Handshakes, punches, and consequences

Mike Mullen

Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount brought his own career to an inglorious end with a sucker punch to Boise State’s Byron Hout after Thursday night’s college football season opener. Accoding to the Oregonian, Blount, a senior, will retain his scholarship, staying on as a student, and even practicing with the team, but was suspended by the university through the regular season and any bowl game, should Oregon be invited.

Hout approached Blount as players loitered on the field after Boise State’s 19-8 victory. Blount, who had told a Sports Illustrated reporter that Oregon owed Boise State "a good ass-whuppin’", had just suffered through an awful game, rushing eight times for negative-five yards. After some taunting from Hout, Blount delivered a straight right to the linebacker’s jaw which briefly dropped him to his knees. Blount then got into an altercation with his own teammate, and had to be restrained by police and trainers when BSU fans taunted him as he left the field.

 

Blount has taken responsibility and expressed contrition for the punch, but none in the moments immediately following it, in which he could be seen bouncing and pumping his fists as if he’d just thrown a big — and legal — hit on the field. Boise State has said that Hout will be reprimanded for his taunting which started the incident.

 

The event coincided with the NCAA’s new program which encourages teams to meet for a pregame handshake. ESPN video shows that Blount was a participant, if slightly unenthusiastic, in this, the inaugural pregame handshake.

 

Oklahoma State and Georgia will not be partaking in the new voluntary greeting. OSU coach Mike Gundy explained in a press conference, "Our first concern was [we’ll] have 115 guys out there and they’ll have 70, it just takes one guy to pop off." Thursday’s incident proves that Gundy’s fears are not ill-founded, but Blount’s punch did not lead to anything but his own suspension.

 

There is, though, a recent history of college football fights: In October, 2006, the University of Miami and Florida International University had an on-field brawl which resulted in 31 suspensions, and almost certainly contributed to Miami coach Larry Coker’s later firing. As if to prove that tempers run high regardless of who’s playing, the very same day saw a fight between players from Dartmouth and Holy Cross.