If Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti was intent on deflecting attention from the outstanding, dominating performance by his team last Saturday night in defeating Washington State by a final score of 62-38, I have two words for the coach.
In a game where team focus and unity is paramount, Alliotti managed to assert himself and his opinions in a more prominent position than the extraordinary effort put in by his No. 3 ranked Ducks.
Alliotti chose to denigrate WSU Coach Mike Leach on the basis his Cougs were expected to play for a full 60-minutes regardless of what the numbers were on the scoreboard.
Specifically, Alliotti called Leach’s coaching up WSU players as “low class” and play calling in the final minutes of the game “bull(crap)” Yes, I have chosen to paraphrase the exact word tossed about with reckless abandon by a coach who is entrusted with the responsibility to lead student-athletes both on and off the field.
Just as former Duck Coach Chip Kelly was forced into a coaching moment his first year running the Oregon football program, first year Coach Mark Helfrich found himself in the midst of an embarrassing light being focused on his university.
Comparing the two situations simply adds more embarrassment for the Oregon football program to contend with.
Kelly had to deal with LaGarrett Blount actually throwing a sucker punch at an opposing player showing a lack of maturity at the end of a game the Ducks lost to Boise State in 2009. Following a serious discussion with coaches, publicly Blount was clearly contrite saying he regretted the actions leading to his suspension and the shadow he cast over Oregon football.
Helfrich obviously had a very serious discussion with Alliotti following his verbal attack on Coach Leach through the media. Trying to make things right, Alliotti issued an apology of sorts to Leach through the very same media which gave him a pulpit and the opportunity to call out Washington State’s head man.
“My integrity’s important to me, and the type of person I really am wasn’t portrayed in that moment,” Aliotti said in an interview. “I got caught up in the emotion, and that’s not what a man of Oregon should do. I’m embarrassed.”
“The bottom line is, I’m sorry,” Aliotti said. “I’m embarrassed that I got caught up in the moment after the game. There’s no excuse, but sometimes right after the game the adrenaline is still flowing and I made a huge, human error in judgment. I wish I could take it back, and I promise it won’t happen again.
“I’d like to apologize to Mike Leach and Bill Moos, Washington State and its fans, and Oregon and our fans.”
Time will tell whether or not Alliotti actually has learned from his grievous mistake. He will be given the chance to support his self-image in the eyes of others through actions rather than words.
As expected, Coach Helfrich is standing by his defensive coordinator. “I know he’s remorseful and (was) more or less caught in the moment of defending our players,” Helfrich said. “We’ll all learn from that and move on.”
The image of Oregon football has been tarnished by the actions of one of their leaders. To legitimately return luster to a program that has become a national brand in recent years, Coach Helfrich and his staff must work to redirect the spotlight to accomplishments by the Ducks on the field of play.
There’s no place for blatant disrespect of opponents in the arena of college sports.
It will take time and positive steps to reverse the mistake made when Alliotti lowered himself to the vitriolic tone witnessed in Washington, DC, politics recently. College athletics usually offer a respite from divisive rhetoric.
Hopefully Alliotti will prove his sincerity by turning down the volume off the field allowing fans to enjoy Pac-12 football. Thankfully the voices of the rest of the conference will easily drown out the whining of a singular coach.
The Conference of Champions takes pride in leading the nation in all aspects of college athletics.
Competing at the highest level should always be the watchwords of the Pac-12.