Oregon Ducks Football Coach, Chip Kelly
The water is getting so hot that it appears to being on the verge of boiling. Sure, I'm a Washington Husky fan, and I have been for as long as I can remember. So the prospect of seeing the Ducks climbing into a boiling vat of water makes me salivate. But I'm going to temper my joy with a realistic analysis of the situation in Eugene, Oregon and potential outcomes for both coach Chip Kelly and the University of Oregon Ducks football program.
I'm not going to rehash the entire story, but in case you've been napping under a large piece of glacial til, on Friday, January 1st, 2011, Willie Lyles rebranded himself and rebutted claims of his own wrong doing. In effect, he came clean on his misdeeds and shined the spotlight directly upon the Ducks head coach. He furnished facts and matched them with candor.
What I hope to do here is clarify some of the things that have been revealed and their potential ramification:
Q: Is Willie Lyles a scout or a booster?
A: This is, perhaps, the most important piece for the NCAA to decide. He calls his business a scouting service, but he didn't act like one. He, by his own account, coordinated events during Coach Kelly's visits and accompanied recruits to Eugene, Oregon and Baton Rouge, Louisiana to name a few.
In 2007, Lyles set up a scheme that made it possible to have LaMichael James test out of his home state so that he could pass a math test to meet University of Oregon's requirements.
Sound like a scout to you? Me neither. Now, that of itself doesn't nullify him being an Oregon booster, but it doesn't make him a booster either.
Q: Did Oregon get caught with their hand in the cookie jar when they paid Lyles $25,000.00?
A: It appears to be so, at this point in time. The "National Package" scouting report that Kelly got was out of date so much so that most of the athletes were already enrolled in college. What that means is what was furnished by Lyles was fluff designed to cover some tracks.
By Lyles' own account, Oregon was trying to cover their own tracks and requested the list the University of Oregon paid Lyles for, in other words, his "services" rendered.
The date the check was cut has also caused many red flags to be hoisted as it was shortly after the recruits signed their Letters of Intent with the University of Oregon...making it look like once the recruit was locked in, Lyles would get his money.
Q: Who's move is it now that Lyles has spilled the beans?
A: Oregon is taking this very seriously and has hired attorney, Mike Glazier back in March. Earlier this month, the university released a slew of documents showing what they got when they paid Lyles his fee. Then Lyles decided that he needed to tell his side of the story and has shined the spotlight upon Kelly. So now, the next move belongs to the NCAA, and they've moved quickly in asking Lyles for some additional face time.
However, it's important to remember that Lyles isn't the only person who appears to have been working on behalf of the University of Oregon. Remember the name Flenory: He's an important dot the NCAA will be looking at connecting to this situation.
Q: Is there a certain timeline for the NCAA to act on their information?
Don't expect the NCAA to do much of anything until after Kelly signs the "Certification of Compliance" letter. By singing that document, the coach is saying that he has no knowledge of any wrongdoings within the program during the previous academic year. Ultimately, this is the document that ended Jim Tressel's time at Ohio State.
Can Coach Kelly Survive the Willie Lyles Mess?
The document is the NCAA drawing a line in the sand. By NCAA law, it's illegal to lie to the NCAA thus signing this document with knowledge of wrongdoings constitutes a lie, and the NCAA can bring down the hammer on the coach as it's considered a Cardinal Sin to lie to the NCAA.
Q: But didn't Kelly already lie about not knowing Lyles?
A: Yes, but that was on the radio and not to the NCAA. That makes Kelly look like he's hiding sometime as he came back a short time later and said that he did know Lyles. However, it was just to you and me who Kelly lied to, so there's no sanctionible smoking gun here...but it does make Kelly look bad.
Q: What is Oregon's next move now that Lyles has said his piece?
A: In my opinion the University of Oregon will begin looking at Kelly as the fall guy. Considering all the texts, thank you cards, and other things that are the "gray areas" that Kelly used, the University of Oregon may begin to distance themselves from these actions.
