It’s been a long week for the University of Oregon’s men’s basketball program as it was revealed on Monday that sophomore guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis as well as freshman forward Brandon Austin were investigated for the forcible rape of a female student in an incident that occurred in early March.
Since then, Artis, Austin and Dotson have been dismissed from the men’s basketball program, after initially being suspended, and on Friday, Oregon head coach Dana Altman made his first public comments while addressing the media for first time to discuss the investigation and how it impacts the Ducks going forward.
“I believe it’s within the best interest of the university, the best interest of the young men and the best interest of our program for that decision,” Altman said at the press conference on Friday.
Altman also discussed his timeline of learning of the investigation involving his players and first learned of an incident before the NCAA Tournament began.
“The day before we left to go to Milwaukee, [Oregon athletic director] Rob [Mullens] came into my office and said that there was an incident. Not sure exactly the date but I think it was that Monday because we left for Milwaukee on a Tuesday,” Altman said.
Altman was unaware of much else based on his initial meeting with Mullens and didn’t know of the nature of the incident.
“I didn’t know how serious of allegations that were placed upon the young men at the time,” Altman said. “And at that time Rob had talked with the police department and we were instructed not to take any action or to let any knowledge interfere with their investigation.”
The decision to suspend Oregon’s players was then delayed until a further date when Mullens and Altman read over the police report on the investigation in late April.
“April 30th, Rob and I were called over to the attorney’s office. We read the report. Rob and I discussed it that night and that was when the decision was made to suspend the players,” Altman said.
Although none of the three players were charged with anything stemming from the forcible rape investigation by the Eugene Police Department, Altman said that all three players moving on from the program was in their best interest going forward.
“I think there would be a lot of pressure here at Oregon if they were to return and try to play basketball,” Altman said. “They were disappointed. [Artis] and [Dotson] love the university and they love their time here so we’re disappointed.”
Altman has since spoken with all three players and also expressed disappointment in their actions while also acknowledging that he felt bad for the victim and her family.
“I’ve spoken with the players, again, those were tough conversations, personal conversations. I expressed my disappointment,” Altman said. “Again, they’re young men that I care deeply about so we’ve tried to help them through it, also. There’s four people whose lives have been greatly altered here. I feel really bad for the victim and her family and moving forward it’s a tough situation.”
One of the biggest questions Altman faced was his decision to accept Providence transfer Brandon Austin into the program after it was revealed in a Wall Street Journal report in March that Austin was also investigated for a sexual assault along with former teammate Rodney Bullock. Austin transferred into the Oregon program in January while it was still a Providence College issue.
“Ed Cooley said that it was not a legal matter, that it was a university matter,” Altman said of Austin. “The fact that Providence tried to keep him gave us confidence that it wasn’t a serious matter.
“I spoke with the family and I had every confidence after speaking with them and checking his high school background that there was nothing that would prevent him from joining our team. He did not give specifics [about his incident at Providence] so my line of questioning probably didn’t go deep enough there, in retrospect, but I did not have a specific reason [not to add him to the team].”
Altman also admitted in a follow-up question that Austin did not reveal the full extent of his investigation at Providence.
“He was investigated at the school, but he didn’t tell me [he was investigated for sexual assault],” Altman said of Austin.
Altman was also asked how he felt after defending Dotson’s character following Dotson’s February arrest for having a false identification at a nearby bar.
“I think good people can make bad decisions and this obviously was a very bad decision,” Altman said of defending Dotson. “When you have a history with that young man, that history goes into account as well but he made a very bad decision.”
When asked if he felt pressure for his job following the investigation Altman responded, “No, I didn’t.”
The Oregon head coach also stated that he doesn’t expect any other players to leave the program as he looks to rebuild his roster following the departures of Artis, Austin and Dotson.
“We have six players that are signed for next year, three players on scholarship, so we currently have nine players that are either on scholarship or signed,” Altman said. “We’ll possibly add a player or two to that number but right now we’ve got the nine.
“We’ll go with players that fit our program and fit our needs.”