Duck ups and downs: Off-season legal woes shape 2010 season

Duck ups and downs: Off-season legal woes shape 2010 season
A detail from the cover of last year's Sports Illustrated College Football Preview issue that featured Jeremiah Masoli.

WATCH: KVAL News coverage from 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. March 12, 2010

Just 10 weeks ago the future couldn't have looked brighter for Oregon football.

Sure, the Ducks had just lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, but the team was back in Pasadena for the first time since 1995. And Oregon was going into the 2010 season as the reigning Pac-10 champions, returning versatile quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and young rushing star LaMichael James.

But since then, Oregon's bright future has dimmed considerably as player after player has run into trouble — including Masoli and James.

Both appeared in Lane County court Friday to plead guilty in separate cases. Oregon coach Chip Kelly acted soon thereafter, suspending Masoli for the upcoming season. James, along with place-kicker Rob Beard, were suspended for the opener at home on Sept. 4 against New Mexico.

Kelly read a to-the-point statement at a brief news conference. He did not take questions.

"The actions that our players take when they're in the community and they're not on the football field or in the classroom, are just as important to us," he said. "How they behave as student-athletes here, it's not just on the field. And if they cross that line, I've said all along there will be a punishment that will go along with that."

Some believed that Masoli, who had been considered a potential Heisman candidate, would be dismissed from the team. But he was allowed to stay on scholarship and may practice with the team. He has the option of using a redshirt year.

Masoli pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary in the theft of a pair of laptops and a guitar from a campus fraternity in late January. A plea deal reduced his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Former Ducks receiver Garrett Embry also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree burglary in connection with the case.

Garrett Embry and Jeremiah Masoli in court Friday (Pool photograph)

Both were sentenced to 12 months of probation and 140 hours of community service. Together they must also pay $5,000 restitution.

In the same courtroom hours earlier, James pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in connection to an altercation with a former girlfriend last month.

James was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 24 months of probation. He reported to jail on Friday afternoon but was quickly released and instead put on electronic surveillance for the duration of his sentence. | Story

James, who set a Pac-10 freshman record with more than 1,500 yards rushing last season, originally faced five misdemeanor charges, including strangulation, harassment and assault. All but one harassment charge were dropped.

In a statement that was included in court documents related to the case, James apologized to his former girlfriend, who claimed he grabbed her neck and pushed her to the ground during an argument.

"I hope to put this matter behind me now and learn from it. I have made a mistake and accept the consequences," the statement said. "I look forward to demonstrating to my University, to my team and to the community that I am a better man than recent events suggest."

James rushed for 1,546 yards last season, the ninth-highest total in the nation. He had seven consecutive 100-yard games before Ohio State limited him to 70 in Oregon's 26-17 loss in the Rose Bowl.

Masoli threw for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 668 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Beard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge last week for his role in a Jan. 24 street fight that left him seriously injured. He was placed on probation.

Others on the team who have gotten into trouble include linebacker Kiko Alonso, who pleaded not guilty to drunken driving charges in Eugene Municipal Court last week. Kelly suspended Alonso for the 2010 season upon learning of the arrest.

Defensive end Matt Simms was dismissed by Kelly after he was cited on assault charges last month. Simms pleaded guilty to physical harassment for striking a man he thought had beaten Beard.

Receiver Jamere Holland was dismissed from the team by Kelly after posting vulgar comments and criticizing Kelly on the Facebook social networking site. 

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press)

KVAL News coverage at 5 p.m. March 12, 2010

KVAL News coverage at 6 p.m. March 12, 2010