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Oregon Football Recruiting Scandal: Is Pac-12 the Shadiest Conference in CFB?

Jon GilbertCorrespondent IIMarch 4, 2011

Oregon Football Recruiting Scandal: Is Pac-12 the Shadiest Conference in CFB?

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    The sleeze-fest that is college football continues churning out gut-wrenching stories about the underbelly of society putting its greed and desire to win in front of morality.

    It's Oregon popping its head up this time, reportedly in the midst of recruiting violations stemming from paying a man $25,000 to help steer star running back recruit Lache Seastrunk to the school a year ago.

    Oregon has stated that it paid the man, Willie Lyles, for recruiting services. But the amount and Lyles contact with Seastrunk are what have caused the NCAA to investigate.

    The Pac-12 has a recent history of violations and controversy. But has it been enough to make it the poster-child conference of non-poster-child behavior?

    Let's look into it.

Yes: 5. Phil Knight's Involvement with Oregon

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    Nike co-founder Phil Knight is an Oregon alum that stays very close to his alma mater. Very close.

    Knight publicly yet discretely bankrolls the university's athletics. Everybody knows he's pumping money into the school like gas into an overused Hummer. But how much he's actually giving what he's getting in return is not so clear.

    It's rumored that the Ducks football team holds private practices for Knight and that he gets to call one player each game.

    Knight's money is used in a loophole way to recruit. The Ducks enjoy limitless uniforms, lavish locker rooms and other facilities that always have the phrase "state-of-the-art" evolving.

No: 5. SEC Has a Long History of Scandals

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    We'll get to the higher profile Southeastern Conference teams in a minute. For now, let's look at the smaller programs trying—sometimes too hard—to keep up.

    In 2001, Kentucky coach Hal Mumme resigned as the NCAA hammer prepared to come down on his Wildcats for recruiting violations. Kentucky lost its 2003 postseason and 19 scholarships.

    In 2004, Mississippi State was told to stay home from a bowl game, sanctioned four scholarships and put on probation for four years for recruiting violations.

    Coach Houston Nutt and Ole Miss have come under scrutiny for over-signing recruits and then shuffling their lives among junior colleges and gray shirts.

Yes: 4. New Member Colorado Has Academic Issues

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    In June 2010, the Colorado football program was docked five scholarships for poor academics in a four-year period that ended in the 2008-09 school year.

    Usually academic issues occur with a team that's successful. The Buffaloes have been floundering in the Big 12 before moving to the Pac-12 in 2011.

    In 2002, the program was put on two years of probation for recruiting violations under then coach Rick Neuheisel.

    The program also had allegations of rape and sexual harassment by a former female player under coach Gary Barnett.

No: 4. Big Ten Makes Its Own Headlines

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Where exactly the level of concern should be for Iowa football is uncertain, but it is evident that there is some drug problem with the team. The fates of several players hang in the balance after a drug house was busted during the 2010 season.

    Ohio State had its own issues this past fall with five of its players selling and trading awards apparently for tattoos. The players—including starters quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey—are currently battling their suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season.

    But don't forget about Michigan. It practiced beyond the NCAA allotted time limits under former coach Rich Rodriguez, bringing its own punishment.

Yes: 3. LaMichael James' Arrest

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    Before LaMichael James rushed his way to a Heisman Trophy finalist season in 2010, he had a court date last March.

    Arrested in February 2010 on suspicion of strangulation, fourth degree assault and menacing stemming from an incident outside of his apartment, James eventually pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of harassment to have the other four counts dropped.

    James served a 10-day jail sentence, was suspended for one game and then returned to the fray.

No. 3: Big 12 Has Rash of Problems Itself

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    Mike Leach sure did a number on Texas Tech. His ugly departure from the school was cloudy, but ultimately involved the alleged mistreatment of a player.

    But just in January, Leach's impact again reared its ugly head. Tech discovered recruiting violations across multiple athletic programs, including the football team during Leach's tenure. The violations were text messages that result in a self-imposed and NCAA supported two-year probation and scholarship reductions.

    Tech isn't alone in its shadiness. Oklahoma had its own foray with the illegal in 2006. Quarterback Rhett Bomar and guard J.D. Quinn were dismissed from the team after it was found they were being paid for full work weeks at a car dealership despite only working a handful of hours.

Yes: 2. Lane Kiffin

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Just how does a team with a bowl ban, four-year probation and looming scholarship reductions sign 28 recruits that make up a top five class? Lane Kiffin and loopholes, that's how.

    Since the NCAA has yet to rule on USC's appeal to the sanctions, no scholarship restrictions are yet in effect.

    But don't rule out to possibility of foul play. Kiffin left Tennessee in shambles with his literally middle-of-the-night exit and recruiting violations for the school to sort out and suffer.

No: 2. Big Name SEC Programs Work Outside the Rules as Well

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    For five straight seasons, an SEC team has won the BCS National Championship. Two of those champions, Alabama and LSU, have been punished for various violations. Coincidence?

    Alabama had a textbook scandal from 2005-2007 that involved the athletic department paying for some textbooks for athletes that it wasn't supposed to. Alabama has also recently reported a recruiting violation involving Barry J. Sanders, son of NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders.

    LSU nodded its head in agreement when violations were alleged against it in 2010. The recruitment of Akiem Hicks involved improper phone calls, transportation and summer housing.

    Tennessee is also feeling the effects of recruiting violations from Lane Kiffin.

Yes: 1. Reggie Bush Saga Lands USC on Probation

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    Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

    Reggie Bush was never asked to send back his Heisman Trophy, but he did anyway.

    The NCAA leveled USC with four years of probation, scholarship reductions and a two-year bowl ban for Bush's receiving improper benefits from marketing agencies while with the Trojans.

    Bush's parents lived rent free in a home for a year. Bush bought a new car. All the while, USC claims, it didn't see anythingsuspicious going on.

    That attitude helped land it in hot water with the NCAA.

No: 1. Cam Newton

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Another SEC school that won a national championship, Auburn in 2011, was cleared by the NCAA of any wrongdoing. But that's not satisfying to the general public.

    As the story goes, Heisman winner Cam Newton's father, Cecil, was discussing a $100,000-$180,000 payment from a Mississippi State booster for his son's commitment to the school.

    Cecil fessed up to it, but both Newtons have declined that Cam new anything about it. The NCAA could find no evidence showing otherwise or that Auburn paid for Cam's play.

Conclusion: SEC Still Rules in Shadiness

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The funny (sick?) thing about many SEC fans is that they are proud of their teams' cheating because it signals they are trying.

    Recruiting violations abound in college football's most talented and recently successful conference. The Pac-12 is making strides toward rivaling the SEC in its shame, but it's not there yet.

    A couple more major scandals and we'll have a real battle of debauchery on our hands.

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