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Oregon player suspended for punch

Star running back LaGarrette Blount won't play another game this season after striking a Boise State player after Thursday night's loss.

September 05, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

The trial-jury-verdict-gavel process that led to Friday's season-long suspension of Oregon senior tailback LeGarrette Blount was quick, efficient and decisive.

Or, exactly the opposite of the way Oregon's football team played in Thursday night's 19-8 loss on the blue turf.

Was it blue process?

Even if it wasn't, it sure was immediate.

Less than 24 hours after Blount's right-cross sucker punch landed on Byron Hout's right jaw, the paperwork was filed.

Blount had apologized profusely trying to save his career, and first-year Oregon Coach Chip Kelly owned up to the unmitigated disaster of his debut.

But Lord Justice was swift.

Friday morning, Oregon President Richard Lariviere went on the appropriate offensive.

"There is no place on the field of play for that kind of action, and his conduct was reprehensible," Lariviere said in a statement. "We do not and will not tolerate the actions that were taken by our player. Oregon's loyal fans expect and deserve better."

Larry Scott, the first-year Pacific 10 Conference commissioner, who attended Thursday night's game, flew back to headquarters in Walnut Creek, Calif., and consulted with Oregon officials.

When Oregon put out the word that Blount was suspended for the season, the Pac-10 released a statement in full support of the decision.

"It made me proud that we've got coaches and programs with zero tolerance for this kind of behavior," Scott said.

Who could argue with that?

But . . . was the punishment for Blount too harsh?

Possibly, but the incident unfolded on ESPN -- the middle of the media's town square -- and video of Blount punching Hout ricocheted through cyberspace at warp speed.

Something serious had to be done because the postgame echo was going to reverberate around the world, and on "Around the Horn."

So, Blount pays a huge price for something that happened in the heat of competition.

The only thing missing was any sort of indictment of Boise State, a co-conspirator in this ugly incident.

While Hout did not deserve to get decked by Blount, he did deserve to get suspended -- for at least a game.

If not for Hout's taunting of Blount, the incident could have been avoided.

After the game ended, Blount found himself on the field near the Boise State sideline, literally surrounded by Broncos players. He knew what was coming.

It was Blount who made a fool of himself by saying, before the game, that Boise State deserved a back-end kicking as payback for the Broncos' upset at Eugene last year.

It was Hout who made a fool of himself after the game by rushing up to Blount, smacking him on the shoulder pads, and shouting unkind things.

Boise State Coach Chris Petersen was standing next to Hout when the incident took place, and video showed him yelling at and trying to push his player away from Blount just before the punch was launched.

Yet, Boise State announced that Hout would not be suspended by the team. Petersen said any discipline of Hout would be handled internally.

"We're not good with it," Petersen told the Idaho Statesman newspaper. "It always takes two to tangle. Those are things we preach about every day around here. We just need to keep our mouths closed . . . and let our play speak for itself."

Petersen added that, "Byron's mistake wasn't as extreme as LeGarrette's, but he was still wrong."

Blount loses his senior year and Hout has to run extra wind sprints?

And what about the decision to show the replay of the incident on the video scoreboard, which only fueled fan anger as Blount was jeered and cursed at on his way out of the stadium?

Larry Scott wouldn't pass judgment on some other conference's school.

"It's up to Boise State to look at their player and what happened from their perspective," he said.

Everything about Thursday night's game was tainted, tarnished and ugly: Oregon's uniforms, the penalties, the turnovers and, ultimately, the aftermath.

Boise State won the game. It was the better team.

By night's end, though, everybody needed a shower.

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.comDufresneLATimes

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