Hey NCAA Let Them Play: Why Oregon’s Darren Carrington and Ayele Forde should be reinstated

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Nobody ever accused the NCAA of being fair or in lockstep with the times.

After all, the official governing body of college athletics had to be drop-kicked into the 20th century in 1972 giving women equal any opportunity to play sports and not be discriminated against with Title IX. And the league’s brass still has the cojones to pretend they oppose gambling saying, “sports gambling threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of the game.” Because, you know, it wasn’t gambling that drew 28.2 million to the Rose Bowl or 28.3 million to the Sugar Bowl New Year’s Day. And nobody, least of all the estimated 35-plus million who turn into tonight’s National Championship game, has money on it.

But suspending two of Oregon’s top playmakers, redshirt freshman wideout Darren Carrington (165 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Florida State in the Rose Bowl) and special teams superstar Ayele Forde from playing in the first-ever National Championship game is downright hypocritical.*

Heres why:

  • Marijuana is legal in Carrington/Forde’s current home state of Oregon: True, it’s on the NCAA’s banned substances list as a “party drug” (it should probably be in a new subcategory, “video game enhancer”) but now that marijuana is legal in Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and Washington, plus 20 other states for medicinal use, the NCAA needs to stop pretending that the substance isn’t as ubiquitous as Coors Light and Doritos (with fewer known side effects) on campus.
  • The NCAA’s marijuana testing process is as dated as its rules around the substance: A positive marijuana test comes from a sample of more than five nanograms of THC per milliliter (that’s per 1,000 holmes). That means within six weeks of testing, if Carrington or Forde attended a party in Eugene where weed was being smoked (= every party in Eugene), sat in a seat at the Bijou theater, decided to take a deep breath upon hiking to the top of Spencer Butte or stood on the corner of 13th and Kincaid and watched the Green Tortoise pass—and then forgot to order up some Herbal Clean—they could well have submitted a positive test. Think about it in terms of drinking one beer and then having to wait a month to legally get behind the wheel. If the NCAA wants to be taken seriously, then it may be time to update the drug program in place when The Boz was referring to the organization as the National Communists Against Athletes.
  • The punishment doesn’t fit the crime: The one-off testing after a bowl game will leave Carrington and Forde not only out for Monday’s championship game but, barring appeal, the entire 2015 season. The NFL increased its minimum threshold to 35 in September. The MLB’s minimum is 50 nanograms. Hell, the World Anti-Doping Agency allows a minimum 150 nanograms so Michael Phelps can toke away and still take home 8 golds (and still have room for Subway). There is taking a post-game hit and there’s spending all day in your room with the black light on watching Shark Week, eating a whole medium Track Town barbecue chicken and contemplating whether to try that listen to The Dark Side of the Moon while watching Wizard of Oz thing while sitting on a futon whose one short leg is evened up on a stack of old High Times. In other words, let the stoner punishment fit the stoner crime. The minute Seth Rogan can outrun the Florida State secondary like he’s got a stolen TV, the clampdown should be put on cannabis.

Until then, and in the immortal words of Bill Devane: LET THEM PLAY. LET THEM PLAY. LET THEM PLAY.

*As an Oregon alum, it would actually be downright disappointed if at least a handful of Ducks players didn’t have trace amounts of THC in their system at all times. It’d be like, I dunno, if Rennie’s and Taylor’s all of a sudden refused to serve minors who furnish acceptably passable fake IDs. Some school traditions should be sacrosanct.

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