EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon football coach Chip Kelly spoke live on national TV Tuesday afternoon about the troubled state of his team.
“First and foremost we’re embarrassed,” Kelly told ESPN host Bob Ley. “I truly believe it’s a privilege to play football here and with that goes responsibility.”
Kelly was interviewed live on ESPN’s midday show "Outside the Lines."
At times he appeared almost apologetic about the current state of his program. In just the past week, a handful of players have run into legal trouble or been kicked off the team.
Star running back LaMichael James was arrested for misdemeanor assault, strangulation and harassment after police say he attacked a woman outside his apartment; kicker Rob Beard was charged with misdemeanor assault after a January brawl; and linebacker Kiko Alonso was cited for driving under the influence of intoxicants.
All three pleaded not guilty, and Alonso was suspended from the team.
Wide receiver Jamere Holland was also kicked off the team this past weekend. Kelly would only say he violated team rules, but a profanity-laden public Facebook post before his dismissal criticized the coach.
That’s all on top of published reports that a UO student accused quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and former wide receiver Garrett Embry of theft. No charges have been filed in that case, but Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner told KVAL Monday the case is still open and “we do not speculate about when an investigation may be completed.”
And then there’s the infamous LeGarrette Blount punch that was broadcast live on national TV. ESPN repeatedly broadcast the video during segment on the Ducks on Tuesday.
Kelly responded to all of these incidents.
“Our motto for our team is to ‘win the day’ and ‘win the day’ doesn’t just relate to football activities, it’s about behaving as a student athlete and as a moral student athlete and doing what’s right in the community. And what goes on on the field and what goes on off the field, it goes hand-in-hand,” Kelly said.
“The thing that disturbs me the most is that people think we don’t care because it’s an off-the-field incident. We take them very, very seriously and that’s important to me, that’s important to our coaching staff, that’s important to our athletic director, that’s important to our president,” he added.
Kelly appeared at times to get agitated when talking about his critics and people who don’t like how he has handled the recent spate of bad news.
At one point, he challenged Ley to have him back on the show when “this thing is all said and done.” He said people have been too quick to jump to conclusions about his players and their actions.
“If people want to pile on me and people want to hit me, fire away. But I love my players. I’m going to stick by my players,” he said. “But if they do something wrong they understand they will have to pay a price for doing something wrong. And our job will continue to be to educate them every single day about the right things to do and the wrong things to do.”
Kelly said the recent troubles had also damaged the legacy of the 2009 Pac-10 championship team.
“It’s tarnished it, certainly tarnished it. I don’t want to be known because our football team went to the Rose Bowl. I want to be known because we’ve got a great group of young men that understand how fortunate they are to be able to go to school at a great place like this, play football, get a great education and go on and be functioning members of society. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Speaking about fans, Kelly said “the conclusion they should reach is the same conclusion I have: I’m embarrassed. Our football team is embarrassed. We represent an outstanding university and that’s not how we do things here. And that has to stop. Our players understand that that will stop, or you’re not going to play football here.”
Watch the ESPN interview: