Ducks Get Off Light As NCAA Reveals Penalties
By John Baker
After a 27-month investigation, the weight of the NCAA enforcement arm came down on the Oregon football program Wednesday morning — and hurt virtually nothing.
The Ducks will lose a single scholarship (from a maximum of 25) each of the next two years, have a maximum of 84 scholarships for three years (one fewer than normal) and face three years of probation for their recruiting misdeeds. Additionally, Oregon was slapped with recruiting restrictions. These include a reduction in the number of paid visits from 56 to 37 for the next two years; 36 evaluation days in the fall instead of the full compliment of 42 for the next two years; and 144 spring evaluation days rather than 168.
Most of these restrictions will have little affect on the Oregon football program as a whole. The program's band is now well-known nationwide, with kids across the country eyeing the potent and flashy Oregon football program. The loss of a single scholarship each year will hardly dent the team's depth.
Faced with less evaluation time, the Ducks will simply work harder, smarter and faster than they had before in terms of evaluation. Given the program's fast-paced mindset, this doesn't seem to be a dampener, either.
Oregon is also banned from subscribing to recruiting services during the length of the probation and must have no association with recruiting agency owner Willy Lyles, the man who got this whole NCAA investigation rolling.
The NCAA couldn't prove that the Ducks had paid a rather large sum of money to Lyles to influence a few Southwest recruits rather than recruiting materials that were outdated, poorly done or simply of the wrong people — even though the Ducks did appear to pay way too much for just such a pile of materials.
The program also received a public reprimand and censure for what were characterized as "major infractions" by the NCAA.
As for former coach Chip Kelly, he didn't get off scott-free. The NCAA slapped him with an 18 month show-cause penalty. Kelly won't be eligible to return to college football until late December 2014.
Kelly was tagged by the NCAA for failing to monitor his staff effectively, particularly with the involvement of Lyles and his scouting service. Josh Gibson, the former assistant director of operations, was given a one-year show-cause penalty after admitting to the NCAA that he violated recruiting rules.
Given the length of the investigation, the Ducks got off pretty easily. While evaluation days and recruiting contact restrictions will make the job harder, Oregon has already established itself as a national title contender. That, and the lack of a bowl or TV ban, should provide the Oregon football program with plenty of exposure to recruits during the next few years. In short, expect things to keep on humming for the Ducks, despite Wednesday's news.