NCF Nation: Oregon NCAA penalties 2013

Maisel, Miller talk Oregon and NCAA

June, 27, 2013
Oregon's 27-month ordeal with the NCAA is over, with the Ducks receiving minor penalties that shouldn't slow the program down as a national power.

Why did things play out as they did? What does it mean for Oregon? And what does it mean for former coach Chip Kelly?

Ivan Maisel and Ted Miller discuss in a special podcast .
For Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, the seemingly light penalties his football program incurred from the NCAA on Wednesday in connection to the Willie Lyles investigation is a case of the facts setting the Ducks free. Or just about.

While Mullens didn't leap up and click his heals together in front of reporters -- he betrayed no outward ebullience, though you could make a case it would be justified -- it's fair to say he is satisfied that Oregon avoided a postseason ban and major scholarship losses. He said that, in the end, the penalties matched the "facts."

"We worked tirelessly to get to the facts. And we worked cooperatively [with the NCAA]," Mullens said. "We're glad the facts are out today."

He later added: "I'm not going to be a judge of fair or unfair -- I think it fits what the facts were."

Many of Oregon's rivals and programs that have been hit harder by the NCAA in recent years, such as USC and Ohio State, are sure to feel frustrated with Oregon's penalties. More than a few national pundits are going to lash out at Oregon and the arguably toothless penalties handed out by the NCAA, which has suffered through several recent controversies that have cut away at its credibility. Yet Mullens said he has his own frustrations with the media and the national perception of what Oregon did or didn't do.

"It was frustrating," Mullens said. "Right from the very beginning from when the story broke, I think there was a sense that we were somehow acting in some inappropriate way to get players here. I don't think that was the case at all."

He later added, "My biggest frustration was some media members -- not all -- but some were trying to paint with a broad brush without having the facts."

Mullens made the point that only when the NCAA ruled scout Willie Lyles a representative of Oregon's athletic interests did that retroactively change how communication between Lyles and Ducks coaches could be perceived in terms of vague NCAA rules regarding scouting services.

He said, "When they were doing the things they were doing, they certainly weren't doing them knowing he was a representative of our interests."

Of course, Lyles was working with a number of other programs, including California, LSU and Tennessee. While Mullens wouldn't speculate on how the NCAA debated Lyles being deemed an Oregon booster when he was professionally connected with schools that could be even be considered Ducks rivals, he did admit, "That's something we raised."

Oregon has an option to appeal the penalties -- a loss of three scholarships, three years probation and recruiting restrictions -- but it won't, which isn't a surprise to anyone. The penalties essentially match what Oregon attempted to self-impose in its summary disposition, which was rejected by the NCAA.

While Mullens and other Oregon officials always projected confidence throughout the 27-month investigation, he admitted that rejection was unsettling, particularly considering that NCAA enforcement and Oregon agreed on just about everything.

"When it wasn't accepted, yeah, there was a concern," he said.

And his first reaction upon receiving the NCAA's Infractions Report was noting that it basically matched that same summary disposition.

Mullens said the length of the investigation was "punitive," noting the Ducks were victims of "plenty of negative recruiting."

He said that former coach Chip Kelly, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, called to offer an "apology" that morning. Kelly received an 18-month "show cause" penalty, which means if any college program wants to hire Kelly before Christmas of 2014, he and the the program must appear before the committee on infractions, and then he and the program could face sanctions.

As for Oregon's penalties, Mullens said they were harsh enough to impact the program and put it at a competitive disadvantage.

"The penalties are in place to impact the program and they will impact the program," Mullens said. "It's a very competitive environment for elite level student athletes."

Mullens admitted, "Mistakes were made." He said Oregon has significantly upgraded its compliance staff and procedures.

He also wouldn't completely go along with the notion that this was a happy day for the football program.

"No one wants to be in this position, so I don't think anyone is happy," he said. "We're pleased to be at the end of the process."

Oregon Ducks are full speed ahead

June, 26, 2013
During his teleconference with reporters Wednesday, NCAA committee on infractions spokesman Greg Sankey was asked whether the NCAA penalties against Oregon were "toothless." Without dispensing his seemingly self-conscious monotone that made the Q-and-A an unenlightening affair, Sankey replied, "I'm not going to go through a dental exam."

Apologies to dentists everywhere, but Sankey and his committee's penalties against Oregon for its use of Willie Lyles' scouting services are about as painful as a dental exam.

A loss of one scholarship from two recruiting classes, including last year's class, and a maximum of 84 total scholarship players -- one below the limit -- through the 2015-16 academic year. Three years of probation ending June 25, 2016. A number of recruiting restrictions, including a ban on subscriptions to recruiting services during the probation period, believed to be a first for NCAA sanctions.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesChip Kelly, who has a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, was given an 18-month show cause ruling.
Most notable: No postseason ban for a budding national title contender.

If anything, former coach Chip Kelly, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was the fall guy for failing to properly monitor his football program, a charge to which he admitted. Except he fell onto a feather bed.

Kelly was given an 18-month show-cause ruling. That means if any college program wants to hire Kelly before Christmas of 2014, "it and the former head coach shall appear before the Committee on Infractions to consider which, if any, of the show-cause procedures of Bylaw (l) should be imposed upon him."

So ... that's pretty meaningless. Kelly could return to college coaching in 2015.

