When Chip Kelly was officially announced as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach on Wednesday, the comparisons between the then-head coach of the Oregon Ducks and former USC head coach Pete Carroll, who left for the Seattle Seahawks four years ago, began.
On January 10, 2009, then-USC head coach Pete Carroll left a USC football program that had seen some incredible accomplishments including both an AP and BCS Championship*. Pete Carroll also left a program that was teetering over impending NCAA sanctions stemming from the Reggie Bush scandal in which the NCAA would later rule Bush had received impermissible benefits.
Carroll never had to coach Trojan players who suffered through two postseason bans from 2010 through 2011 nor did he have to hit the recruiting trails with a 30-scholarship reduction hanging over his head. Carroll was never implicated in the NCAA's final report yet he was criticized for bailing on a program that he had overseen as its head coach.
Carroll didn't run a tight ship but neither did his then-athletic director, Mike Garrett. The sidelines were littered with Hollywood A-listers and the locker rooms appeared to be not very well controlled—that atmosphere was ripe for contact between student-athletes and unscrupulous agents and wannabe-agents.
But again, Carroll was never censured by the NCAA nor was named as one who had to have known that Bush was getting cash and benefits from Loyd Lake, a central figure in the Reggie Bush scandal.
Is comparing Pete Carroll's exit to the NFL to Chip Kelly's exit to the NFL valid?
Lake sued the running back for $290,000 in attempt to recoup what he reportedly gave to Bush and his family via cash and gifts in exchange for an agency's future representation of Bush in the NFL. Lake v Bush was later settled in April 2010, just days before Bush was scheduled for his court-ordered deposition—that civil case's deposition could have been used as evidence by the NCAA in its own investigation of Bush.
The NCAA eventually found that Carroll had not been aware of Reggie Bush's alleged involvement with Lake; the NCAA's 67-page final report can be read here. On the contrary, assistant coach Todd McNair was the one whom the NCAA targeted in its investigation of Bush—McNair has sued the NCAA as a result.
Chip Kelly's handprints, however, may be all over the Ducks' recruiting scandal.
According to a Yahoo!Sports investigative story, Kelly personally approved a $25,000 check to Willie Lyles, the owner of Complete Scouting Services, a recruiting service that Oregon used. The NCAA is investigating Lyles and whether he was providing permissible scouting material to schools or steering high-profile recruits to specific schools.
Lache Seastrunk, now at Baylor, was a high-profile recruit who ended up signing with Oregon due to "Lyles’ intimate involvement with Seastrunk’s letter of intent," according to the Yahoo!Sports report. The report also pictures several handwritten notes to Lyles that appear to have been signed by Chip Kelly as well as citing phone records documenting calls between Kelly and Lyles.
Oregon attempted to get a summary deposition from the NCAA—if it had succeeded, Oregon would have outlined its violations and avoided a Committee on Infractions hearing—but the NCAA did not approve the motion and it is now likely that Oregon will face the COI this spring.
But the NCAA does not have the power to compel Chip Kelly to attend the meeting since he is no longer employed by Oregon. ESPN's Andy Katz notes the NCAA's limited power.
The NCAA doesn't have subpoena power and thus can only hold over the head of people that they must talk if they're current student-athletes or are employed by a member school. Someone who is not affiliated with the NCAA doesn't have to speak to investigators.
It's interesting to note that Pete Carroll also did not have to attend USC's meeting with the COI in March of 2010 but did just that, as outlined in this ESPN report.
Will Kelly attend Oregon's COI hearing that is reportedly just around the corner?
It'll be interesting to see if Kelly shows up to face the NCAA and its questions. Right now, I wouldn't count on it.
Kelly will undoubtedly be "too busy" with his new gig in Philly—that will leave it up to Oregon to try and explain Kelly's use of Lyles' Complete Scouting Services to the NCAA. Even if Kelly does attend the COI hearing, it's difficult to compare his departure from Oregon to Pete Carroll's departure from USC.
Pete Carroll had no direct involvement in the Reggie Bush scandal. Carroll did leave for greener pastures in Seattle but he also did return to answer questions from the NCAA under his own volition. Moreover, the Reggie Bush scandal did not involve a pay-to-play scenario; Bush's reported involvement with Lake was to procure his future with the NFL, not at USC.
Chip Kelly appears to have direct involvement with Willie Lyles—an involvement which prompted an NCAA investigation—and left for greener pastures in Philadelphia. At this time, it is unknown if he will answer the NCAA's questions. Unlike the Reggie Bush scandal, this recruiting scandal could fall under the pay-to-play scenario—one could argue that Kelly paid Lyles to land Seastrunk at Oregon, if the Yahoo!Sports report's allegations hold true.
Chip Kelly pulling a Pete Carroll? Nope, and the comparisons need to stop now.