Remember, Oregon hired "the cleaner" not Kelly so the university may choose to insulate themselves from Kelly's actions and hang him out to dry much the way Lyles has been hung out to dry.
Q: Oregon says they believe they did nothing wrong. What does the NCAA have to do to prove them guilty of improprieties?
A: The NCAA isn't a part of the legal system you and I as US citizens enjoy. Where we have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the NCAA only needs "probable cause."
In Oregon's case, this is important to remember as Oregon has brought in "The Cleaner." Tracks have been covered, the truth has been obscured and facts are being skewed. But that doesn't mean that the NCAA won't be able to connect the dots.
And the NCAA doesn't assume that one is innocent until proven guilty. Kelly can say that he didn't know this or that so he can't be guilty of intentionally trying to cheat, but per the certification of compliance, Kelly is to be versed in the NCAA guidelines.
Additionally, when Oregon has made statements about this, they've used "weasel words" to package their innocence. The Oregon party line on this is "we don't 'think" or "feel" that we've done anything wrong...that's not a proclamation of innocence, that's putting on a brave face. I have yet to hear an Oregon official say, "We have done nothing wrong" and leave out the weasel words of think or feel.
Q: So how bad could it be for the university?
A: Well, Oregon was already under a degree of probation stemming from the major violation in the recruitment of JJ Arrington May of 2004. Under NCAA guidelines, the Ducks could be slapped with a "repeat offender" tag should the NCAA rule that, during the recruitment of LaMichael James, Oregon acted improperly.
To many this is a stretch, but when the NCAA is connecting dots, one can never be certain how broad their reach will be.
And don't forget that the NCAA is already in Eugene digging around the Oregon basketball program. I've heard people saying that the baseball team is under scrutiny as well. Being a repeat offender and if they find multiple programs with problems, it could be very bad for Eugene. If that's the case the punishment could be one that we've not seen before.
For SMU, back in the 1980s they drew the "Death Penalty" for payments to players through boosters and slush funds. At this point, for Oregon, things aren't that far along. However, how Oregon's case differs is that overall institution doesn't appear to be monitored very well, and that could bring the four words all Washington Huskies fear: lack of institutional control.
Q: How does the string of arrests of Ducks over the past few years play into the lack of institutional control label?
A: It doesn't. That is a sign of a program out of control, and that's a team matter which Coach Kelly handles internally through discipline or dismissal. Most of those arrests aren't NCAA matters and would have no cause for concern for sanctions.
The one that is a giant red flag is the apparent loaning of a car to three players...which Cliff Harris was doing 118 MPH at 4 AM.
Q: Can Coach Kelly survive all of this?
A: One thing for certain: Kelly is a fighter. When his players got into trouble in 2010, he was fiery and combative in their defense so that will only illustrate how defensive he'll be when it's his butt on the line. But at this point in time, I don't see how he survives the Lyles mess.
My best guess is that the University of Oregon's compliance office was duped into cutting a check for Lyles by Kelly. I doubt they investigated the integrity of the person who the check was going to or the validity of the data that justified the $25,000.
As I said earlier, I think Oregon will make Kelly the fall guy as best as they can to insulate the program from as much damage as possible.
Q: How might Nike co-founder Phil Knight be involved in this?
A: I don't see Nike as a party to this. Phil Knight would be smart enough to deliver a bag of cash to the tune of $25,000 ensuring there would be no paper trail. I'm not saying that he has or that he would, but he has enough resources that he has the brains to know not to cut a check.
Conclusion: It doesn't look good for Coach Kelly. I see this as the end of the road in Oregon and possibly an eight-year coaching ban by the NCAA. As for the University of Oregon, I think they will be severely punished, and they will probably take their medicine sooner rather than later.
I'd love to edit this by adding your insights and questions as well so feel free to comment...even if you feel the need to tell me how much of a misinformed Husky idiot I am.