A Waiting Game
A feeling of anxiety and worry has crept over the University of Oregon campus, as documents were obtained by The Oregonian that detail how the Oregon Ducks football program committed major violations in relation to the recruitment of players.
And while there are violations ranging from an additional coach being used for recruiting to coaches calling prospective student athletes, their parents, and their coaches, the highest-profile of the violations has to deal with the recruiting services the Oregon football program were involved with from 2008-2011.
It has been just about two years now since the initial report by Yahoo! Sports alleged that the Ducks had committed serious NCAA violations in connection with Willie Lyles and his recruiting service, Complete Scouting Services (CSS). But what was once the hot issue, Oregon’s $25,000 payment to Lyles, is apparently not a big factor at all.
A Brief Outline
The big factor in determining the severity of penalties that will be leveled against the Ducks is whether or not the oral reports Lyles gave the football program will be deemed a secondary or major violation. As of the report last night, the University of Oregon believes this infraction to be a secondary violation on the basis that the coaches did not know they were engaging in anything improper and that the university requested written documents from Lyles, as is allowed by NCAA bylaws.
The NCAA, however, believes this to be a major violation on the basis that the Ducks still received oral reports that gave them a recruiting edge.
It is important to not, however, that the NCAA has stated in the summary disposition that “There is no information in the record that Lyles coerced or directed any prospect to ultimately choose Oregon.” Oregon and the NCAA also both agree on the fact that the coaches were unaware that they were committing violations when engaging in oral reports with the recruiting services.
Also of important note is that the NCAA did not find that there was a lack of institutional control, a key piece that could play a huge deal in determining the severity of the sanctions against Oregon. Teams that have been associated with a lack of institutional control in the past–USC, Georgia Tech, California, Kentucky, and UCF–have typically faced postseason bans as well as scholarship reductions.
The next step in the process will be Oregon’s appearance in front of the Committee of Infractions, where it will have a hearing to determine the penalties to be leveled against the university. While the Ducks have proposed a two-year probation for the football program that includes scholarship reductions, the NCAA has not released a statement on what the potential punishment will be.
While Washington Husky, Oregon State Beaver, and the rest of the Pac-12 fanbase is undoubtedly rejoicing about this news, fans of the Ducks are obviously a little worried, and for a good reason.
Though Oregon has apparently avoided the lack of institutional control charges that have doomed many programs in terms of postseason appearances, the NCAA has been, to say the least, inconsistent in the past few years. Especially with the deranged Mark Emmert leading the way, anything is apparently still possible when it comes to thinking about what type of sanctions will be brought against Oregon.
That being said, there were some comforting things to come out of the summary disposition.
1. Oregon did not pay any players. Thanks the football gods for this. Unlike USC and other athletic programs that have manipulated student athletes, the Ducks football program did nothing to coerce or bribe recruits or players at the University of Oregon.
2. A hearing still looms. The Ducks, as well as other players involved in this case, still get to present their views in front of the NCAA Committee of Infractions and will potentially get to make themselves look better before any penalties are leveled against them. Obviously the big issue at the hearing will be directed towards determining whether the Ducks’ involvement with Lyles and other recruiting services will be a major or secondary violation.
I’ll toast this weekend to hoping that is comes out as a secondary violation.
Aside from the anxiety that can now be felt about the pending hearing given the newly released documents, I find myself in a pickle about how to feel about this entire situation. While I would never want a football program that I support to be involved in any sort of scandal, everything that Oregon has stated–as well as the NCAA–points to the fact that Oregon’s coaches were unaware that they were committing violations.
If that is the case, then I guess this will help me sleep at night when trying to debate about the integrity of the athletic department that I support and want to see flourish.
Sentimental feelings aside, I don’t find myself worrying too much about what will happen to the Ducks in terms of violations. While Ohio State is a storied football program and has history on its side, it proved to the nation last year that a bowl ban won’t always affect the success of a program.
So while the Ducks could be hit with a bowl ban–even though I don’t imagine an unstable NCAA doing so–I believe they already have plenty of pieces in place to continue their success regardless of what happens at the hearings.
The University of Oregon is no longer just a destination for liberal-minded students who want a college atmosphere with a city on the perimeter, it has become a destination for some of the top sporting events in the nation as well as for some of the top young athletes.
With new football and academic facilities being constructed, Oregon will still continue their upward trend no matter the outcome of this case.
The effect that the sanctions will have on the Ducks will be minimal.
I’m still upset that Oregon has dealt in practices that constitute major violations, but if anything, these violations seemed to have occurred without the coaches knowledge and did not involve the bribing of players. There’s still a lot to be figured out in this case, but hopefully it will all come to an end soon and we can just focus on watching Marcus Mariota tear through Pac-12 defenses once again.