It’s rare in big-time college sports that sportsmanship is valued over winning. So rare that we can’t help admiring Oregon football coach Chip Kelly.
This was to be the year that the Oregon Ducks finally dethroned the mighty USC Trojans, who have won or shared the Pacific 10 championship for eight consecutive years. The Ducks were to do this largely on the legs of top running back LeGarrette Blount, who set a school record last year by scoring 17 touchdowns.
But at the end of Oregon’s 19-8 loss to Boise State last Thursday, a frustrated Blount sucker punched Boise player Byron Hout, who had been taunting Blount over his poor game.
Coach Kelly wasted no time suspending Blount for the rest of the season, his last year of eligibility to play college ball. (Boise coach Chris Peterson won’t suspend Hout for his poor sportsmanship.) Oregon’s president, Richard Lariviere, supported Kelly, saying “We do not and will not tolerate the actions that were taken by our player. Oregon’s loyal fans expect and deserve better.”
Suspending Oregon’s star player may cost the Ducks a shot at the Pac 10 championship and a profitable Rose Bowl appearance, but they’ve already won the Pac 10 sportsmanship championship. That counts for a lot more.