Kelly released a statement, taking the high road:

“Now that the NCAA has concluded their investigation and penalized the University of Oregon and its football program, I want to apologize to the University of Oregon, all of its current and former players and their fans. I accept my share of responsibility for the actions that led to the penalties.

“As I have I stated before, the NCAA investigation and subsequent ruling had no impact on my decision to leave Oregon for Philadelphia. I have also maintained throughout that I had every intention to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation, which I did."

A few hours after the NCAA provided its ruling, Oregon sent out a gleeful news release: "NCAA FINDINGS CONSISTENT WITH OREGON’S RECOMMENDATIONS."

And there was some understandable gloating from the Ducks' athletic department.

“Throughout this process, there has been speculation and innuendo regarding the nature and severity of potential violations, much of which was unfounded," athletic director Rob Mullens said in the statement. "As stated by the NCAA Enforcement Staff, the violations committed in this case were unintentional. The University of Oregon remains committed to fair play, integrity and the best interests of our student-athletes. We have all learned from this experience and look forward to continuing the progress of broad-based excellence in Oregon athletics.”

What does this mean for Oregon's football program?

It means full speed ahead, which is pretty fast for a program that has a 46-7 record over the past four years and is a likely top-five team in the 2013 preseason polls. The big question for the program? It remains what it was before the ruling and is purely an on-field issue: How well will former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich fill Kelly's vacated and very large Nike loafers?

Sure, Helfrich will see his style slightly cramped by some of the recruiting restrictions:

  • A reduction of official paid football visits to from 56 to 37 for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
  • A reduction of permissible football evaluation days from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and permissible football evaluation days from 168 to 144 in the spring of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  • A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the probation period.

Those penalties can be overcome by the school continuing to win and continuing to be a "cool" destination for players. But they are not, well, completely toothless.

As for why Oregon seemingly got off easy, there are several reasons.

  • There always was a substantial gray area with NCAA rules relating to the use of recruiting services. While some fans -- and reporters -- were blown away by Oregon's $25,000 payment to Lyles for essentially nothing of value, that transaction didn't rise to the level of buying recruits. Said Sankey, "The committee made its decision based on the information presented to it, not on other speculation and evaluation."
  • A number of other schools had employed Lyles in similar ways to Oregon. That complicated viewing Lyles as purely a representative of Oregon's interests.
  • Oregon was "fully cooperat[ive] throughout the entirety of the investigative stage," according to the NCAA ruling, which noted, "At the investigation's conclusion, the enforcement staff, the institution and the involved parties were in substantial agreement on the facts of the case and on the violations that had occurred."
  • Oregon has not only changed football coaches since the violations occurred, it also has changed athletic directors and school presidents. In other words, those who "failed to monitor" are gone.
  • The NCAA has had a tough few years, you might have heard. It has lost the high ground, which it often didn't deserve in any event. Those inside this investigation on the Oregon end never seemed too worried the football program was going to get hammered.

The fact is the 27-month investigation, in itself, was Oregon's most severe penalty. For one, it was costly. The school paid law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King $208,991.48 to represent its interests, according to The Oregonian, and the overall expenses for the investigation far exceed that.
Of course, the Ducks football team, unhindered by severe, USC-like sanctions, likely will recoup that. And quickly.

While Oregon operated under a dark cloud during the NCAA inquiry, there was much "You're going down!" hyperventilating from the Ducks' rivals, both within the Pac-12 and nationally. No one likes a winner, particularly when the losers believe the winner is cheating. There were high hopes in many places that the Ducks would get hammered.

Didn't happen.

Oregon? The clouds have parted. The NCAA failed to rain on Autzen Stadium.

The Oregon Duck is back, leaning easy and revving up his motorcycle: ludicrous speed ahead.

Complete list of Oregon penalties

June, 26, 2013
We'll have much more as the day wears on the NCAA ruling Wednesday on the 27-month-old Oregon case, but here are the complete sanctions from the NCAA's official release.

You can read the entire scintillating report here.

The penalties include:
  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • Three years of probation from June 26, 2013 through June 25, 2016.
  • An 18-month show cause order for the former head coach. The public report contains further details.
  • A one-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of operations. The public report contains further details.
  • A reduction of initial football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (25) during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of total football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (85) during the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years (imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of official paid football visits to from 56 to 37 for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
  • A reduction of permissible football evaluation days from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and permissible football evaluation days from 168 to 144 in the spring of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  • A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the probation period.
  • A disassociation of the recruiting service provider. Details of the disassociation are included in the public report (imposed by the university).

NCAA hands Oregon Ducks 3-year probation

June, 26, 2013

The NCAA has placed Oregon's football program on probation for three years and taken away a scholarship for recruiting violations under previous coach Chip Kelly.

The NCAA's Division I Infractions Committee released a report on Wednesday that found Kelly and the university failed to monitor the program.

The NCAA has been looking into Oregon's recruiting practices since questions arose over a 2010 payment of $25,000 to Willie Lyles and his Houston-based recruiting service, Complete Scouting Services. Lyles had a connection with an Oregon recruit.

The NCAA also reduced Oregon's official paid visits from 56 to 37 for the next three academic years, reduced its evaluation days for each of the next three seasons and banned the program from using recruiting services during the probation period.

It also placed an 18-month show-cause order for Kelly, which would require schools wishing to hire him to appear before the infractions committee to determine if the school should be subject to the show-cause procedures. Kelly left Oregon this year to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

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