A tough week of public relations for the Oregon football team got even tougher Saturday.
Lache Seastrunk, who's part of an NCAA investigation involving the Ducks and a recruiting service, has left the team. The Ducks gave him his unconditional release, and reports have the running back transferring to Baylor in his home state of Texas.
Seastrunk was expected to compete for playing time behind LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. But freshmen D'Anthony Thomas and Tra Carson have been impressive in practice, and players such as QB Darron Thomas did not even mention Seastrunk this week in interviews.
So, besides being disgruntled about his role on the team, could there be another reason for Seastrunk's departure? Could the Ducks simply be cutting ties? Was Seastrunk just looking for a fresh start?
Coach Chip Kelly ordered a $25,000 payment to a Texas recruiting service run by Willie Lyles, who had a close relationship with Seastrunk. The NCAA has been investigating the Ducks about the Kelly-Lyles relationship, and whether Lyles directed Seastrunk to the Ducks.
'We wish Lache all the best in his future pursuits and will offer our complete assistance to him in his search to continue his football and educational career," Kelly says in a statement.
Earlier in the week, KATU aired police video tape of Cliff Harris being stopped for going 118 mph on Interstate 5. It was revealed that Darron Thomas was in the car with Harris - leading some to question Thomas' judgment and leadership. Police questioned Harris about the smell of marijuana in the car, with Harris stating, "We smoked it all."
Thomas, on Thursday, denied smoking marijuana in the vehicle, and said he didn't know about Harris speeding because he was asleep.
The Seastrunk transfer is the latest in a series of soap opera story lines to surround the Ducks since Kelly took over as head coach in 2009.
LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player in a game, got suspended for the season and then re-instated as the Ducks made the Rose Bowl in Kelly's first season.
Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James were among several Ducks to get into trouble with the law in 2010; Masoli, after a burglary charge, was dismissed from the team after being stopped and charged with marijuana possession.
The Ducks made the BCS national championship game, but then saw more offseason drama. Linebacker Kiko Alonso was charged with breaking and entering - he sat out last season after a drunk driving arrest - and he's still suspended indefinitely, but practicing. Harris was stopped after his high-speed trip down Interstate 5, and it was revealed that he was driving a rental car (rented by a UO employee) with a suspended license; he's suspended for at least the opener against LSU.
Then, Thomas showed up on the police video, with police questioning Harris about marijuana.
All the while, a cloud hangs over the program as the NCAA investigates potential Kelly improprieties.
The Ducks continue to prepare for the Sept. 3 game against LSU at Arlington, Texas.