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Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover the Pac-12 for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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Oregon Head Coach Dana Altman, right, looks up to the scoreboard as he signals to his team during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against Southern California in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
Turmoil in Oregon basketball sheds light on troubling issue

In Eugene, Ore., there's turmoil afoot in the men's basketball program. And it's casting light on one of the darkest issues that affects college sports.

By now, most college basketball fans have heard the news that Oregon has suspended Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin after the three student athletes were investigated for the alledged rape of a female university student.

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While so far, the local district attorney's office has declined to prosecute the three, one of the most controversial aspects of the story was when the university knew and why it allowed Dotson and Artis to participate in the postseason.

According to the latest report in The Oregonian, the university was aware on March 9, but police asked the school to hold off on its own procedures:

In a new update late Tuesday evening, university senior director of public affairs Tobin Klinger said via press release that the university first learned of the allegations on March 9 when contacted by the alleged victim's father. In the two weeks after the accusations were known by the university, Dotson and Artis continued to play in the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.

The university then said the Eugene Police Department "told the university that if it took investigative or administrative action it would jeopardize the integrity of the criminal investigation, and therefore, requested that the university not take action at that time."

A Eugene Police department spokeswoman confirmed late Tuesday evening that the police had asked the university to "pause" any administrative review of the three players until its criminal investigation ended.

Eugene Police filed their initial report with the alleged victim March 13 and the criminal investigation ended April 8.

Klinger's statement closed by saying the university received the police report April 24.

The players and the woman involved agree there was sexual contact, but the question is whether it was consensual. The police report released on Monday describes the nature of the alledged assault, which is extremely graphic (if you click the link, be prepared to read disturbing details).

To critics of the university's action - or inaction - it's comtemptable that both Dotson and Artis were playing when Oregon officials knew they were under investigation for rape. At the same time, the authorities themselves cautioned against moving too quickly, and to allow the investigation to run its course before immediately branding them as guilty.

It's a tough conflict in college sports in general. Should you allow players accused of rape (or other serious crimes) to stay on the field or the court? The best answer may be somewhere in the shades of gray.

On one hand, Oregon has the issue of allowing men who are potentially guilty of rape continuing their lives as normal. On the other, preemptive action could crucify innocent men.

The course of action that Oregon took re-enforces the perception that athletes have a double-standard in their favor. Florida State's handling of Jameis Winston alarmed many toward the end of the Seminoles' championship run, and Winston's Heisman Trophy campaign. To critics, those achievements will always be built on the back of a criminal investigation that was faulty from the start. A New York Times piece last month revealed some troubling aspects of the case that were either overlooked or not pursued.

It's a tricky issue, one of the most serious facing college athletics today. How Oregon handles it from here on out will be under a lot of spotlights, and it could chart the standard by which athletic departments work on these cases.

The disconcerting truth is that this will happen again at another university. Fair or not, Oregon will be part of establishing the precedent for these unfortunate situations.

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

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