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Dana Altman deserves to be fired for mess at Oregon

May 14, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT

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AP Photo

Dana Altman needs to be fired.

I’ll explain why in a minute, but before I do, let me set the stage for you.

Altman, the Oregon head coach, finally spoke publicly about the rape accusations against three of his players on Friday evening, just a few hours after school President Michael Gottfredson made it official that Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin were kicked off of the basketball team.

Altman’s first public comments about investigation came four days after the police report detailing the alleged victim’s graphic accusations went public and almost two months after the incident occurred. More than anything, there were two questions the public was waiting for Altman and Oregon to answer:

  • Why was Brandon Austin, who had a sexual assault allegation at Providence hanging over his head, allowed to transfer into the school and the program?
  • When was Altman made aware of the latest allegations against his three players, and when did he discover the details of what the victim was claiming happened?

And quite frankly, neither answer was in anyway satisfactory.

Let’s start with the first question.

Austin was the only one of the three players that did not play in a game for the Ducks after the alleged incident occurred. That’s because he’s currently sitting out as a transfer. He left Providence after one semester because he had been suspended for the year. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Austin’s suspension was centered on an accusation that he sexually assaulted a woman in the fall. But it was known in basketball circles well before that.

On Friday, during his press conference, Altman said that he was unaware that Austin’s issue was an alleged sexual assault.

I’m not buying it.

Austin announced his transfer to Oregon on Jan. 7. He was suspended by the college for the entire year in late-December. Austin’s issue at Providence was a sexual assault allegation known by a number of people weeks prior to the suspension. I had multiple conversations about it before Providence announced he was suspended for the year, enough so that, when the Wall Street Journal’s report came out in March, I was shocked that this wasn’t already public knowledge.

If that’s what I was hearing, if those were the conversations that I was having, then I am positive Altman was hearing the same. He had to have known that a sexual assault allegation was Austin’s trouble at Providence.

That brings me to the second question: when did Altman know about the incident at Oregon and when did he find out specifics of which his players were being accused?

Altman said that he was made aware “the day before we left to go to Milwaukee [for the NCAA tournament]” of an “incident” had happened with some of his players when he was told by AD Rob Mullens. That would have been March 17th. He said he wasn’t told details of the accusations and was not privy to the identity of the players involved.

Let’s rewind here.

Oregon released their timeline of the investigation on Tuesday evening. The incident occurred on March 8th. Oregon admitted in a statement last week that they were made aware of the sexual assault allegations when the father of the victim called the school on March 9th. The alleged victim went to the Eugene PD on March 13th.

But Dana Altman didn’t find out about the incident or the allegations until March 17, after Artis and Dotson played in the Pac-12 tournament? Until the day before they were going to take off and play in the NCAA tournament? I find it hard to believe that, in a college town like Eugene, three basketball players could be accused of sexual assault and two different police departments, including the UOPD, could find out while the head coach stays in the dark for eight days.

But I’m cynical. I know that. I can admit that it’s possible word never made it back to Altman.

So I’ll take it a step further: Altman said that he did not have the details of the allegations or the identities of the players confirmed before the start of the NCAA tournament on March 20, which I find problematic.

It’s inconceivable for a college basketball coach to be made aware that a player on his or her team has a legal issue and for that coach not to figure out which player it is. Whether it’s to help them, to guide them, to make sure they have legal representation, to suspend them if, you know, they’re accused of forcible rape with two other teammates, it doesn’t matter. These are still student-athletes, right? These are kids that are supposed to become adults with the help of the coaches they play for, aren’t they? Isn’t that the ideal we’re going for here?

Moreover, I simply do not believe that a coach like Altman — or any coach at any level in any sport — would proceed to go about his business like nothing was wrong after he was made aware of an “incident” being investigated by the police that involved players on his team that was severe enough that it made it all the way back to his athletic director. Because that’s the story Altman is pitching here. His AD told him about the police investigation — and their request that Oregon pause their internal investigation, a topic I’ll get to in a minute — and, instead of finding out who was involved and how serious this “incident” was, he … went back to watching film?

Shouldn’t a coach want to know? Shouldn’t he be wondering which players on the roster managed to get themselves into trouble at the most important time of the year for a college basketball team? That shouldn’t be ignored.

But hey, maybe this is the way it played out. Maybe Altman is telling the truth here. All I’m saying is that I find it hard to believe Altman when he says he did not know the nature of the investigation and the identities of the players involved before the start of the tournament, in part because it would be the second lie that he told during that press conference on Friday.

And even if he is telling the truth, if he and his staff continued to prepare for the NCAA tournament as if three members of his team weren’t involved in an investigation being conducted by the police that he was clueless about, than that means that Altman was not on top of things the way a high-major college basketball coach should be on top of things.

Here’s something else that doesn’t add up: Altman’s stance is that he and Oregon did not look into the incident at all because they were specifically asked not to do so by the Eugene PD. According to the university, they explicitly asked the Eugene PD whether or not they should keep any players from participating in the NCAA tournament, to which they were told “to do what they normally would do regarding who plays and who doesn’t.”

