By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Still on his Feet: Thinking through matters in a busy summer

You’ve been asking, and we have an answer. Fall sports season is night upon us, and we are raring to go with fall sports coverage.

Football, volleyball, cross country and soccer teams are making their way across fields, courts and roads of Yamhill County. Our upcoming sports sections will be dedicated to keeping you up to date in all facets, with the first of our previews rolling out Friday. Also, beginning Friday, look for a handy guide to the new high school sports leagues, as implemented by the OSAA during its latest round of reclassification and redistricting.

Linfield College student-athletes check back in as early as Friday, and our previews of Wildcats sports teams will run concurrently with our prep coverage. The earliest Linfield sporting event on tap is the men’s soccer team’s exhibition match against the University of Portland on Aug. 22 in Portland – a wonderful opportunity for the Wildcats to test themselves against one of the nation’s strongest programs. Most other Linfield sports seasons will begin Aug. 30 or later.

Any schedule changes, new information, comments or critiques should be directed to or the @NewsRegSports feed on Twitter.

Kids at play

Playground basketball is dying. So says ESPN in a thought-provoking longform piece published July 23. A Cliffs Notes version of the reasons behind playground ball’s slow decay: kids told to stay inside, college and professional stars staying away, changing attitudes toward playground ball and urban issues running the gamut from land use to crime.

For basketball lovers of all ages, the piece hits close to home. Growing up, my friends and I would frequent elementary school basketball courts across Salem and Keizer and shoot hoops into the darkness – and, often, well past that point. As long as we had at least four willing participants and an inflated ball, we could keep ourselves busy for hours. We played hard, goofed off and left the court better than when we arrived.

The article largely speaks to urban identity and how basketball is no longer intertwined into the fabric of cities like in decades past. In a roundabout way, it touches on a greater issue that affects rural and urban residents alike: parks, recreation and development.

Simplistically, the fewer individuals using basketball courts across the country, the fewer reasons our public officials will see for their existence. When we build a park, no matter how close to or far from a population center, we believe in the will of the people to utilize the facilities as much as possible during acceptable hours. What if we have overestimated ourselves? What if we fall short of our athletic ideals, saying one thing and doing another?

Yamhill County has excellent facilities and a Parks and Recreation department committed to meeting the needs of its constituents. We are fortunate, and we should acknowledge this publicly. We should also be honest when it comes to what facilities meet our needs and how we can improve or even expand our parks system to be further accommodating.

These questions are not easy. Public dollars and even livelihoods are at stake. We have only so many resources at our disposal, and we should seek to maximize them at every possible chance.

If you yearn to visit your local basketball court or jogging trail, I recommend you do so as soon as you can. If we do not use the facilities we have willed into existence, we may lose them.

Duck daze

Summer is traditionally a quiet period on any college campus, but in Eugene, at the University of Oregon, the fallout from an alleged incident of sexual assault perpetrated by three men’s basketball players continues to make noise.

To recap: the three players allegedly committed the assault within three weeks of the Pac-12 Conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, both of which the Ducks participated in. Through public statements, we learned that UO President Michael Gottfredson, Athletic Director Rob Mullens and men’s basketball coach Dana Altman had varying levels of information about the incident but decided nevertheless to keep all three players eligible. One of those players, Brandon Austin, had a sexual assault allegation pending against him from his short-lived tenure at Providence College (which has since been dropped). The U of O and the Eugene Police Department appeared at loggerheads over what actions the university could take that might interfere with the police investigation.

Public records were requested to better discern who knew what, when. The university responded with hundreds of pages of information; all but a handful were redacted. How the university handled itself in the face of these allegations remains murky. Indeed, had media members not discovered the police report in May, nearly two months after the incident took place, it could have been swept under the rug entirely.

Two recent incidents have since taken place surrounding the basketball program. A 6-foot-9 power forward recruit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada named Ray Kasongo was denied admission to the University of Oregon. He will not be joining a Ducks team that is down to eight scholarship players; combined, they have five years of Division I basketball experience and three years with the University of Oregon. No matter how talented Altman’s recruits are, it is increasingly inconceivable that the Ducks’ coach will be able to create chemistry at the drop of a hat and combine his players’ talents toward an NCAA Tournament appearance. More likely, the Ducks will fall back among the Pac-12 hoi polloi, possibly all the way back to 12th place in the standings. This is not entirely Altman’s doing – he surely didn’t anticipate losing two starters and a third promising prospect. The way those players exited his program, however, continues to leave a sour taste in the mouth of Oregon fans, and if the program does not win this season it will further compound matters.

On August 7, Gottfredson stepped down after two years as university president with one day’s notice. He was paid an addition $940,000 above and beyond his required compensation by the university’s board of trustees with the added clause that, by accepting the money, he could not enter into litigation with the University. Chuck Lillis, the UO Board of Trustees president, denied that Gottfredson’s resignation was connected to the sexual assault scandal, but the payoff and abrupt nature of his departure are suggestive at least.

Gottfredson was disliked by students, faculty, alumni, donors, the UO athletic department and any other possible stakeholder within the university community. He will not be missed. Whoever assumes the president’s chair may have to contend with the residual effects of the sexual assault scandal. Doing so publicly would be a step in the right direction.

Required reading

The Best American Sports Writing of 2014 list was released this week, with a volume due to be published later this year. The collection, edited by’s Glenn Stout and guest edited by running journalist Christopher McDougall, is as close to the best of us as we can get in a curated display. The pieces deal with national and localized topics, investigations and profiles, over a number of sports. There’s always something for everyone.

More summer reading for those in need:

“Fall to Earth,” by Chris Ballard (Sports Illustrated, July 28). A skydive goes wrong over Texas, and the denouement is gripping, heartfelt – and unpredictable. It was the first I’d heard of this incident, and I am thankful it came to me in this form.

“Welcome to Utopia,” by Trent Dalton (Australian Magazine, July 14). A millionaire executive and his wife purchase acreage on a remote island in the south Pacific and form a colony largely shielded form society.

“Nick Ut’s Napalm Girl Helped End the Vietnam War. Today in L.A., He’s Still Shooting,” by Gendy Alimurung (L.A. Weekly, July 17). A wonderful recount of a seminal moment in American war history – and the photographer behind it – that asks a brilliant and unanswerable question: when the greatest moment of your professional and personal life happens to you at a young age, how do you proceed from there?

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