Friday, February 24, 2012
Oregon still in NCAA gray area
By Ted Miller
Oregon released Friday to the media a "proposed findings of violations" from the NCAA, which says the Ducks' football program broke NCAA rules through its use of three recruiting scouting services and by exceeding the permissible number of coaches participating in recruiting at any one time.
Further, the NCAA is proposing that Oregon agree that from 2008 through 2011 "the athletic department failed to establish policies and procedures to monitor the football program's use of recruiting or scouting services."
This is not a formal Notice of Allegations from the NCAA -- the investigation remains ongoing for both Oregon and the NCAA -- and four of the document's seven sections are redacted. So drawing specific conclusions as to what this means for Oregon's football program is impossible.
You can read the document here (what's not redacted by Oregon). And here is a note to Oregon fans from athletic director Rob Mullens on the document's release. Here's a story from the Eugene Register-Guard. And one from The Oregonian, which noted: "Until [the] internal inquiry concludes, UO general counsel Randy Geller said, 'the university is not necessarily agreeing with the findings.'"
What does this mean?
Here's an educated guess: Oregon will not get a wrist slap from the NCAA. And it won't get horribly bombed.
Yeah, I know, thanks a lot.
Oregon fans looking for good news should note that a "failure to monitor" charge, while it can carry burdensome sanctions, is not the dreaded "lack of institutional control."
Still, predictions at this point as to what the NCAA eventually will do remain pure guesswork. For one, there's a lot of stuff Oregon won't let us see. For another, as pointed out by CBS Sports' astute Bryan Fischer in a Tweet, "Reading Oregon/NCAA docs, never been a major infractions case involving 13.14.3 (recruiting/scouting services). So definitely new ground."
This is unexplored territory for an organization that often seems to make completely random, arbitrary rulings. Predict outcomes at your peril.
Many of the NCAA's specific allegations focus on the Ducks getting "oral reports" from scouting services. That's a no-no.
What about Willie Lyles? Nothing earth-shattering. From the document: "In 2010, the football program paid $25,000 for a subscription to Complete Scouting Services (CSS) and received oral reports from CSS representative Lyles. Additionally, the football program failed to gather recruiting or scouting information from CSS at least four times per calendar year, as required by NCAA recruiting or scouting legislation."
As for the failure to monitor:
Regarding the recruiting or scouting services, the athletic department failed to establish policies and procedures to monitor the football program's use of recruiting or scouting services. Additionally, athletics administrators with responsibilities in the football program failed to monitor the information provided by recruiting or scouting services to ensure compliance with recruiting or scouting service legislation. This collective failure partly resulted in the violations outlined in Finding 2.
Recall how all of us media sorts have kept bringing up the loopholes and gray areas that are in play here? It's meaningful, again, that NCAA investigators/infractions folks have little experience with cases like this. Alleged "street agents" in football, while long an issue in basketball, are a mostly new thing. And a new area of emphasis for the NCAA.
My general impression here is that Oregon, from the beginning, has tried to work with the NCAA instead of quibble over details. It lawyered up with attorney Michael Glazier, a partner in the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, the go-to guys for NCAA investigations, in order to best present its position, yes, but also to make sure it didn't violate the NCAA's sense of etiquette in these matters. While it's often incorrectly stated or written that USC didn't cooperate with the NCAA during the Reggie Bush case, there's no question that USC aggressively fought the allegations against it. It appears that Oregon isn't doing that, that it's trying to reach accord with the NCAA.
George Schroeder of the Register-Guard speculated on Twitter -- insightfully, I think -- that Oregon might hope for a "summary disposition" that would allow it to avoid an infractions committee hearing altogether. A plea bargain, so to speak.
That said, don't expect this case to be quickly wrapped up in a few weeks. The wheels of NCAA justice almost always move slowly, and, again, the Notice of Allegations has yet to arrive.
But the Oregon case is moving forward, providing grounds for hope to parties on both sides of the aisle.
Those who want Oregon to get hit hard -- despite no "lack of institutional control" -- probably feel like there's a chance that still happens. And Ducks fans can reasonably cross their fingers that eventual sanctions won't be severe enough to put an ax wound in the middle of a budding Pac-12 superpower.