That sounds good, but Melinda McLaughlin, a Eugene PD spokesperson, told The Oregonian that “police are not going to be concerned about who participates in a sporting event” and that they gave the school no specific instruction regarding playing time for the kids being investigated. That report was confirmed by KEZI9, a television station in Eugene.

Oh.

At best, there was a miscommunication between Oregon and the Eugene PD, and when dealing with sexual assault allegations and postseason tournament games that net coaches — like Dana Altman — five figure bonuses, miscommunications cannot happen. When a best-case scenario could be a fireable offense, you don’t want to think about a worst-case scenario.

If Altman is willing to lie publicly, as I believe he is, about knowingly accepting a transfer that had been suspended after being accused of sexual assault, why should we believe anything else that he is saying?

And if we can’t believe him about when he knew about the accusation, when he knew about the identity of the players being accused, or what the Eugene PD told him to do, than he shouldn’t be the head coach at Oregon anymore.

Dana Altman needs to be fired.

  1. fight0n - May 14, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    STOP! No way Altman should be fired. You honestly think all of this was for a bonus? Acting like these were key rotational players. Both guys, who were eligible, were falling out of the rotation.

    Two NCAA tournament games:

    Dominic Artis: 18 minutes, 5 points, 3 shots.
    Damyean Dotson: 40 minutes, 9 points, 10 shots.
    Brandon Austin: N/A

    The kids were NOT charged. If you read the police report they shouldn’t be charged either. The victim had two different stories and slept with Artis/Joe Young the following day. All of the kids in this situation lives are RUINED. Yet you want more blood. Sick human being.

  2. seanb20124 - May 14, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    No arrests, no need to tarnish these children for life with a false rape allegation.

  3. hdanger10 - May 14, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    I know coach Altman and know he is a good man and a great coach. These attacks are aggressive and extreme. As noted, they werent charged so any suspension would have been premature. Innocent until proven guilty has been lost too often in the sport community.

    I dont think he should be fired but do think they have done things that are out of character. He can adjust and be perfectly fine.

  4. wgward - May 14, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    Oregon deserves him.

  5. ningenito78 - May 15, 2014 at 1:43 AM

    Bringing up the players minutes and statistics in this is seriously tone deaf.

    Don’t know if he should be fired, particularly if the kids aren’t charged, but the kids should have been suspended pending investigation. At worst it’s really doing his job as a college head coach and sending a message and taking a stand for the program by suspending them regardless of the point of the season they were in. If it turns out that Altman actively hid information or lied to the police or his AD or anything totally illegal or breached his contract calling for him to be fired is a bit premature.

  6. longborer69 - May 15, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    Absolute rubbish. The police didn’t want the players tipped off that they were under investigation. If Altman decides his “want to know” is more important than that, he jeopardizes the police investigation and the chance for a conviction. Then people would say he should be fired because by talking he helped his players dodge a rape charge. Wouldn’t that be great?

    Both Altman and the university president affirmed that Altman did not even know who the players were, and that the police >did not want them asking questions.

    Do the police care who played in a game? No. That does not at all contradict the statement that the police told them to behave normally. Are the police denying that they told the university to behave normally? If they deny it, then you’ve got a case. Have you asked the police whether the university timeline and its characterizations of communications with police is accurate or not? Until you’ve done that, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    What do you want Altman to have done? Suspend the whole team? Ask them which of them raped a girl last week? Tip them off to the investigation?

    Part of the police investigation was having the girl call these guys and talk to them about certain things while secretly recording them. You can’t do that if the guys know they are under investigation.

    People talk as if the basketball games, and who played in them, was the most important thing. The most important thing was justice — trying to ascertain whether or not a crime had really taken place, and getting a conviction if it could be proven. You don’t jeopardize any of that just because a coach “wants to know” or to make basketball fans feel better about the players who were playing.

    As for the Austin transfer, you MAY have a point there. But you are a reporter. Have you done your investigation? What are the rules at Providence about internal investigations? Could anyone tell Altman what was going on with that? What about the state laws? If he asked someone, would he have been told? Could he have been told?

    Maybe somebody told you about it, but obviously off-the-record, since you didn’t report it. If Providence tells Altman, can Austin sue them for breach of privacy, etc? Do you know the answers to those questions? If you don’t know, then for all you know, it might have been impossible for Altman to find out. Should he have asked more questions? Maybe. But maybe it was impossible for him to get more answers anyway. He says they didn’t tell him. Ask them if they did.

    He says they said they wanted Austin back. Ask them if they did. Seems like they are keeping his buddy who was also accused, so probably they did want Austin back.

    If you are a reporter, you might actually check some of these things before calling for someone to lose his job. That’s a pretty significant thing to do, to fire someone. It impacts a lot of people. You want to make sure you are doing it for good reason, not simply because people are unhappy about something. I’m more unhappy about this whole thing than you are, probably, because I’m a Duck. But I don’t want a decent guy to lose his job unless he actually deserves it, and you’ve far from made the case.

