Newly hired Oregon football coach Willie Taggart is taking offense over an article written by Andrew Greif, beat reporter for The Oregonian.
According to the Daily Emerald, Greif’s article from January 16 detailed particularly rough workouts that resulted in three Oregon players having to go to the hospital. Because of that, strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde was suspended for a month without pay.
Now that Oderinde is back, Taggart is backing his fellow coach by refusing to talk to Greif because of the article.
“When you’re not fair and honest, then to me that’s personal,” Taggart said. “When you do something that’s negative and it’s going to be personal, then I won’t have shit to do with you.”
Taggart took particular offense to Greif’s claims that the workouts were described as “grueling” and “akin to basic military training.” Taggart felt the claims were inaccurate, instead claiming that players “were allowed to tap out but some overworked themselves and finished the workout to show they’re not “quitters.”” Greif, however, claimed that multiple sources described the workout in similar terms.
“Though the description of the workouts is understandably subjective, ultimately what has never been in doubt is that three University of Oregon players were hospitalized after the first week of offseason workouts and received treatment for several days,” Greif said.
Greif makes a fair point. Regardless of what someone thought of the workouts, the end result was that three players had to be taken to the hospital. So even if Taggart felt the workouts were fair, and gave them the opportunity to stop, exactly what good does it do if three of his players had to be hospitalized for a January workout?
In an investigation that was requested by the University of Oregon, journalism professor Tim Gleason reported his findings that seemed to be somewhere in the middle of Taggart and Greif.
“Staff and student-athletes did not find the nature of the structured workouts to be outside the norms of traditional football strength and conditioning workouts, however the intensity was greater than usual,” he said. “Many players took issue with the press reports’ use of terms such as ‘military-style’ to describe the workouts, saying that the reports were overblown and sensational.”
But despite those claims, Gleason also pointed out that various factors regarding the workouts showed that there wasn’t suitable oversight among the Oregon coaching staff.
The workout in particular was described to be something that would be done midseason rather than after six weeks off. Gleason claimed that was likely the cause of those players (all linemen) to be hospitalized. In addition, while players could “tap out,” the other players would have to repeat the same exercise as a consequence. So yeah, any athlete with a competitive streak will not give up, even if it may kill them because they don’t want to let the rest of the team, and their new coaching staff, down.
Taggart knows, or at least should know, that. It’s up to him as the head coach and Oderinde as the strength and conditioning coach to figure out exactly what their players could do. Because I’m pretty sure if something worse happened and one of those players died, that wouldn’t look well on them or the university.
Greif and The Oregonian isn’t planning on publishing an apology or a correction. And Taggart’s response is to refuse to speak to Greif. It seems like Taggart is still willing to speak with the newspaper but they would need to get a new beat reporter for Oregon football. Taggart can choose to do whatever he wants but this strategy usually doesn’t work and now, whether he feels it’s fair or unfair, just made a bad first impression to the top local newspaper. Maybe cooler heads will prevail in Eugene between now and the start of the college football season.
[Daily Emerald/Photo: Tyson Alger/The Oregonian]