facts of the case, I think law enforcement officials took the appropriate action.
Still, we can agree that the entire story is ugly, no matter where the truth falls, and that's why Oregon president Michael Gottfredson announced Friday that Artis, Dotson and Austin, each of whom was recruited to campus by coach Dana Altman, "will not be playing basketball at Oregon again" before Oregon AD Rob Mullens added that "it was very clear to us that those were individuals we didn't want representing our organization."
This also seems appropriate.
So those are two things on which I think most reasonable folks can agree -- that declining to prosecute the three players given the unlikelihood of a conviction was probably the correct legal decision, and that removing the three players from the basketball team also was wise considering the embarrassment the case brought to an institution of higher learning. Whether you believe the three players who contend the sexual encounter was consensual or the one woman who claims it was not, you should believe that the Eugene Police Department reached the proper conclusion, and that Oregon, eventually, did, too.
But here's what you shouldn't believe: Oregon's timeline of things.
That still makes no sense.
The story Mullens and Altman trotted out Friday afternoon was ridiculous. In case you missed it, here are the details: Mullens said he and Altman "were aware that an incident had occurred" before the start of the NCAA Tournament but that they "did not have the details or the identities confirmed," which, presumably, is why Artis and Dotson were allowed the privilege of participating in the NCAA Tournament, which, according to published contracts, contributed to the Ducks winning enough to secure a $50,000 bonus for Altman. (Austin, it should be noted, was ineligible to play last season anyway after transferring to Oregon from Providence, where he also was linked to a sexual assault case.)
Does that make any sense?
College basketball coaches often talk about their teams as "families" and their players as "sons," and so what Altman is asking us to believe is that he was told some of his "sons" were being investigated, but that he didn't take the obvious next step to find out which "sons" were being investigated, and for what. You buying that? Is that how you'd respond if you knew your "sons" were being investigated for something?
Of course it isn't.
So Altman is either hiding the truth or, at the time, he simply did not do enough, i.e., what any normal person would do, to learn the details of the situation with the start of the 2014 NCAA Tournament -- where careers and, as previously noted, bonuses, are annually made -- fast approaching. The first option is obviously wrong. The second is arguably worse.
Either way, Gottfredson acknowledged Friday that, unlike Mullens and Altman, he actually did know which players were being investigated prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament, which leads to this obvious question: How did the Oregon president know but the Oregon AD and coach did not? Nobody directly addressed that Friday -- probably because there's no good explanation. Beyond that, Gottfredson added that the university received a copy of the police report on April 24 but that Mullens and Altman didn't read it until April 30. Why? Nobody directly addressed that on Friday either -- probably because there's no good explanation. And if there's more to this story that might clarify things and make them more sensible, well, Oregon has had plenty of time and multiple opportunities to share it.
CBSSports.com has requested interviews with both Mullens and Altman.
Those requests have not yet been granted.
Bottom line, the whole thing is sad.
Either somebody is holding back details or everybody was bafflingly careless with how they handled the days between the incident on March 8 and Oregon's NCAA Tournament opener on March 20. I'll let you decide. But it's obvious, at this point, that Artis, Dotson and Austin aren't the only ones who've brought shame to Oregon. At least three other men on campus have also contributed to the embarrassment, undeniably, one way or another.
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