CFN Analysis: Oregon
The NCAA controversy
Follow us ...
Oh, come on, NCAA. It's not like anyone really wants
to see Oregon get blown out of the water for
something silly like the Willie Lyles situation, but
at least show some conviction. If you're not really
sold that anything all that bad happened, then why
are we supposed to care?
Just when it seemed like the NCAA was about to get
nasty in its initial report about the controversy
and the supposed "major violations," we get this gem
that only the wishy-washy governing body could come
"... while the violations were not intentional in
Oh, really. So a $25,000 check
for a bunch of phony baloney scouting reports was
just a glitch? Oops! Our bad. We didn't mean to give
money for a few sheets of worthless paper to a scout who just so happened to have the ears of a
few really, really good football prospects.
At the 1993 Final Four, I asked a Minneapolis police
officer if it was okay to scalp tickets. No. Was it
okay if I sold my ticket for three times its face
value? No. Was it okay if I sold this Bic pen for
$500 while somehow forgetting about the ticket I
just dropped on the ground as I walked away? Well
Sure, Lyles might have provided "a meaningful recruiting advantage," but,
why pencils have erasers. Here, we'll just take away
one scholarship for each of the next three years,
you'll go back to doing whatever it is you NCAA
people do, and we'll all keep making oodles and oodles of money.
NCAA, we get it. Despite the jillions of dollars rolling in, your enforcement team is somehow
underfunded, undermanned and unloved, and you
couldn't find one of your own violations without Dan
Wetzel, Louis Freeh or Real Sports throwing
them in your face, but quit pretending to govern and govern. We all
know exactly what's going to happen and how this is
going to play out.
Following the Auburn and Miami playbook, the NCAA is
going to interview everyone who ever attended an
Oregon football game except for anyone who has any
real proof of anything wacky happening, and there
will be a little slap on the wrist with a harsh
scolding and a few cross words. In the end, the fans
won't care a lick, because in the grand scheme of
college athletics this really isn't that big a deal
and this is nothing more than Oregon getting sloppy
- you'd never see this gaffe at other places.
So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop
wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I
don't give a (bleep). Especially if you don't.
Chip Kelly's system has always been predicated on speed. He sure high-tailed it out of Eugene in the nick of time.
Oregon and the NCAA have agreed that the University committed "at least one major violation", though the identity—or severity—of that violation remains unknown. What is common knowledge at this stage of the process is that another college coach has tested the boundaries of the rules, yet will not pay the price for his actions. Pete Carroll 2.0, if you will. Kelly is now the well-heeled head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, ironically about as far away from the Ducks' campus as a coach can get while still being gainfully employed in football.
Kelly has no one to answer to at this point about the alleged transgressions that took place on his watch. He's off the hook. Those who'll pay the price, whatever that might be, will be new head coach Mark Helfrich, the rest of the staff and all of the Oregon players, none of whom share any culpability. And it's impossible not to feel as if that kind of bizarre justice stinks in a very foul way.
Once again, the University of Oregon is thumbing its nose at the NCAA, and doing so in an age where the organization's Committee on Infractions is placing more emphasis on member self-reporting.
In suggesting a self-imposed two-year probation and the loss of just a scholarship for three years, Oregon has fallen woefully behind the recent precedent set by the University of South Carolina and LSU. These are but two schools that have recently recommended and been given what appears to be more stringent self-imposed punishment for infractions less grave than what Oregon officials are now admitting.
Documents released by the University Monday outline a number of infractions, including one described by Oregon itself as "major".
This is a particularly dangerous game of chicken the University is playing with the NCAA, who have made it clear that in an age of decreasing resources and more media scrutiny, social or mainstream, they are relying on member institutions to do most of the heavy lifting on compliance issues.
The NCAA has already told Oregon in strong terms that it was unsatisfied with the latter's initial investigation and conclusion of the matter. Oregon seems to be borrowing from the USC/OSU playbook in battling the NCAA – schools that ultimately received more significant punishment than many of the universities that aggressively self-reported and cooperated more closely with the COI. This seems to be an unwise strategy, particularly in the current climate.
