Anxiety in Eugene
To say the NCAA investigation into the University of Oregon football program’s dealings with Willie Lyles has been a long one would be an understatement. And, after the NCAA officially denied Oregon’s request to receive a summary disposition, some key members of the Ducks’ athletic program will appear in a hearing before the NCAA’s committee on infractions.
The ruling that Oregon must undergo a hearing in front of head NCAA officials means that this process will likely become a two-year affair that has left those Duck fans in Eugene and around the world feeling a little extra anxiety this holiday season.
The key players in this piece, as have been throughout the entire investigation process, will be Willie Lyles, Chip Kelly, the Oregon athletic department, Lache Seastrunk, and other players from the Texas area that were under the supervision of Lyles when they made their decisions to attend the universities they did. Though the Ducks are not the only program that used Willie’s services, the amount they paid Lyles ($25,000) has made them a focal point of investigation.
The hearing will replace the original summary disposition that was reportedly being worked on between the NCAA committee on infractions and the University of Oregon Athletic Department.
Whereas a summary disposition would have been more negotiation-oriented and driven when determining the types of sanctions the Ducks would receive (if any), the hearing will draw its conclusion from the in-person statements of all of those involved in this “scandal”.
While there are still many uncertainties surrounding why the NCAA opted away from the summary disposition, one thing that is clear is that a formal hearing provides the chance for the players in this case to clarify everything they have said in front of the infractions committee. It also provides a little more uncertainty as to the things that may be exposed during the hearing — whether they be for or against Oregon’s favor.
Part of the hearing will obviously be addressed to talking directly with Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly and Willie Lyles. Lyles, who outed the Ducks’ use of his shady recruiting service after feeling “betrayed” by the program, has since retracted his previous statement and mentioned that he did not help steer recruits such as LaMichael James and Seastrunk towards the Ducks.
Should this statement hold up in front of the NCAA panel, it would likely help Oregon in receiving less of a blow from the infractions committee.
However, should the statements from Oregon and Lyles prove inconsistent, the NCAA could come down on the Ducks harsher than they may have should a summary disposition have been investigated.
There is no doubt that the Ducks were involved with the recruiting services that Willie Lyles provided that ended up turning out to be relatively shady. And, as mentioned previously, Lyles withdrew his original statement that said he helped to steer certain recruits towards the University of Oregon. The strange thing that comes of Oregon being a big target in this investigation is the fact that many other schools have used his recruiting service and have apparently gotten off-the-hook in regards to any NCAA investigations.
If the NCAA does come down hard on Oregon (and they certainly can), it will be very interesting to see how the public perceives the NCAA and its consistency with sanctions and punishments. The infractions committee, especially in recent years, has been inconsistent at best while being heavily scrutinized by a good portion of the nation.
While the Ducks are by no means the only school that has been targeted in recent history (UNC, Ohio State, and Miami immediately come to mind), the trend of disabling the top Pac-10/12 program and other top programs west of the eastern United States while ignoring the monster that is the SEC, who spends more than an excessive amount on recruiting.
Not trying to implicate any larger NCAA scandal that would involve them partnering with the SEC (at least in football), there is no way the SEC should not be implicated in any investigations with the way they spend money.
Effects of Hearing
Though there will be some time until the rulings on the Oregon case are made, there will likely be some effects of this investigation in the near future.
The biggest impact that this investigation will have in the near future will be on recruiting. While the Ducks have not seen a big impact from this investigation on recruiting yet, the pending hearing (which brings forth the greater chance of heavier sanctions) will likely have some sway in the decisions of some of the top recruits considering Oregon as the Ducks now have a scheduled time when they will likely hear from the NCAA as to the sanctions the program will receive.
In the past, at least in terms of recruiting, there has always been the off chance that the NCAA would come down lightly on the Ducks in an uncertain time frame.
Now that the Ducks should hear about whether or not they will be sanctioned in the spring, many universities recruiting the same players will likely use the sanctions against Oregon as leverage in their efforts to convince their players are better suited for their university.
The pending NCAA hearing has also raised speculation that this will indeed by Chip Kelly’s last year as head coach of the Ducks. Coupled with the fact that the read option and spread offense is starting to flourish in the NFL and the likelihood that Kelly will remain head coach of the Ducks in 2013 is starting to be called into question.