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June 26, 2013A long, winding road mercifully comes to an end
It has been over two years since Oregon has been in the cross-hairs of the NCAA and public scrutiny for their relationship with Will Lyles and their use of his scouting service.
Today, this long, meandering journey which took untold hours and seemingly thousands of turns came to an end with the announcement that the NCAA had come to a conclusion regarding their case against Oregon.
While many around the nation attempt to disseminate the myriad issues released in the statement, most Oregon fans and most local media were well acquainted with the majority of information released today as it closely mirrored the violations that Oregon and the NCAA conceded had been committed during a failed Summary Disposition process.
While the process ultimately was rejected by the Committee on Infractions, it was largely due to multiple disagreements that extended beyond just a wording issue or just a penalties issue. Had either of those situations been the case, Oregon would have been presented with an expedited hearing and learned its fate months ago. No, this had to be a both situation; there were disagreements with penalties and violations.
One thing that was made clear during the Summary Disposition process was that Oregon had not intentionally violated any of the underlying violations. Though ultimately rejected for other issues by the COI, the Summary Disposition, in Section (E) (2) stated that "There are no findings of unethical conduct. None of the underlying violations were intentional in nature."
What were the penalties?
Why were penalties harsher than Oregon proposed?
The answer to this question can be found in wording detailing the general overview of findings (again from rejected Summary Disposition process). Though rejected, the overview retains validity in reasoning.
From the original Summary Disposition, Section (B)(2) reads:
This is critical in the reasoning of the NCAA. The NCAA considered the advantage gained by receiving oral reports as well as having Lyles encourage players to take trips to Oregon specifically a significant advantage. Intentional or not, it was conceded by Oregon that this did, in fact, provide a significant recruiting advantage.
This explains both the loss of official visits and the loss of scholarships for the time period referenced.
Further, the NCAA was aware, through information required to be provided in the investigation itself, that Oregon had signed just 83 scholarship players to initial grants-in-aid over the past four seasons. The NCAA chose to hit the Oregon program harder in the area of allowed official visits by nearly 40% for three years; that is a very harsh sanction.
Because Lyles had provided a significant advantage in the evaluation process, it was also deemed important to reduce evaluation opportunities which the announced penalties include. As we discussed in Flock Talk two weeks ago, don't look past these seemingly less invasive penalties; the devil is always in the details. Lost opportunities to evaluate players create the possibility of lost gems and magnify the importance of each evaluation the coaches do perform. There is now less room for error.
To the best of our knowledge, Oregon self-imposed one scholarship reduction and has already self-imposed the evaluation restrictions for the Fall of 2013 and Spring of 2014.
Oregon was tabbed with the repeat violator status based on the recruiting infraction involving running backs coach Gary Campbell and former Cal Bear running back JJ Arrington.
There is no need to rehash old news as Duck Sports Authority readers are well acquainted with this history.
Nonetheless, it is important to note that the beginning or Lyles being tabbed a booster occurred in 2008; less than 5 years after the previous infraction. Thereby, Oregon was tabbed with the "repeat violator" status. The main impact of this would be the length of probation. Without the repeat violator status, the length of Oregon's probation in this case could possible be less severe.
Where does Oregon go from here?
This is the important question. And the simplest answer. Forward. After well over two years of ominous clouds hanging over the program; predictions of their demise, Oregon coaches, players, recruits and fans can finally move forward.
The Athletic Department recently announced the hiring of Jody Sykes to be the new guide for the compliance department. This is a good step as it creates a clean slate, so to speak, for a department that has undergone major changes over the past several years.
Lost in rise of the football program from "very good" to "national elite" is the transformation of the athletic department. Change was needed as the athletic department simply was not as well equipped to handle to complexity of being a national brand. The spotlight associated with the prominence of the football program required a department fully equipped to continue their growth in a complex environment. Sykes' hiring helps Oregon continue moving in the right direction.
On the field, there will be little impact in the coming season. The 2013 Oregon football team is poised to contend for another BCS National Championship Game appearance. By avoiding a bowl ban, the Ducks keep alive their chances.
There will be some challenges with sanctions that were imposed, but they are manageable.
Last night, Duck Sports Authority learned that the Oregon athletic department expected "Mississippi State level" sanctions in the neighborhood of 1-2 scholarship losses for the 3 years, plus recruiting restrictions, phone call restrictions, beefed up compliance and 3 years probation.
There was a little curveball with the possibility of additional scholarship losses per year for the 3 years and a longer probationary period, but those did not happen.
There is a caveat, however, to the probation; there won't be any more "chances" during the probation. If Oregon is found to have committed another major infraction during probation, the athletic department expects considerably harsher sanctions. One person even confided that it may approach "death penalty" level sanctions.
The official report does not stipulate such wording, but that is the clear message being delivered to the football program.
Possibly the biggest surprise in the released sanctions was the "show cause" order for Chip Kelly. he had said that he would not come back to coaching in college and this may make that as official as possible.
Change is a scary thing for many. As Dostoyevsky said in Crime and Punishment "Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most."
Despite this fear, change is a step in the right direction. One cannot go back in time and become simpler. The past is gone. Change is that inevitable force that continues to propel each person forward. Fighting change resolves nothing and creates stagnation.
Oregon can finally move forward.