E-mail Matt Zemek
It would be nice to offer a strong opinion on the University of Oregon football program's fate, but it's still too early to do so. "Major violations" might have been committed, but if there's no "lack of institutional control" or any finding of "unethical conduct," the Ducks might not get hit hard. Realizing how arbitrary, inconsistent and capricious the NCAA and its rulings have been in recent years, it would seem premature at this point to claim that impending sanctions are knowable.
Removed from any predictions of punishment, one should also look at the big picture with respect to this story. Consider how many human hours of work – on the part of Willie Lyles to scout players; on the part of Chip Kelly to recruit them (through Lyles); on the part of NCAA and Oregon officials to investigate the matter – have been exhausted in this larger process. Do we want to live in a world where so many hours of a life are invested in the recruiting of athletes, athletes who are then NOT paid to do what they do for the public's entertainment and pleasure?
There are so many aspects of the larger college sports structure – the athletic-industrial complex – that need to be reformed and policed before (and beyond) recruiting. As was the case at USC, Ohio State, and Auburn, don't get hung up on the punishment handed out to a school; focus on the larger reality – and waywardness – of the system we see in front of us.
Some of you will view Chip Kelly's actions in an unfavorable light. Some of you won't. We should all agree, though, that Kelly recruited entertainers through Willie Lyles, not scholars. If we could re-imagine and re-construct the entire system of collegiate athletics, we wouldn't have to deal with these time-wasting, hour-exhausting stories anymore. THAT should be our focus in the college sports community.
E-mail Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
Congratulations are in order for new head-coach Mark Helfrich for getting the keys to a Lamborghini off the show-room floor. There's just one minor detail: the clutch assembly and a few smaller items don't seem to be working in concert.
The mastermind behind the Oregon Ducks pulling up a chair to the big-boy table of college football has left for the NFL. And although Chip Kelly leaves behind a program that still has the entrails of his departure, it now appears that things will be a little tougher to keep at the elite level things were humming along with under his intent gaze.
Without the reported "lack of institutional control" finding, this doesn't appear to be a blow to the head that might put the Oregon program in a coma, but at the least, the major infractions that appear to be reality have a possibility of being the equivalent of a jar to the collective conscience that will make the Ducks wobbly and cloudy—at least for a period of time.
Of course all of this is conjecture until we have some real meat to gnaw on, for what remains to be seen is what kind of penalties get handed down after all of the dust clears. Will it be a slap on the wrist with simple scholarship reductions or a ban on the postseason along with other more harsh penalties? The precedent was set with a bowl-ban for Ohio State's similar initial findings and that didn't scratch the surface of the alleged recruiting issues Oregon is on the hook for. Time will tell.
At the least, Oregon fans should settle in for a bit of a down-turn and a resetting of expectations. A new coaching regime in combination with NCAA hot-water doesn't generally result in tasty morsels.
E-mail Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn
You know that time when you're scouring through the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart and you find something that's not supposed to be there? So you take it to the cashier who is too apathetic to argue about it and you get something at about 15 percent of its actual cost? That's Oregon here.
Though they disagree with the NCAA on a second major violation, it appears at least from jump street like they made out like bandits. Two years probation (which no one actually notices on-field in the least) and three scholarship losses is a drop of water in the bath tub. They shouldn't fear going before the infractions committee later this year. Recent events have left the NCAA without a leg to stand on. Though that doesn't really matter when you have a shaky skeleton key that you only use to open arbitrary doors.
The real takeaway immediately from this is that it appears Chip Kelly got out ... by design or not ... at the witching hour. Oregon is down one great football coach who saw this coming right after he professed his desire to stay in Eugene for another season. Revisionist history is no fun, and one cannot help but wonder that if the initial findings would yield such a light slap on the wrist if Kelly would have stayed. Don't expect Oregon to be going anywhere away from the top 10 anytime soon, at least at first glance.