Craig Loper, EDN Sports
For the average Oregon Ducks Football fan, the most recent ESPN article detailing the use of marijuana within the Oregon football program and college athletics in general may have come as a culture shock.
Outside of the Cliff Harris incident last year, not much has been said in such detail about the drug and how student-athletes are using it.
The ESPN article to the rest of us who have been involved in the sport and follow it extensively, however, was far from a surprise.
As a former player who experienced the culture of the program and all of its moments for more than a year, I had multiple experiences talking with my former teammates about marijuana and its influence.
Now your twitter and facebook have probably been blowing up with every one talking about the article, but what’s one more? Let’s break this down from all angles and you can decide for yourself what you think…
A lot of people.
Marijuana has become not only collegiate athletics culture, but our culture as a society. Our acceptance of using marijuana has been growing more each day since those “hippies” starting smoking it.
“It’s (Eugene) the weed capital of the world,” said former Oregon Ducks running back Reuben Droughns in the ESPN report. “Long dreads. Girls with hairy armpits. Where there’s hippies, there’s weed.
If you think about the people in your life who have never tried it, what number do you come up with?
Well in the world of collegiate athletics, that number is probably even less. In a recent study conducted by the NCAA, 22.6 percent of student-athletes admitted using marijuana, and football players top that group, ranking out at 26.7 percent, admittedly.
The number grows even greater within the team, according to a survey of former players. A survey conducted by ESPN the Magazine found that former Oregon Ducks estimated between “40 and 60 percent” of the team smoked during their careers at Oregon, a statistic that current players concurred with.
If you don’t know by now, marijuana.
In nearly my entire life as an athlete, only once have I heard of players using marijuana before a game. Two teammates in high school apparently liked to before the game, however, never in my time at Oregon did I ever see, hear about or witness a player using before a game.
And it’s hard for me to believe that current Ducks are using before a game. Due to head coach Chip Kelly’s, and the coaching staff, sharpness and attention to detail. Kelly has been the sole reason in the mentality shift of the Oregon football culture. And although his “Win the Day” motto may have been tarnished with the recent release of the article, he still has a firm grasp on the program.
A head coach can ultimately only control what players do on the field and within the facilities. Off the field, he can only hope his players make the right decisions on their own.
If you think it’s difficult to obtain marijuana, think again.
Legally or illegally, people, not just players, are getting it by various ways. Oregon has more than 55,000 marijuana card-carrying patients and the adult arrest rate for marijuana is steadily increasing in the United States by nearly three-percent each year.
And that leads us to the always greatest question.
Being a division-I student-athlete is stressful, period. With constant expectations to perform at a high level coming from everywhere in life, one can only hold so much on their plate.
And we regular full-time students need to save the arguments about “well, they’re getting their school paid for so who cares,” and “I work a part-time job it’s basically the same thing.”
Sorry, it’s not.
I’ve experienced the life of a student-athlete and the life of a full-time student with a part-time job, it’s not even close. Football is a sport that demands more than most people will ever know, mentally and physically.
Observations from your position coach, head coach, graduate assistants and even others within the halls of the Casanova center all help to form your identity and reputation within the program, and this type of constant observation can quickly turn into stress for a student-athlete.
From the time you wake up from the time you go to bed, you are expected to perform at a high level. Take, for example, a football player’s schedule in the fall. Although it may be the lightest academic load he will take during the school year, the responsibilities of homework, group projects and presentations don’t take a back seat.
He wakes up around 6 or 6:30AM, by 7AM he is at the facility preparing for a morning that consists of weight-lifting, meetings, watching film, treatment and practice. This usually takes place from 7AM until 11AM.
From 11AM to 11:45 he’ll quickly change from practice and clean up for the rest of the day. By the time noon rolls around, it’s class time. The average workload in the fall will be anywhere from twelve to sixteen course credits, depending on what the student-athlete and the athletic department feels most comfortable in him partaking.
From noon until 4 or 5PM classes take place, and as soon as they’re finished, it’s back to work mentally to prepare for the following day on the field. Players then have to report, once again, to the facility around 6PM for dinner and position meetings reviewing film from the morning practice.
Meetings and film review will last, depending on the position coach, anywhere from one hour to an hour and a half, finally leaving the facility around 7:15 or 7:30. Think it’s time to relax?
Nope, not even.
Home by 8PM his night is just beginning. Homework, lecture notes, presentations and group projects are back on his mind, and just like the regular full-time student, he has to do the same work that others may have had a significant longer time to focus on.
After staring at a computer and finishing up homework for the past three hours or so, it’s 11PM.
Since his day has been driven primarily by others, who wouldn’t want to take a little time to themselves to surf the web, watch sportscenter and roam Facebook, even if it is just for a little while.
It’s now midnight, time to finally get some rest. The plan for tomorrow?
Wake up, and repeat.
In no way am I trying to tell you to “feel sorry” for the student-athlete or justify breaking the law. What they do, just like the rest of us, is their choice.
However, I advise you to keep an open mind to what we so often view as a perfect game. Autzen stadium on Saturdays, the flashy uniforms and the high-paced offense have all helped to smoke screen an issue that was often shoved to the side due to our entertainment needs and wants.
“Student-athlete welfare is of the utmost importance to the University of Oregon,” said Athletics Director Rob Mullens in a statement released by the school. ” Similar to many college campuses wrestling with the same issue, the University of Oregon actively works to address potential use of any illegal substance through a combination of education, prevention and enforcement activities.”
If Oregon, or any other university for that matter, was to suspend or expel players for smoking weed, we may not have the same level of college football we have today.
So the next time a student-athlete is in trouble with the law for weed, don’t be so surprised.
Just reiterating a point you may have already heard; it’s a little more common than you think.
Let me know what you think and comment below!
Follow Craig on twitter: @CloperII