ESPN analyst Mack Brown rips Oregon for handling of Royce Freeman
ESPN’s college football analysts — most notably Mack Brown — ripped into Oregon for the way they handled Royce Freeman, who decided not to play in the Ducks’ bowl game on Saturday.
Oregon said days before the bowl game that Freeman, who is a top NFL running back prospect, would not be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State, likely to avoid injury risk with his pro future on the line. He’s not the first player to do this, as both Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey did so recently to mixed criticism.
But what really struck Brown and studio analyst Booger McFarland as wrong was Oregon allowing Freeman to be on the sidelines and speak to the team pregame with the Ducks huddled up around him.
“Well, he’s not part of our team anymore. He decided not to play in the game; I don’t bring him,” Brown said at halftime. “I don’t bring him to the site. I don’t let him be around the bowl. I don’t have him speaking to our team for sure. If he’s on our football team, he’s at home, he’s watching. Because he made the decision ‘I don’t want to play, I don’t want to be a part of it.’ When you’re not part of it, you’re not part of it with me.”
“The main thing: It’s a distraction,” McFarland said. “If some players in that huddle say, ‘Man, you want us to huddle up and rally around you, but you can’t come out here and play with us?’ If I’m (head coach Mario Cristobal), I really question the fact that Freeman was allowed to address the team. You’re either with us or you’re not. the fact that he’s on the sideline, to me, is an issue, and maybe the responsibility of this slow start for Oregon.”
The comments are certainly going to strike a chord with many. On one hand, Freeman is a respected part of the team, a team captain, and likely viewed as a team leader. On the other, he’s skipping out on his teammates for the final game of the season for selfish, but understandable reasons. He probably wasn’t the best player to be giving a pregame speech. However, as the McCaffrey situation showed us, teammates may be more understanding than the media.