March 04, 2001 11:00 pm

Oregon State Universitys brilliant football team of 2000 was tainted by the actions of two of its players even before the season began.

Robert Prescott and Alton Junior Adams, receivers on the Beaver football squad that finished 11-1 with the best record in school history, were convicted of felony assault last week in a Corvallis courtroom.

Prescott and Adams were found guilty of recklessly endangering another person and disorderly conduct in connection with a keg party that occurred at a house near the campus on July 22.

To put it simply, Adams became drunk and belligerent, and another man at the party, Victor Becerra, asked Prescott to calm Adams down. Becerra and Prescott squared off, and a fight ensued that involved other people. In the process, Becerra sustained multiple cuts, bruises and a broken nose.

The OSU athletic program handled the situation well from the beginning. Prescott, Adams and another football player at the party, James Newson, were suspended for the first three games of the season. (Newson was acquitted of the charges.)

Prescott and Adams had a choice in July. They could have avoided the party. They could have elected to drink moderately or not drink at all. They could have backed away when they saw the situation involving Becerra was getting heated, even if there was some provocation.

Athletes, at all levels of competition, must understand that rules must be followed both on and off the field or court. The OSU players involved in the fracas dishonored themselves, their school and its athletic program, and stole some of the thunder away from their successful football team.

Protect workers

Congress and big business need a clear message on worker health: It is not an option. And emphasizing it will save money in the long run.

Some 1.8 million workers in the United States have ergonomics-related injuries. Of these, about a third miss work each year as a result.

Word leaked last week that Senate Republicans are hoping to overturn Clinton administration rules protecting against workplace injuries caused by repetitive motion. Businesses have until October to comply with the laws, which could require altering work stations, redesigning facilities or changing tools and equipment.

Ergonomics are important to working people and to employers. OSHA estimates the new rules would cost businesses about $4.5 billion in compliance costs, but result in $9 billion in benefits through a reduction of injuries. Some businesses disagree, saying compliance costs will be much higher. A compromise is needed that protects workers while still allowing businesses healthy profits.