EUGENE, ORE. Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount’s seasonlong suspension for punching an opponent could be lifted if he meets certain conditions, coach Chip Kelly said.
“It’s not a football decision, it’s a human-being decision. It’s about that individual,” Kelly said Friday. “And he’s got a lot of things he’s got to do.”
Blount punched Boise State’s Byron Hout in the aftermath of Oregon’s 19-8 season-opening loss to the Broncos. The suspension banned him from games, but Blount was allowed to remain on scholarship and practice with the team.
Kelly said he set down academic, behavioral and football-related “ladders” that Blount must achieve for possible reinstatement, but he did not provide specifics. Academics could not be addressed earlier because classes had not started.
Blount signed an agreement outlining the requirements last week.
Should Blount meet the conditions, the earliest he could return to the team is Oregon’s Nov. 7 game at Stanford — and there is no guarantee that he would be allowed back at that time, if at all.
“There’s a distinct possibility he’ll never play football here again,” Kelly said. “But the ball is in LeGarrette’s court.”
If and when Blount meets the conditions, Oregon will have to appeal to the Pacific-10 Conference to reduce the original discipline.
“The power to reinstate rests with the Conference, and if and when the university decides to make such an appeal, the Conference will take the matter under advisement and make a decision,” commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.
Blount could not be reached for comment Friday. Following his suspension, he was told not to speak to the media.
Kelly said he reached out to sociologist Harry Edwards and former NFL coach Tony Dungy before revising the conditions of Blount’s suspension. The university said in a statement that athletic director Mike Bellotti and President Richard Lariviere also were involved in the process.
Hout was dropped to his knees by Blount’s punch following the Ducks’ Sept. 3 loss to the Broncos on national television.
Kelly suspended Blount for the rest of the season the next day. Because he is a senior, the suspension effectively ended Blount’s college career.
On Thursday, the university newspaper published a letter of apology from Blount. In it, he offered his “sincerest apologies and heartfelt regrets.”
“On a personal note, I probably will never be able to erase the memories of the post-game events of that day. Given this, I do not expect to be given a second chance to be a positive and responsible member of the football program and of this community,” Blount said in the letter to the editor. “Going forward, what I hope for is the opportunity to show that I am able to earn a second chance as a University student. And if I am so fortunate, I believe that I also will demonstrate that I am a better man and a better human being for having lived through this unfortunate experience.”
It was Blount’s first public comment since an apology to reporters immediately following the Boise State game.
Blount and Kelly called Boise State coach Chris Petersen and Hout soon after the suspension to apologize. Kelly said Friday that the call was Blount’s idea.