    • Rob Dauster - May 15, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      Believe it or not, I actually agree with many of the points that you are making here. My biggest issue doesn’t center around whether or not these guys were suspended. It’s complicated, but I do believe in due process. Innocent until proven guilty and all.

      My issue, as I wrote, is that there is simply no way that Altman was unaware of the accusations against Austin from Providence. It doesn’t matter what Cooley or Providence will cop to saying. Everyone in basketball circles knew, so either Altman was untruthful in the press conference or he was willfully ignorant to a very serious allegation against a kid he was trying to bring to campus.

      And when you bring a kid with an accusation hanging over his head to campus and he gets accused of the same thing within two months of being on campus, you CANNOT hide behind a claim that you were unaware of something that was not a secret. You HAVE to answer for that, either the risk you took bringing him in or the fact that you didn’t do your due diligence.

      And if he’s willing to lie, as I strongly believe he is, to coverup one thing, how can we sit here and trust everything else they are asking us to believe?

      I’ll admit: you make a very good case. I just disagree, and believe me when I tell you that I — we, CBT, my bosses and editors — didn’t take publishing this lightly. I know what I’m saying here.

      • longborer69 - May 16, 2014 at 3:17 AM

        Fair enough, and thanks for responding. This is much better than your article, which dragged in stuff that (IMO) has no place in the discussion. The case that Altman lied is hard to make. If I believed he did, I’d want him gone, too.

        Austin — you say everyone in basketball circles knew, but I don’t know if that is true. There’s 3000 miles between the two schools. Oregon played no one in eastern circles after Austin was suspended, so no private chats after games with other coaches who might have known. So I don’t buy that “he must have known.” I certainly do buy that he didn’t have sufficient “due diligence” on Austin, but I don’t think that’s a firing offense. Austin went to Oregon mid-year, during the basketball season, when Altman was undoubtedly more focused on game prep than investigating a recruit. Too quick to take what Cooley said at face value, absolutely. He knew and he lied? Very, very hard to prove, and I’m not sure it is as likely as you think it is.

        Yeah, I’m an Oregon fan. But not while Joseph Young is on the team (read the police report, if you haven’t). The whole thing turns my stomach.

        But I don’t see the obvious mistake of recruiting Austin as grounds for firing unless it’s a pattern.

        And the rest just doesn’t fly. To refer to Altman’s bonus is, IMO, completely unacceptable. He couldn’t ask questions and he had to play his normal rotation to avoid jeopardizing a potential prosecution. It had nothing to do with a bonus, and it’s reprehensible to suggest it did. I know you didn’t invent that, you picked that up from Steve Duin, who disgraced himself with that argument. I think Duin is usually better than that. Too bad.

      • tripbill - May 16, 2014 at 4:48 PM

        The point is he should be fired for not telling the truth. As is often the case, not being truthful about what happened is often viewed far worse than what actually happened.

        Just ask Lance Armstrong and A Rod.

  7. ningenito78 - May 15, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    ^^BOOM^^

    I would actually like to hear the author’s response to the above comment. Yeah the guy is an Oregon fan but he made a hell of a lot of good points.

  8. tombstone7 - May 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    Allegedly and ” not charged ” are not reasons to ruin young people’s lives. I feel for the female, but she knew what she was doing and so did the young men….

    Keep Dana Altman…..fire the author of this opinion!

  9. teedraper - May 15, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Who cares if you’re buying it or not?

  10. tigersfandan - May 16, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    If they do fire Altman — and I’m not saying they should — who would replace him? Ben Howland?

  11. officialauthority - May 16, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Of course Altman must be fired. He is a despicable human being for bringing a sex offender under investigation, a SUSPENDED player, to the campus. And giving that offender a $40,000 education, combining him with other pack animals and letting them loose not only on the campus but throughout the nation as they REPRESENT the University. His actions put an ugly pall over the campus and puts a taint on the Oregon name worldwide. The Universities in the PAC-12 pride themselves in selecting fine young men and women scholar-athletes who will benefit from their education and represent themselves and their schools with dignity. Altman no longer deserves to represent the University across the nation. Phil Knight already withdrew Nike money and this is probably why. Shame on Oregon for keeping Altman. Rob Mullens should be fired for keeping Altman.

    • tigersfandan - May 17, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      A despicable human being? Get off your high horse.

      • officialauthority - May 17, 2014 at 7:38 PM

        Nice to hear from you, former “Coach” Altman.

      • tigersfandan - May 17, 2014 at 8:53 PM

        How original. You attack Person A. Someone disagrees with you. Obviously, that person must be Person A, since no one else would disagree with you. How tolerant of you!

      • officialauthority - May 20, 2014 at 3:00 PM

        How original. You disagree with a Person (A,B or WHATEVER) so accuse you them of being on a “high horse.” How tolerant of you!

      • tigersfandan - May 20, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        Well, you did call him ‘despicable’. How do you think that sounds?

  12. melozanagger - May 23, 2014 at 3:22 AM

    Another jealous beaver, lol

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