The Oregon Ducks are reigning Pac-10 Champions, and favorites to take home the inaugural Pac-12 Conference crown by many media publications. Off the field, their offseason has been more reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon, than a finely tuned football program.
Recruiting infractions have been alleged through multiple reports since 2011 commenced. Now, the water for Duck Soup begins to boil as more reports and stories break, potentially tarnishing Oregon’s success under coach Chip Kelly.
Willie Lyles, the owner of the “bogus Complete Scouting Services,” according to Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports, has thrown Oregon’s football program under the bus.
Before Lyles drove over the Ducks, he accepted a $25,000 payment Oregon authorized in February of 2010.
Kelly, LaMichael James—a favorite to take home this year’s Heisman Trophy—and a redshirt freshman yet to take a snap in Eugene, Lache Seastrunk, are the main points of emphasis for the NCAA, aside from Lyles.
Yahoo Sports later revealed the allegations in a March 3rd report, and things have only gotten worse.
John Canzano, Ducks’ beat writer for The Oregonian, summed up Oregon’s issues on JT The Brick’s Fox Sports radio show.
“The documents are all there,” Canzano said. “The phone records, the emails, the hand-written letters from Kelly to Lyles.”
Sounds awfully like a recent NCAA investigation in Columbus, OH. Once the writing was clearly bolded on the walls, fan favorite and Buckeye legend—now for more reasons than one—Jim Tressel resigned this past Memorial Day.
It is unclear how soon, or if, the NCAA imposes sanctions, scholarship reductions or even loss of bowl eligibility for the Ducks, as in the case with the USC Trojans.
Oregon has been perceived to be a leg up on USC since Pete Carroll bolted for the Seattle Seahawks job, and then the subsequent hammer the NCAA infractions committee dropped on Troy.
As Canzano said, “This is problematic for Oregon because they wrote Lyles a $25,000 check, then made [Lyles] look like a scouting service, going as far as including paperwork with a now deceased player.”
None of that sounds good for the “Quack Attack."
Coaches across the conference will sure use these allegations, and potential recruiting violations as fuel on the recruiting trail.
Oregon’s focus will somehow have to remain fully entrenched in remaining a BCS National Championship contender. How Chip Kelly manages that, is still yet to be seen.
If these distractions are clear as day on Saturday’s, then the Pac-12 will be in for one intense fight for the title in its inception season.
With Kelly and the Ducks under fire, the door is open for Stanford and their own Heisman Trophy candidate, Andrew Luck, to wear the crown as the conference’s elite. Under first-year head coach David Shaw, the Cardinal would be everyone’s next squad in line to represent the Pac-12 North in the conference championship game.
In the South, the opportunity for Utah to burst onto the automatic-qualifying conference stage would be even more satisfying with an appearance in the conference championship game, as a shot to go to the Rose Bowl weighs in the balance.
With a healthy Jordan Wynn at quarterback, and the infamous Norm Chow calling plays, nothing is out of reach for the Utes.
Even the Arizona State Sun Devils could force their way into a BCS bowl appearance as smoke—potentially—turns to fire “Deep in the Woods." The Sun Devils have been a trendy pick to win the Pac-12 South, and face off against the Ducks with BCS implications on the line.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach tabbed ASU at No. 23 in his “Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2011 Poll." Perhaps his title speaks for itself; it is way too early to predict national champions.
Heck, a game hasn’t even been played yet, and one coach has already resigned under intense scrutiny. Now, Oregon is the latest program being hunted by the NCAA. The Ducks remain firm they committed "no wrong doing."
“Chip Kelly is a guy who likes to get out front and talk a lot,” Canzano expressed. “He has been silent on this one.”
Silence will eventually turn into chaos, both for the Ducks and the Pac-12 title race.