Oregon suspends Cliff Harris for season opener — at least

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One of the most anticipated early-season matchups of 2011 has suddenly and abruptly lost one of its marquee performers, Oregon announced Wednesday evening.

On the school’s Twitter page, it was confirmed that All-American candidate Cliff Harris has been suspended indefinitely by the football program.  That suspension for the talented cornerback/return man will include at least the Sept. 3 opener vs. LSU.

In the release announcing the suspension, it was stressed that the minimum amount of game-time Harris will miss is the opener.  Such a framing of time obviously opens the door for a multi-game suspension, depending on how the defensive back comports himself in the coming months.

“Cliff’s future clearly is in Cliff’s hands,” head coach Chip Kelly said in a statement. “Earning an opportunity to represent the University of Oregon and this football program certainly rests far beyond a player’s ability on the field of play. Our behavior out of the spotlight often is more important and will be held to a higher standard. Until Cliff is able to conform to the same standards all of us must comply with, his status will remain unchanged.”

The release also stated “that the sanctions imposed upon Harris were based upon the information currently available surrounding more than just a single event, and were independent of any legal rulings or potential violation of NCAA rules that have yet to be determined.

Harris found himself in a bit of legal hot water over the weekend after he was cited for doing 118 mph in a 65-mph zone on a suspended license.  Shortly thereafter, Harris found himself in what could be a bit of NCAA hot water after it was learned that the vehicle in which he was driving was a rental paid for by a university employee.

The school’s compliance department has been actively investigating the situation, including any NCAA violations that may have been committed.

UPDATED 9:39 p.m. ET: KEZI-TV in Eugene is reporting that Harris has more than $8,500 in unpaid fines in two states — Oregon and California — stemming from 11 different traffic citations.  In each incident, Harris was found guilty by default for failing to appear in court, and each of the 11 has been sent to a collection agency.

That $8,500 figure, the television’s website notes, is in addition to the $1,575 Harris now owes after being cited for driving more than 100 mph with a suspended license Sunday.

Suffice to say, the words “responsibility” and “personal accountability” are nowhere to be found in young Mr. Harris’ vocabulary.