- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Does this surprise me? No.
Do you have kids in college? Do you think they smoke pot?
If you said, "No way, not my kid!" It's probably 50-50 whether you are wrong. For a lot of young people, pot has replaced alcohol as the first-choice recreational drug of choice.
First, let's deal with this: Smoking pot is not only illegal, it's also against the rules for, my educated guess posits, every college football team IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, including Oregon.
So, while many folks, most particularly ardent Ducks fans, will react with a shrug, it's important to note that Oregon players are -- allegedly -- breaking rules set down by coach Chip Kelly, as well as the United States of America. How often do you think Kelly overlooks players doing the opposite of what he requests?
No matter your opinion on marijuana laws, the allegation that many Oregon players are routinely breaking a team rule is not good, even if it's likely that many schools also see the same team rule frequently broken.
In Oregon's defense, its situation is different than most football programs, due to state laws that restrict drug testing. For one, there is no random testing, and probable cause can't just be just a "hunch" that a player who smells of sandalwood incense has been sucking some bowls -- and not Rose Bowls.
Here's a statement from athletic director Rob Mullens:
“Student-athlete welfare is of the utmost importance to the University of Oregon. Similar to many college campuses wrestling with the same issue, the University of Oregon actively works to address potential use of any illegal substance through a combination of education, prevention and enforcement activities. Student-athletes at the University of Oregon are tested for illegal substances to the full extent possible under existing Oregon state law, which prohibits random testing. We continue to work diligently to educate our student-athletes on the harmful impact of illegal substances. In addition, we have articulated our illegal substances policy to our student-athletes and have clearly defined sanctions for a positive test.”
As for the Ducks policy, the first two positive tests only get counseling. On a third positive test, "The student athlete will be immediately ineligible for competition. They will remain ineligible until they have missed the equivalent of 50% of a season," according to the school. A fourth positive test, and the athlete is dismissed from the team and loses his scholarship.
No, that doesn't sound very strict, particularly when you consider testing can't be random due to state law.
Now, after 430 words, comes my, "But."
As a sports writer with the latitude to opine on such matters, I often try to advise fans how they should "feel" about certain issues -- the option to take it or leave it being plainly available. If I were an Oregon fan, I would worry about this for 17 minutes. Perhaps 20. For a powerful booster with access to Kelly and Mullens, you would be perfectly justified expressing sentiments to them that "I'd rather not read a story like this again."
Question: Is Oregon graduating its players?
Question: Are Oregon's players among the best conditioned in all of college football?
Of course, breaking the law is breaking the law. It leads to plenty of embarrassing moments for a program -- hello, Cliff Harris.
That said, alcohol is legal, and it's the common denominator for a vast majority of bad headlines for college football programs -- such as this and this and this. How often do you read about someone under the influence of pot doing something like this?
You can legally purchase grain alcohol in this country while pot is illegal. Not to get too political, but that is nonsensical.
Yes, creating more reasonable drug laws lingers on the periphery of this conversation. Many folks in the 18-25-year-old bracket certainly no longer buy anti-marijuana arguments that have since been found to be medically untrue.
But that's the periphery. Today, the issue is a slightly embarrassing one for Oregon.
The Ducks player should know that they just made Kelly's life a little bit more difficult. It's possible he might shortly return the favor.