The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team played the majority of their 2013-14 season as an up and down team that failed to play cohesive basketball, before getting knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round by Wisconsin. A recent rape investigation into three of the team’s players, Brandon Austin, Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis is further proof that the Ducks program is in shambles.
The District Attorney in the case has declined to prosecute the three men, stating that it is an unprovable case. Whether or not it is provable, the actions described in the victim’s police report are disturbing, and the behavior of these three athletes as described by the alleged victim goes way beyond the idea of college fun and partying. College-aged men taking full advantage of a woman following the consumption of alcohol is something that should not be taken lightly by head coach Dana Altman and the rest of the Oregon administration. Their first step of action has been to suspend Brandon Austin, the freshmen forward from Philadelphia and Damyean Dotson, the 6’5 sophomore guard from Houston, Texas. Dominic Artis, the third member of the Ducks squad mentioned in the report has decided to transfer.
On the court, college athletes are heroes to thousands of fans who give part of their lives to follow their teams and their favorite player, so when situations like this arise, it is both saddening and sickening. While nobody is to blame besides the person or persons that commit these types of acts, coaches and members of college administrations need to take a closer look at some of the players they choose to bring onto their campus. In this case, there were already glaring signs of the troubles prior to the current rape investigation surrounding Brandon Austin. Austin, the 6’6 forward for the Oregon Ducks transferred to Oregon following a suspension from the Providence Friars basketball team for not upholding the responsibilities as a student athlete. What does that mean, exactly? The language could mean anything. It could mean that he got caught doing something immature and stupid, as many college students do, but it was not something small and stupid that he did at Providence. A report surfaced in the middle of March that Austin was suspended from Providence following an investigation that had him linked to the sexual assault of a young college woman. There were signs of trouble before he ever landed on the Ducks campus, and if that is the type of player that Altman wants at his program, their basketball program already appears to be in shambles and could be in a world of hurt.
Everyone is entitled to a second chance, but it is also important that issues and events that surround players and individuals not be glossed over with broad terms such as a violation of the school’s Code of Conduct. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but there are also warning signs that should not be ignored by coaches and athletic departments. If talent is more important than character, Dana Altman is just seeing the beginning of what could happen to his program. On the court, his team played well below their potential throughout the Pac-12 conference season, and off the court his players find their names under the wrong types of headlines. No program or organization is prone to a bad apple and the occasional trouble maker on and off the court, but any time a rape investigation involves current players, a program is bound to be rocked. For the Oregon Ducks, their boat has already been wobbling and taking in water, and any more negative attention to a team in shambles could be enough to sink what should be a major contender in the Pac-12.
For now, the players mentioned in the report have either been suspended or have decided to transfer, but if the Oregon Ducks find that the actions committed by the players as described in the police report are accurate, they should be kicked off the Oregon Ducks basketball team. Just because the District Attorney says that the case is not provable, it does not mean that the events did not occur. The Ducks program must take a long hard look at the events, conduct their own investigation, and if wrong-doing by the members of the team are accurate, they should be punished to the highest degree. Now would not be the time to slap a player on the wrist. Now would be the time to take a stand for the Oregon Ducks program, and show the college basketball world that this will not be glossed over in Eugene.
No matter how the events at the party unfolded and whether or not we know the exact scenario that occurred around the assault, it is clear that no matter what, these players put themselves in a very bad situation. They should know better, and know that they represent their college. If they do not know better than to put themselves in this situation, Dana Altman may need to reconsider the types of players he chooses to recruit.
Unfortunately, for other members of the Ducks squad that had nothing to do with this event, they also become part of the story by default. It is not fair to players that do things the right way, only to have the name on the front of their uniform dragged through the mud. They deserve to wear their uniforms with pride, and should not have to worry about their teammates getting involved in illegal and downright disgusting acts when they are away from the court. It is sad for the players who play by the rules, work hard and represent their school with dignity, and it is also sad for the fans who put so much sweat, tears and energy into a team, only to have it slowly crumble in front of their eyes.
Commentary by Johnny Caito