February 22, 2010
LaMichael James' immediate future in Oregon was already in enough doubt following last week's arrest for domestic violence against his girlfriend (or, as some Oregon fans have suggested, ex-girlfriend), which resulted in five counts of strangulation, assault and physical harassment that could carry jail time if convicted. Even if James is eventually cleared in the courts, though, his eligibility for the 2010 season is going to remain on life support as long as he's physically barred from Oregon's campus:
At a hearing today, attorneys for James asked Lane County Circuit Judge Charles Zennache to modify the terms of James’ release agreement to allow James to go to school and receive tutoring and athletic training on the UO campus.
James was charged last week with assault and released from jail on the condition that he not go on campus or otherwise be within two miles of his alleged female victim.
The judge said James could attend training and tutoring at the Casanova Center next to Autzen Stadium, but that he would not change the stipulation prohibiting James from going onto the main UO campus.
James won't appear in court until a pretrial hearing on March 24, by which time any chance of earning enough course credits to remain eligible for the fall could be long passed. The university is appealing to the NCAA for a waiver that will allow James to continue living in the home of a "life skills director," an arrangement the Association has ruled an improper "extra benefit," after Zannache balked at an offer by a former women's basketball coach to take James in because she lives within two miles of campus. Oregon's compliance director, Bill Clever, said rules allow athletes who can't attend class to make arrangements with professors, but those rules typically apply to players who are injured and sick, not facing criminal charges.
James has pled not guilty to all counts, and may very well be acquitted, if his case even makes it to trial. The longer the process drags on, though, the more likely it seems that the leading returning rusher in the Pac-10 will be on ice next season. Considering the Ducks have produced four different 1,000-yard rushers in three years since coach Chip Kelly took over the offense in 2007 -- before James, there was Jonathan Stewart, Jeremiah Johnson and last season's troubled star, LeGarrette Blount -- incoming freshman Lache Seastrunk may want to begin preparing for his close-up.