Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the second time in a decade, the
football program at the University of Oregon has been cited by the NCAA for
rules violations stemming from improper recruiting practices.
The NCAA's Committee on Infractions handed down their ruling earlier this
week, hampering the Ducks' ability to conduct business as usual through June
of 2016. The penalties include a three-year probationary period, the loss of
one scholarship each year, a reduction in the number of paid visits from
potential recruits from 56 to 37, and a ban on the use of any recruiting
However, Oregon avoided a bowl ban and a major loss of scholarships, allowing
the team to continue to compete for both the Pac-12 Conference and national
The NCAA's findings and penalties were in line with what the university itself
had suggested during its own investigation, as it was apparent from the outset
that the use of a recruiting service run by Willie Lyles by former Oregon head
coach Chip Kelly had run afoul of NCAA regulations.
In May of 2008, Lyles began working with the university's football team and
apparently provided a recruit with several improper benefits, including
lodging and monetary compensation. He also engaged in phone calls and off-
campus contact with potential prospects, their families and high school
coaches, all of which were impermissible.
Kelly, whom the NCAA said was unaware of the extent of Lyles' involvement in
recruiting, left the program earlier this year to become head coach of the
Philadelphia Eagles. A curious move at the time considering his statements
less than two weeks prior that he was staying in Eugene, but understandable
now knowing that the heavy hand of the NCAA would come crashing down soon
Fortunately for Oregon and new head coach Mark Helfrich, the governing body of
all things related to college athletics levied a softer blow. The punishment
in fact is tantamount to little more than a slap on the wrist, thus allowing
the native Oregonian to keep the Ducks in national title contention for years
At his introductory news conference in January, Helfrich was genuinely moved
to be chosen to lead the team for which he served as offensive coordinator the
previous three seasons, and has been rooting for all his life.
"As a lifelong Duck fan, this is a responsibility that I welcome and accept
the undertaking that stands before me to carry on the legacy of success that
has been created by my many predecessors."
He continued, "I have been fortunate to have worked with a number of great
football coaches and mentors throughout my career and have utilized that
knowledge to help make me a better coach."
Oregon fans everywhere hope the lessons he has learned from Kelly, at least
the ones involving X's and O's, will help lead the Ducks to another banner
While Kelly was exonerated to a certain extent, the committee noted it is the
head coach's responsibility to know the rules and make sure that his staff
complies with them. As a result, the NCAA also placed an 18-month show-cause
order on Kelly, which would require any school wishing to hire him to show
cause why it should not be penalized for doing so.
Oregon Director of Athletics Rob Mullens expressed his deep appreciation to
the Infractions Committee for the professional and fair evaluation it came to
after conducting its investigation.
"Since the outset of this lengthy inquiry, we have worked diligently to
cooperate with the NCAA Enforcement Staff to ascertain the facts and we have
abided by NCAA confidentiality rules in discussing this matter. As we have
stated from the beginning, we are fully committed to operating within NCAA
Bylaws and accept responsibility for any violations committed by current or
former members of our staff."
Oregon was previously penalized by the NCAA in 2004 for a major violation
involving the improper recruitment of a junior college player. The university
was put on probation for two years and the unidentified assistant coach
involved was suspended without pay for a week.
The Ducks remained eligible for postseason play and did not lose any
scholarships because of that violation, which occurred in 2003.
While the punishment doled out by the NCAA this time around also isn't likely
to cause much of a ripple in terms of production on the football field, the
fact that twice in the last 10 years Oregon has been subject to a major
investigation is cause for concern.
Let's hope that in this age of electronic media where everyone knows everyone
else's business almost at the moment it happens, the Ducks fly the straight
and narrow, thus not ruffling the feathers of the NCAA any further.
The Sports Network