The Oregon Ducks would like to prepare for their upcoming spring game at Autzen Stadium, but recent news of NCAA violations is taking the forefront instead.
Two local media outlets (The Oregonian and KATU) received documents via public records earlier this week regarding the University of Oregon and their alleged NCAA violations. The 515-page report went into detail about the allegations against Oregon and offered a proposed punishment that the Oregon Ducks Athletic Department could receive. When the report surfaced into the blogosphere, many heads began to spin with worry as violation speculation reached a pinnacle.
When Oregon fans discuss recent NCAA violations by the Ducks, however, it may be best to first take a deep breath.
First and foremost, this report should not be considered breaking news; it is dated September 2012, and the punishment proposed to the NCAA was already denied in the summary disposition from December 2012. And to review, the Oregon Ducks have been under attack since March 2011.
Now, over 25 months later, Oregon has yet to sit in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) to receive punishment.
So what does the lapse of time mean for the University of Oregon?
"There are no signs of intentional rule violations and no signs of unethical conduct," said former NCAA committee member Jerry Parkinson when discussing potential penalties with The Oregonian. “But unless we know what exactly is alleged, it's hard to know for sure."
While the suggested penalty by Oregon (two years of probation, loss of three scholarships, $20,000 fine to charity and the potential to be considered a repeat violator following violations in 2004 regarding J.J. Arrington) did not include a postseason ban, it was indeed initially denied in the summary disposition. This could be attributed to an interest of the NCAA to see Oregon present their case in front of the newly formed COI.
The document released this week did not provide any concrete punishment, nor did it provide any news as to what violations may be when the NCAA orders the University of Oregon to speak in front of the COI.
“What KATU's story did is provide a clearer picture of what exactly is at issue here,” wrote Will Rubin of Addicted to Quack, “and where the battle lines will be drawn whenever the NCAA gets around to the hearing.”
So where will such lines be drawn for the University of Oregon and the NCAA?
First, it is important to clear the air on one topic.
While speculation was that the issue concerned the $25,000 check to booster Will Lyles, the NCAA has been convinced that "there is no information in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon," and the actual issue appears to be that Lyles did not provide written reports (only oral) in his recruiting service.
This is problematic because according to Finding 2 in the recent KATU report, Oregon was required to provide written quarterly reports concerning the information that they learned from the Texas-based recruiter and service provider. The NCAA views this as a major violation.
Oregon, however, maintains that they were reading the rule by the 1987 interpretation, not accounting for the 2010 change.
Another potential violation concerns the accusation that Oregon was exceeding the limit of coaches involved in recruiting. Perhaps coincidentally, the coach and former assistant director of operations believed to have put Oregon past the line, Josh Gibson, has since been replaced and hired to join Kelly on the Eagles coaching staff.
Oregon has also been accused of having Lyles provide shortcut background info on recruits. The report, however, says nothing about persuading athletes such as Lache Seastrunk (who has since transferred) and LaMichael James (who has since moved on to the NFL) to come to the University of Oregon.
Ultimately, where Oregon may be most guilty according to Finding 3, the school can also be charged with failure to monitor Lyles from providing gifts (clothing, cash, rentals or purchases of any kind) to the recruits because he was defined as a booster.
The NCAA has since stated that there was neither “lack of institutional control” nor “findings of unethical content” on behalf of Oregon, but rather “failure to adequately monitor” rules regarding boosters such as Lyles.
“If an institution or coach decides to allow a third party into the recruiting process and then fails to monitor the person’s behavior or actions,” said the enforcement staff, according to The Register Guard, “the institution and those staff members are responsible for the resulting violations that occur.”
Oregon has said that the investigation occurred amidst “sensationalized reports in the media” and that what was predominantly significant was to indicate that somehow “the suggestions were unfounded” in the search, without any participation of the school or any student-athletes.
“There is no information in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon,” said The NCAA, according toThe Oregonian. “That said, Lyles did provide a meaningful recruiting advantage by orally providing background information about prospects to the coaching staff and also by serving as a conduit to facilitate communication with prospective student-athletes."
The language of the NCAA can be very hard to understand. Of course, the program is comfortable with the idea of patience.
“The review is ongoing until the NCAA Committee on Infractions issues its final report,” said a representative of the University or Oregon, according to The Register Guard. “The integrity of the process and our continued full cooperation with the NCAA prohibits us from publicly discussing the specifics of this matter.”
While Oregon waits to hear results after they present in front of the Committee on Infractions, many are left to speculate about what the actually punishment for these violations may be. Now, Oregon fans simply have to keep calm and wait.
One popular belief is that it would be a one-year bowl ban and mild scholarship removal, comparable to the punishment of Ohio State.
The irony of it all: Oregon currently sits at No. 2 overall in the recent AP Top 25 College Football Rankings. Ohio State, who is coming off a one-year bowl band from last season and is the most recent team to be punished by the NCAA, is ranked at No. 3 overall. Inadvertently, an Oregon punishment would be a gift to Ohio State and Pac-12 rival USC (another recent rival) were the Ducks to become irrelevant.
This would be especially frustrating for Oregon, as those most notably involved in the case are Lyles (no longer a booster to Oregon), Seastrunk (Baylor), James (San Francisco 49ers), Gibson and Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles).
“You want to penalize the people who are most responsible. But we all know that’s not always the case,” said Dan Matheson, former NCAA investigator. “I think the NCAA and the Committee on Infractions has always struggled with that, to some extent.”
Bryan Kalbrosky is a student of journalism at the University of Oregon and an alumnus of the Bleacher Report Writing Academy. Click here to Follow @BryanKalbrosky