Where has Dana Altman been during this past week of turmoil that surrounds his basketball program? His silence speaks louder than any words, and if the Oregon Ducks have any hope of saving their team, Altman may need to consider making some kind of statement. It is a golden opportunity to set the record straight, and assure the fans and the general public that there was no wrong-doing on their part. Until then, more questions will arise and the longer the silence draws out, the worse it looks.
The University of Oregon has announced that Dominc Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin have been officially dismissed from the basketball team, following a disturbing rape investigation that mentioned the three men. University of Oregon President, Michael Gottfredson made the announcement on Friday morning, saying that the actions of the three players were “utterly unacceptable.”
The dismissal of the three Ducks players will not be the end of the story for the men’s basketball team, as head coach, Dana Altman and the athletic department will have to face stiff questions regarding the circumstances that followed the alleged assault. While the athletic department has made a number of statements, it is now time for head coach, Dana Altman to break the silence. He is the head coach and the face of the program, so it is time for him to speak. What was known prior to the start of the Pac-12 tournament and the NCAA tournament, and why were the players not disciplined sooner? Reports out of Eugene have said that the Police Department advised the university not to take action, out of fears that it would disrupt an ongoing investigation.
In a statement from the university, they have stated that they were well aware of the claims on March 9, prior to the start of the league tournament. However, the request from the Police Department was adhered to, and the players went on to play the following three weeks of basketball. It is worth questioning how simply benching the players for “undisclosed reasons,” or “disciplinary actions” would have had any type of effect on the investigation. Each year players are benched or suspended for a myriad of reasons that rarely see the light of day. Simply stating that taking disciplinary action would jeopardize the investigation sounds like an odd request from the Police Department, and a pretty unnerving explanation.
The term “cover-up” may be too strong in this case, but at the very least it appears to be a case of turning a blind eye or sweeping an issue under the rug until the end of the season. If the University of Oregon cannot explain their actions, then the Eugene Police Department has some explaining to do. Is this common procedure when these types of events take place, or were these individuals given special treatment because they were part of the men’s basketball team? There are tough questions that must be answered, and until the public is satisfied with their explanations, this story will not fade away anytime soon.
Following a week that saw students occupy part of the administration in protest at the center of the Ducks campus, the university took a strong stance on Friday morning by dismissing all three players. The dismissal was bound to occur and was something that the administration had to act on before matters got worse. Two months after the alleged rape is not exactly swift action, but at least the university is attempting to move things forward, both for the sake of the victim, the community and the Ducks faithful.
The events surrounding the investigation and the media blitz that has stormed the University of Oregon campus is already seeing repercussions in recruiting for the Ducks basketball team. Tashawn Thomas, who was considering a transfer from Houston to Oregon has decided not to visit Eugene, stating that this past week of events played a role in his decision. Things have already began to snowball, and the freefall of Ducks basketball is a very real possibility. If they are looking to right the ship, and begin a slow rebuild, they must act soon.
If Dana Altman, his staff and the rest of the athletic department do not set the record straight and give the students, fans, potential recruits and the general public a clear explanation, then the basketball team could face some very difficult times ahead. Now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time for the program to reach out to the community, the campus and everyone associated with the University of Oregon. Now is the time for the head coach to take control of the situation, and assure everyone that whatever can be done is being done. He is the face of the program, and it is time that he steps up and proves it. It is time for Dana Altman to address the community and make a statement before he finds himself in some very hot water.
Commentary by Johnny Caito