Don't worry too much about LeGarrette Blount. He won't be playing football anymore this season, but the University of Oregon still has his back.
Tuition and books for the rest of the year. Room and board, too.
Oregon certainly can afford to keep the running back/heavyweight slugger on the books. Nike co-founder Phil Knight made sure of that recently when he gave $100 million to the university so it could compete against powerhouses like Boise State.
And if Blount gets too antsy, he can even practice with his teammates.
"We're not going to throw LeGarrette Blount out on the street," vowed Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
That's an endearing trait among most college coaches. They stick up for their kids.
Just the other day Rich Rodriguez shed tears while defending his guys at Michigan — and all they had done was complain that he was working them too hard.
Kelly was choking up, too, as he digested the events of Thursday night in Idaho. Either that or he was in tears over perhaps the most awful coaching debut you could imagine on a big stage.
Give Kelly the benefit of the doubt on this one. He was probably as shocked as Blount when the word came down that the best player on the team was done for the season.
As well he should have been. Oregon didn't bother to wait for a judge or jury to deliver its verdict, not with the court of public opinion weighted so heavily against Blount and the Ducks.
No hearing. No chance for Blount to try to make amends.
Just a summary judgment ending his career, executed before the next day's practice even began.
This wasn't a football coach's decision, and it wasn't made by the new athletic director. The university's president sealed Blount's fate hours before the official announcement when he issued a statement calling his behavior "reprehensible."
Whether Knight had a say is open for speculation, but apparently not much happens in the athletic department at Oregon without his input. Knight has so much influence that he sits in on coaches' strategy sessions and brings his friends with him to celebrate in the locker room after big wins, according to The Oregonian newspaper. He's even been seen at games carrying around the same laminated sheets coaches use to call plays.
Seeing the swoosh disrespected so blatantly on national TV probably didn't sit well with him.
Blame the ESPN cameramen for some of that. They could have been filming cheerleaders jumping up and down for joy, but focused, instead, on Blount in a sea of Boise State players to get an image that will define this college football season for a long time.
Blame Byron Hout, too, for tapping Blount on his shoulder pads and taunting him over his miserable game. That wasn't what anyone had in mind before the game when players from both teams shook hands as part of a new sportsmanship initiative. Hout deserves more punishment than simply having to run a few extra sprints in practice.
But mostly blame Blount for losing control at the worst possible time in the worst possible place. He didn't even do it in a civilized way, landing a sucker punch of a right hand when Hout wasn't looking.
It was despicable. It was cowardly.
It was inexcusable.
But in the hasty rush to judgment, a lot of people stopped thinking. They were so distraught over the image — replayed over and over on TV and the Internet — that they immediately imposed the maximum penalty.
It didn't just end his season, it ended his college career. Might have also ended his NFL chances.
Had cooler minds prevailed, they might have spent the weekend thinking about it. Had the university president's grandstanding not painted them into a corner, they might have considered some other options.
The end result may have been the same. This was, after all, a heinous act.
But an argument could be made that suspending Blount for six games and enrolling him in anger-management classes may have been more appropriate. That would give him some hope, and the chance to eventually redeem himself with his university and his teammates.
That didn't happen, to the cheers of the NCAA and the Pac-10, which both wasted no time applauding the decision.
Blount's college football career is over. But, as university officials were quick to point out, he's still got a scholarship and that school thing going for him.
So don't worry what the future holds for LeGarrette Blount.
Because in Oregon they still have his back.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com
(Copyright 2009 The Associated Press)