Now nine weeks into the college football season, we as fans have learned many lessons.
We’ve learned that when you step on the field against Alabama, it is at the risk of your own safety. We’ve learned that so far, Will Muschamp is much better at berating SEC referees than he is at actually being the head coach of a football team. And we’ve learned that no matter how much the Big Ten tried to help us along in the off-season, there still isn’t a single fan anywhere who can tell the difference between a “leader” and a “legend.”
However, maybe the most important lesson we’ve learned so far is this: Whatever you do, don’t let Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris borrow your car.
Actually, make that “former Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris.” At least for the time being.
That’s because for the second time in less than six months, Harris was cited for a driving-related infraction, and for now, it’s cost him his spot on one of college football’s Top 10 teams.
This from an Associated Press report:
Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris was suspended Monday after he was pulled over for several infractions, including driving on a suspended license and driving without insurance.
In a statement released by the school, Ducks coach Chip Kelly suspended Harris pending further review and he will not be able to take part in any football-related activities.
Eugene police said that Harris was stopped on a city street Monday afternoon after an officer noted he wasn't wearing a seatbelt, for which he was also cited.
Now let’s get one thing clear: In the grand scheme of college football, what Harris did wasn’t all that bad. Guys get in trouble for much worse things every day than driving without a seatbelt, and driving on a suspended license. Hell, just yesterday it was announced that Ohio State running back Jamal Berry was being investigated for an alleged assault.
Of course at the same time, this is hardly Harris’s first run-in with the police in relation to his driving. The problem for the Oregon cornerback and punt returner, is that the same speed he uses to blow past overwhelmed Pac-12 punt return teams, is also the same speed at which he likes to drive his cars.
In June, Harris was arrested by Oregon state police for driving at 118 mph, and doing so on a suspended license. Again, not the worst offense.
At least until you read all the ancillary details. That’s because there was a lot more going on in that particular case besides Harris’s utter disinterest in Oregon’s highway speed limits.
For starters, the car was a rental, which is bad enough, until you remember that the paperwork was signed over by an employee of Oregon’s football program. Uh oh. Why Harris borrowed the car from an employee is still a bit unclear. But it’s something that I’m sure the NCAA is interested in as they continue to investigate the program for many allegations from this past summer (including an alleged $25,000 payment to Willie Lyles). There was also the fact that when Harris got pulled over, it was with Oregon starting quarterback Darron Thomas in the passenger seat. That was the third time Thomas had been riding shotgun in a traffic incident involving a prominent Oregon player (the first two were with Jeremiah Masoli and Eddie Pleasant respectively).
And then finally, the most infamous (and funny, depending on how you feel about it) off-shoot of that whole incident, came in August when a dashboard video was released from that evening. In it, a police officer asked Harris if there was marijuana in the car, and the cornerback responded in a way that would be impossible to believe if there wasn't video evidence to corroborate it. His answer? “We smoked it all.”
Admit it, that’s pretty darn funny.
What isn’t nearly as funny is what Harris is doing to his once bright future in football.
In Oregon’s run to the BCS National Championship Game last year, Harris was undoubtedly the Ducks best defensive player, with six interceptions and 23 pass breakups in an All-American season. He was also one of the country’s top return men, averaging 18.8 yards per punt return, including four touchdowns. For all the dumb mistakes Harris makes off the football field, he didn't make nearly as many on it.
But now, those off the field decisions are starting to catch up with him.
Because of the incident in June, Harris was suspended for Oregon’s season-opener against LSU, and even after returning against Nevada in Week 2, has been nowhere near the kind of impact player he once was. Through six games, Harris has yet to regain his starting cornerback spot, and has just one interception and nine tackles through six games. Not to mention that his once electric return ability has diminished; he’s got just nine total return yards this season, and was tackled in the end zone for a safety in Saturday’s 45-2 win at Colorado. Those were the only points the Buffaloes scored all day.
And now, as per the report, Harris has been suspended by Chip Kelly from all football related activities indefinitely.
What’s maybe saddest of all though is this: A year ago, this suspension would’ve been a death blow to Oregon’s defense, and potentially their shot at a Pac-12 title.
This year? It’s hardly a blip on the radar.
That shows you just how fast, and how far Harris has fallen.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.