New Documents Show Oregon Football Could Be in Deep Trouble
A report outlining new details in the NCAA's investigation of the Oregon Ducks football program was made public by KATU-TV on Monday. It cited documents released by the University of Oregon in compliance with a records request by KATU-TV and included a "draft of the 'summary disposition' report."
Among the report's findings are that Oregon and the NCAA agreed that "major violations" were committed. From the report:
"There were underlying major violations coupled with failure to monitor violations involving the head coach (2009 through 2011) and the athletics department (2008-2011),” NCAA enforcement staff wrote in the report. “While the violations were not intentional in nature, coaches and administrators of a sports program at an NCAA member institution have an obligation to ensure that the activities being engaged in comply with NCAA legislation."
The report also outlines two crucial points for the Ducks. First, NCAA enforcement staff said they had “no finding of lack of institutional control and no finding of unethical conduct.” That could prove critical when it comes time to dish out punishment.
So what can we gather from this?
It's hard to say how the NCAA will eventually rule because it has not been consistent in doling out punishment. However, the NCAA has traditionally taken a softer stance when dealing with institutions that self-report and completely cooperate with an investigation.
However, that "failure to monitor" phrase could cause big problems because Oregon would fall under the "repeat violator" status resulting from a previous major infraction. More from the KATU-TV report:
"The UO last had a major infraction in 2004; since some of the alleged violations happened within five years of that date, the NCAA could impose stiffer penalties."
But what really may cause a big problem for Oregon is Will Lyles, who the NCAA and Oregon agreed was working as an agent for the school.
The university and the NCAA agree that Lyles was working as an agent of the school in 2008-2010 when he had a series of “impermissible telephone and off-campus contacts” with prospective student athletes. .
“From the spring of 2008 onward, Lyles quickly evolved into an important part of the football program’s recruiting efforts in the state of Texas,” the report says. It says if a coach was recruiting in the Houston-area, it was common for them to reach out to Lyles.
“Through the relationships he cultivated, Lyles provided the football staff with valuable information that would not typically be included in the recruiting/scouting service’s written reports,” the report says.
The report says Lyles did not coerce any player to choose Oregon, although he did “provide a meaningful recruiting advantage” by providing background info on players and helping coordinate talks with players.
This is where Oregon may have a big problem: a "meaningful recruiting advantage."
The NCAA's bane is a situation where "pay to play" arises in an investigation. USC got hammered by the NCAA in 2010 over the Reggie Bush scandal, but the Trojans never had a recruiting advantage in signing Bush—the impermissible benefits he received were to secure his services with an agent after his collegiate career.
This new report indicates that while players weren't paid per se to play at Oregon, it does indicate that the school paid for services that may have given it an advantage in recruiting.
Also of note is that while the report cites Oregon's violations weren't intentional, they were still done over a period of time and involved then-head coach Chip Kelly and the athletics department.
Kelly is no longer there, so a show-cause penalty would be moot. Will the NCAA substitute another penalty in its place?
Perhaps Oregon's full cooperation with the NCAA will earn it favor—institutions who have fully cooperated with major violation investigations in the past have been rewarded with minimal scholarship reductions and no postseason bans.
Both Oregon and the NCAA tried to get a summary disposition worked out, but that reportedly fell through (via Yahoo Sports, h/t KATU). One of the sticking points could be the school's position on the severity of some of the violations.
The NCAA and school agree that from 2008-2011 the Ducks paid at least around $35,000 for three improper recruiting services, including $25,000 to Lyles’s company, Complete Scouting Services.
“CSS (Lyles’s company) did not disseminate to the football program recruiting or scouting information at least four times per calendar year, as required by NCAA legislation,” the report says.
While they agree the violations happened, the school and the NCAA disagree about the severity of the charges, according to the report. The school argues the rules violated were obscure and that the violation should be considered “secondary.”
Oregon recently "proposed a self-imposed two-year probation and the loss of a scholarship for three years because of possible recruiting violations involving the Ducks' football program," according to the report.
So Oregon is willing to take some punishment, but will the NCAA deem it enough or add on a postseason ban? Oregon will reportedly be facing the Committee on Infractions this spring and arguing its case.
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