University of Oregon football coach Chip Kelly is going to meet with the media following practice on Friday and the school sent out a release saying that he would discuss running back LaGarrette Blount's "potential reinstatement prior to the conclusion of the 2009 season." Blount gained infamy on the opening night of the college football season when he punched a Boise State player in the jaw following Oregon's 19-8 loss. He was suspended for the remainder of the season the next day, effectively ending the senior's college football career.
According to ESPN, Blount will be reinstated provided "he continues to follow a plan" set up when he was suspended, which likely includes the letter he wrote to the school's paper apologizing for the incident on Thursday. It's unclear if part of the plan was the resounding blowout victory over Cal that made Oregon's chances of finishing high up in the Pac-10 stadings, but it certainly makes Kelly look less like a naked opportunist than he would have if he'd kept Blount around in the face of a terrible loss.
That's a cynical point of view that Oregon created for itself by mishandling the Blount suspension in the first place. Blount deserved to be suspended, but he should have been given an indefinite suspension conditional on his showing remorse, making amends and displaying an understanding that it was an isolated incident and overreaction to taunting. Suspending him for the whole season was a quick, easy way to try and win a battle for public opinion when Kelly should have been thinking about what was right for his team, his school and Blount.
Yes, Blount. Kelly called this a "teachable moment" when he suspended Blount, but losing your career because of a momentary lapse was the wrong lesson. This wasn't part of a history of bad actions, it wasn't a totally unprovoked assault and Byron Hout, the Boise State player, wasn't seriously injured. The punishment was worse than the crime which made Kelly's decision the wrong one.
And now he looks he even worse by looking like either a guy without the courage of his convictions or someone who simply can't make up his mind. There's all kinds of mixed messages being sent here, none of which support the idea that this was a moment about teaching.
All that said, and contrary to the idea that two wrongs don't make a right, giving Blount a chance to resume his career is the correct and reasonable decision. He might not play much and he might not have the pro career he had ahead of him at the start of the season, but he gets to move forward which is part of any process of remorse and rehabilitation.