Oregon's Punishment from NCAA More on Coaches Than Players, and That's Right

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Oregon's Punishment from NCAA More on Coaches Than Players, and That's Right
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly

Wednesday's Judgment Day for the Oregon Ducks turned out to be a laugher

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions' final decision on Oregon came and went with little effect on the team and that is a good thing.

The announced penalties include three years probation, a loss of one initial scholarship per year for two years, a total loss of three scholarships for three years, an 18-month show-cause order for the former head coach and a one-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of operations. 

The University of Oregon used a recruiting service provider, who became a representative of the university’s athletics interests, to assist the school with the recruitment of multiple prospective student-athletes, according to findings by the Division I Committee on Infractions.

The representative provided cash and free lodging to a prospect and engaged in impermissible calls and off-campus contacts with football prospects, their families and high school coaches. Additionally, the football program allowed staff members to engage in recruiting activity, which resulted in the football program exceeding coaching limits. 

USC or Penn State fans will scream unfair, but the NCAA finally put the student-athlete's interests above all others. For too long the Association's heavy-handed tactics have punished the student-athletes more than the coaches or administrators who failed to monitor their football programs. 

Former head coach Chip Kelly left Oregon after the 2012 season, and is now the head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. He admitted that he failed to monitor the football program, according to the NCAA's public report.

Kelly's show-cause period "begins on June 26, 2013, and runs through December 25, 2014." During that time, he will be making around $9 million. Kelly, however, may not be out of the woods yet. 

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was suspended for five games due to improper dealings with a local tattoo shop in 2010. When Pryor was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld that five-game suspension. More from USA Today:

"Based on Mr. Pryor's actions, I believe it is a fair conclusion that he intentionally took steps to ensure that he would be declared ineligible for further college play and would be able to enter the NFL via the Supplemental Draft," Goodell said. "Taken as a whole, I found that this conduct was tantamount to a deliberate manipulation of our eligibility rules in a way that distorts the underlying principles and calls into question the integrity of those rules."

If the NFL interprets Kelly's move to the NFL as a vehicle to avoid potential punishment at the college level, would Kelly have to serve out that suspension as well? The NFL may consider whether or not Kelly manipulated the system to avoid an 18-month period of unemployment. 

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Kelly could argue that he had talks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January 2012 so his current job as Philadelphia's head coach was foreseeable. But the NCAA's investigation of Oregon had already begun when Kelly had turned down the Buc's offer. Possible fines may be in order for Kelly. Maybe even a suspension of one or two games. 

A coach admitting he did not monitor the program and escaping (so far) any punishment will be hard for fans of some schools to digest. Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair is embroiled in a lawsuit he filed against the NCAA. McNair's contract with USC was not renewed after he was given a one-year show-cause order. Jim Tressel had to resign from Ohio State. Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State. And Kelly escapes?

What is more important is that the Ducks' football team will not be affected by this decision. The players will not be deprived of playing in the postseason and will not have to watch their team fracture from transfers. 

This slap on the wrist will not be embraced by all because some teams are still serving out severe sanctions. USC is trying to survive with 75 scholarship players and Penn State will have to survive with 65. Misery may love company, but wishing misery on others does not reduce their own. Oregon can survive on 24 new scholarships per year for the next two years and 84 total per year for the next three.

Bowl bans and severe scholarship reductions hurt the players and deprive fans' enjoyment of the game. The NCAA had been criticized—and rightfully so—for punishing the innocent and the guilty with equal treatment. While student-athletes' lives are disrupted, coaches can make millions and not suffer any ill effects as they fly to their new destinations. 

Former-USC head coach Pete Carroll bailed to the Seattle Seahawks before the Trojans were dealt a stiff NCAA punishment in 2010. Carroll wasn't slapped with a show-cause order. But he also did not have to watch his teams sit idle in the postseason for two years. 

Had Kelly still been the head coach at Oregon, this decision would have been a crippling blow two months prior to the start of the 2013 season. The only reason why these sanctions appear to be light is because Kelly is no longer at Oregon.

Kelly did respond to the COI's decision today.


The NCAA got it right. Now we will see if the NFL does as well.

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