In all respects, Oregon's Cliff Harris thrives on danger. As an All-American cornerback/return man with five return touchdowns as a sophomore, he's a danger to Duck opponents every time he touches the ball. Last weekend, he was allegedly a danger to himself, two teammates and everyone else on the road when he was cited for driving 118 in a 65-mile-per-hour zone at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, on a suspended license, fines for which will be a serious danger to his bank account. And according to a Eugene television station, Harris may have put his own eligibility in danger by borrowing the car from a university employee on Friday:
Hertz matched the license plate number provided by police with the name of a woman who had the car rented at the time of the incident. University of Oregon on-line directories show that woman as a member of the faculty/staff.
"So, I rented the car for my own purposes on Friday. Cliff Harris and his licensed friend, who showed me his license, asked to borrow it and paid me the full amount in cash that I paid for the rental," said the woman, who agreed to speak to KEZI, on condition of anonymity.
The woman, who describes herself as a friend of Harris over the past few months, said she was unaware Cliff would be driving and also said she has proof that the amount she paid for the rental car matches two separate deposits she made into her bank account Friday.
To prove it, the employee — who is not a student, is not Harris' girlfriend "or any relation of that matter" and requested anonymity for the story — reportedly provided the station with a copy of her bank statement showing two deposits of $180 and $120 on Friday. The vehicle, a Nissan Altima, was rented earlier that day, June 10th, and returned on Sunday night, June 12th, at 10:44 p.m. (I would like to emphasize here, as a driver with extensive experience behind the wheel of multiple Altimas, that any standard engine that gets this vehicle to 118 with two adult passengers en tow is one heroic feat of engineering indeed. Past 90, the typical Altima engine begins contemplating suicide.) The teammates riding with Harris have not been identified because they weren't cited.
To recap: University employee takes out rental car for the weekend for undisclosed purposes, almost immediately turns over rental car to football players within hours (maximum) of leaving the lot. At least NCAA investigators should have a few frequent flier miles to apply toward the flight to Eugene this time.
There are two lingering questions from there. First: What exactly is the woman's job, considering that Oregon sports information director Dave Williford — while acknowledging to KEZI that he knew a woman had rented the car and wasn't in it when Harris was cited — seemed to have no idea that the woman in question was an employee of the university? And second: Would the players' payments to the woman absolve them of an improper benefits charge, considering one of the standard responses to an improper benefits charge is to require players to pay up (usually to charity) for the value of the gift? And how does her status with the university affect the potential consequences, considering the direct participation of a university employee in the violation of an NCAA rule opens the door to an allegation of "failure to monitor," at least?
Is it something? Is it nothing? Look at what your archaic allegiance to "amateurism" has wrought.
At this point, I think we can be sure of this, and only this: If the woman in question is in fact a university employee — and especially if she's an employee of the athletic department — she won't be for much longer.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.