Richie not getting a warm welcome in Oregon
Scholarships should look beyond talent
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
One of the victims, described by a fellow Nebraska student as "a real little guy," got kicked in the head at a party. According to a police report, another victim was punched in the face and had his head slammed against a wall because he opened the bathroom door, interrupting a romantic moment between the 6-foot-6, 300-pound football player and some lucky girl. And there was also a post-practice fight involving a Cornhuskers teammate. And so when you're told that football star Richard Incognito Jr. might someday play for the University of Oregon, you think, "What? "
Yeah. Yeah. Me too.
You know, that's exactly what they're saying in Lincoln, Neb., today.
Incognito, a first-team all-Big 12 Conference center, left Lincoln. Cornhuskers first-year coach Bill Callahan had enough. He suspended Incognito indefinitely in early September.
Now, Incognito wants to be a Duck.
"Goody, goody, he's gone," said the mother of the Nebraska student who reportedly was assaulted by Incognito at the party Feb 7. "Richie's a time bomb. Let him go off somewhere else."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Incognito is not enrolled for the fall quarter. But there's time left. And if he enrolls soon, Incognito would be eligible to play as a senior in the 2005 season.
Ducks coach Mike Bellotti has confirmed that he's been contacted, and that transfer forms were sent to the athletic department. Bellotti is otherwise prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on Incognito because he is considered a recruitable athlete, but if you're like me, you'd hoped for something a little stronger from Bellotti.
Maybe something like: "No single player is bigger than our program."
Except that was Callahan, not Bellotti.
Second chances, right? Right?
Except that when you examine Incognito, you wonder how many chances he's had. And when you look at Oregon, you wonder if Bellotti, fresh off the Rodney Woods recruitment, isn't looking more and more like Jerry Tarkanian.
S econd-Chance U. isn't as glamorous as it sounds, though.
Incognito is a wonderful football player, sure. He's large. And he flattens people. The same ferocity that makes him a menace at a campus party makes him a hero at the campus stadium. But also, there are issues of decency and respect here.
Playing football isn't a right, it's an opportunity. And Oregon, a publicly funded university, shouldn't be handing out promises of scholarships like they were lollipops.
This isn't an inconsequential matter.
There is a college community in Eugene that deserved fair warning that student life post-Joey Harrington was going to be complicated and messy. I'm sure nobody at freshman orientation pointed out to parents that men with multiple assault charges wouldn't just become classmates, but also receive future scholarships and potentially represent the entire campus on Saturdays.
By the way, new father-to-son, Saturday-night advice in Eugene: Don't drink and drive. And son, don't get yourself kicked in the head tonight. Now, go have some fun.
To his credit, said Incognito: "I've got to tone it down a little."
Except he said it in an interview before the 2003 season.
You'd love to hear from Incognito today, sure. But calls to his parents' house in Glendale, Ariz., were not returned.
Instead, his recent history speaks:
Charged with felony theft at a party in 2001 -- dismissed. Charged with misdemeanor assault in February 2003 -- guilty. Suspended by then-Cornhuskers coach Frank Solich in spring 2003 -- unspecified reasons. Locker room fight with Nebraska teammate, September 2004. Finally, cut loose by Callahan for a violation of team rules.
All this might come to Oregon?
It's not for sure, yet? Well, goody, goody.
And good luck to us all.
John Canzano: 503-294-5065; JohnCanzano@aol.com