Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The big news coming out of the Beaver State earlier this week was the firing of Oregon State men's basketball coach Craig Robinson, a move that raised more than a few eyebrows if only for the fact it took place six weeks after the end of the team's season.
Perhaps the move would not have gotten as much press if Robinson were not the brother of First Lady Michelle Obama, whose husband is not only the leader of the free world but also a college basketball junkie in his own right (who else has enough influence to get Oregon State to play at Towson in 2011?).
While Robinson's dismissal continues to be dissected, the first hit of collateral damage from that move has former Maryland guard, Nick Faust, backing out of his decision to transfer to the Beavers.
Robinson's removal and Faust's change of heart have provided some cover for what is happening down in Eugene less than an hour's drive from Corvallis.
The lead story on the men's basketball page at Oregon as of Wednesday was the announcement that forward Ben Carter and guard A.J. Lapray would be transferring from the program, but that hot news story is nearly a month old (April 11).
What the website is not yet reporting is the suspension of guard Damyean Dotson due to a rape investigation. Teammates Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin also are involved in the case and are being held out of team activities as well for the time being.
At this time, the district attorney's office has decided not to prosecute due to a lack of evidence, but that could change if additional information emerges and is deemed crucial to the case moving forward. Regardless of how this case plays out, it is not expected that any one of the three players will be heading back to the program.
College athletes and scandals are nothing new, with campuses simply being a microcosm of society overall, but there is more to this story than a trio of basketball players being in the wrong place at the wrong time and complicating matters with their potentially questionable decisions.
According to reports, the incident in question took place at two off-campus locations on March 8, the date of the final regular-season game for the Ducks.
On Monday, the university acknowledged the allegations of rape, with claims that Dotson, Artis, and Austin were involved, were expressed to the school the following day, but came with a specific request from the Eugene Police Department not to begin a review of the alleged incidents until after the case was closed so as not to jeopardize the integrity of the criminal investigation.
While the move is not all that uncommon in such situations, it did put the basketball program in a difficult position. On one hand, while individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the backlash from not acting immediately in some fashion makes it appear as though the university, team and head coach Dana Altman may have been trying to sweep the situation under the rug.
The investigation was forwarded to the district attorney's office on April 8 and Eugene Police said the university was notified shortly thereafter, with a police report arriving at the school on April 24, more than a week after the district attorney declined to move forward with a prosecution due to insufficient evidence and conflicting claims.
With more research into the alleged incidents, there is still the potential for the case to be reopened and a criminal charge brought against the players, but for the time being the three are not facing any charges.
However, a question that lingers is why did Dotson and Artis continue to play after the initial allegations were made? Not only did Dotson appear in the team's Pac-12 Conference Tournament games in Las Vegas against Oregon State and UCLA, but he started two NCAA Tournament contests versus BYU and Wisconsin in Milwaukee later in March.
If Altman were to sit both players, it would have raised a red flag and possibly compromised the investigation? Like many legal quandaries, it might come down to what did Altman know and when he knew it.
Doston, the fourth-leading scorer for Oregon this past season, started all 33 games in which he appeared, but should he have been involved in those final four games?
There are whispers that the staff was unaware of the allegations or the incident in March and would not have played Dotson or Artis in the postseason if the allegations had been known, but at this point you have to wonder if the school is now ducking for cover.
"Questions have arisen regarding the timeliness of the university's involvement in the matter reported about University of Oregon basketball," read part of a statement released by Robin Holmes, vice president for student affairs at Oregon, and athletic director Rob Mullens on Tuesday. "Law enforcement agencies often request that the university wait to take action in order to avoid interference with an open criminal investigation. We responded accordingly in this situation. In all cases, we begin investigating immediately and aggressively address situations in accordance with the law, our internal code of conduct, and our commitment and obligation to protect and support our students."
Altman has yet to respond to the story, but Oregon president Michael Gottfredson released a statement Monday night:
"We are deeply concerned about information contained in the police report recently released by the Eugene Police Department. Federal laws that protect the privacy of all students preclude the university from commenting about students. However, the university takes allegations of misconduct very seriously. In addition, a full range of services and support are offered to students, including those required by Title IX and others beyond the requirements of Title IX. The university has established internal conduct processes for handling misconduct allegations. At this point, we ask that you please respect the processes and student privacy."
At some point, Altman will have to head to the podium and speak on the issue, and don't be surprised if at that time he is questioned about Austin, a transfer from Providence who was accused last year of sexually assaulting a female student on campus in Rhode Island. Austin was suspended and then decided to transfer to Oregon, putting some considerable distance between himself and his legal troubles, although the incident at Providence remains under investigation.
Austin never actually took the floor for the Ducks, forced to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules, but it seems as though he has already left a black mark on the program.
With this dark cloud looming over Eugene and only three scholarship players from the 2013-14 roster expected to return, how does Altman sell his program to potential transfers and recruits? There are many questions, but so few answers right now.