Thursday evening, after a long day in court, Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff heard the two words he had been waiting the entire day to hear: “not guilty.”
The starting junior wideout from Houston was facing a charge of DUII stemming from a March 3, 2012 incident that resulted in his arrest; however, a six-person jury did not find substantial proof to indict him, and Huff walked away with his name cleared.
While a jury of his peers rendered Huff innocent, he is just the latest Oregon athlete to find himself in a legal quandary.
In 2010, then-starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was charged with second degree burglary after allegedly stealing two laptops and a guitar from a University of Oregon fraternity house. Masoli ended up pleading guilty before eventually transferring to Ole Miss, where he led the Running Rebels for a season.
Running back LaMichael James, now on the San Francisco 49ers, also found himself in a legal bind in 2010.
James plead guilty to misdemeanor harassment charges and was suspended for the first game of the season after an incident with an ex-girlfriend. James was sentenced to 10 days in jail but never ended up serving time because of overcrowding issues.
And then, of course, there is the case of former Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris. Harris, the incredibly talented cornerback from Fresno, Calif., was eventually dismissed from the Oregon football program after not being able to stay out of trouble off the field.
The trouble started in August of 2011, when Harris and starting quarterback Darron Thomas were pulled over for driving 118 miles per hour on I-5. Video footage of the stop appeared online, and when the officer, who smelled marijuana in the car, asked where the drugs were, Harris responded with his now-infamous line, “We smoked it all.”
Harris’ behavior ended up being too much for Chip Kelly and the Oregon coaching staff to deal with, and following his last transgression, he was sent packing. Harris now has a roster spot on the New York Jets.
While Huff will not serve jail time and — outside of a fine for driving with an invalid license — will not pay any money to the city, his name will now be associated with other Oregon athletes who have had run-ins with the law.
A big issue, outside of Huff and his DUII, is why these athletes keep finding themselves in trouble.
At the end of the day, these athletes are also college students, and all people make mistakes.
However, these athletes must realize that, for better or worse, they will be held to a higher standard, and their actions will be more highly scrutinized than other students at the UO.
The UO athletic department does not have an issue with discipline; by all accounts, former head coach Chip Kelly was quite the disciplinarian and held his players to a high standard.
However, with the Chip Kelly era officially closed, and with Mark Helfrich taking over the reins, it will be important to see how he handles any legal troubles for his players in the future.
The UO has now officially arrived on the national scene. With four consecutive BCS bowl appearances, Oregon is now a premier destination for top-flight recruits.
In order for the program to maintain this success, it is imperative that the student athletes are actually on the field on Saturdays and not suspended, standing on the sidelines.
Oregon has become a national brand; it’s time the players acknowledge their responsibilities and act accordingly. There are more than 100 players on the roster, but the actions of a few can speak louder than that of the majority.