Browns tackle Joe Thomas wisely wanted to see someone fired for the Oregon offseason workout debacle. It’s not happening, unfortunately.
Instead, the adult responsible for an exercise regimen that put three players in the hospital will be suspended for one month. And that’s that.
The punishment of Irele Oderinde has been announced by the school, and head coach Willie Taggart has said all the right things (even if he didn’t do the right thing) in response to the development.
“As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first,” Taggart said in a statement that perhaps should have been followed by an explanation of the manner in which he’s being held responsible for the incident. “I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university.”
It’s easy for Taggart to support the actions taken by the university when the actions weren’t taken against him. But why shouldn’t they be? While it may not be grounds for immediate termination or resignation, Taggart surely hopes to improve the performance of the team. In order to do that in September, the players need to be in great physical shape. He directly benefits from those efforts.
Mentally, the players also need to know that there’s a new sheriff in town, a new way of doing things. A break from the means and methods of the past. And there’s no better way to get their attention than to mimic Kurt-Russell-in-Miracle and go again and again and again and again until they realize they’re working (without pay) for a different boss.
The NCAA needs to intervene, providing real punishment when player health and safety is undermined and providing a reliable mechanism for players to register complaints about practice and workout abuses. The players have no protection; the NCAA needs to provide it.
If the NCAA can’t or won’t, someone else needs to step up and provide assistance and support for college football players who know misconduct is occurring but who have no way to efficiently have their concerns addressed without getting on the wrong side of the head coach.