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April 17, 2013

Flock Talk: NCAA special edition

On Monday night, a local news station began to get Duck fans on the edge of their seats again with tantalizing teasers promising "new" information. One teaser even asked the question "smoking gun?" Eventually, it turned out that no, this release was not, in fact, a smoking gun.

In reality, most of the information released was somewhat outdated as well as already known to the public. The latest date in the information provided was October of 2012 when Oregon forwarded their Summary Disposition Report to the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

Had the Committee substantively agreed with the findings, the self-imposed sanctions could have been either accepted or the COI could have added additional penalties to those suggested by Oregon.

As it turns out, we already knew the outcome of this request through an earlier report from Yahoo! Sports that Oregon and the NCAA had reached an impasse in the Summary Disposition. Though, to be fair, that is not a truly accurate depiction of the process. The NCAA enforcement staff agreed that the case qualified for Summary Disposition and the university drafted the proper document to provide to the COI. The Committee on Infractions determined that, despite the report, they were not satisfied with all the findings, thereby requiring a hearing.

WHAT WE LEARNED

Did the report released give any new information? While it is the genuine consensus that there was no real news in this release, there were new bits of information that have been, seemingly, glossed over.

Extra phone calls

One of the more important bits of information that was gleaned from this new release is that a member of the football staff made over 700 impermissible phone calls to prospective student athletes over a three year period.

While the reports so far have not talked much about these calls, they are at the center of several of the findings in the report. Our sources have indicated that the phone calls in question were handled by the football operations staff, specifically, Josh Gibson.

The reason that these phone calls are an issue with the NCAA is that they have determined, and Oregon has agreed that, by making phone calls which were the responsibility of the countable coaching staff, the operations staff provided an advantage to the staff by freeing up time to engage in more substantive recruiting efforts. This advantage is deemed as more than minor.

Though the calls were considered mostly administrative in nature, that still freed up time for the coaching staff providing them with a recruiting advantage. These phone calls were the reason for part of the institution's corrective actions with the inclusion of sport-specific personnel to monitor phone calls.

In finding 7-c, the university acknowledges that that the athletics department failed to monitor telephone calls placed and received by the football operations staff. They further admit that the football operations staff had not been provided rules education nor a monitoring system for their telephone calls. It was reported that there was a "disconnect" in communication concerning whose responsibility it was to monitor the football operations staff.

While it was the operations staff making the calls, the athletics department failed to provide proper guidelines and monitoring to ensure compliance regarding communication.

Extra Benefits?

There is an area that has been overlooked by most media outlets. The possible provision of extra-benefits. Before anyone starts to get worried about that term, no one within the athletics department provided a dime in extra benefits to any prospective student athlete or current student.

Nonetheless, finding 7-b adds a new dimension. Somewhere around December of 2009 as Oregon was preparing for it's first Rose Bowl in 15 years, someone within the football staff assembled a box of apparel for Will Lyles. Lyles had requested apparel from the university for himself and his family.

In interviews, Lyles reported that he distributed at least some of this apparel to prospective student athletes. The names of the athletes to whom he provided the apparel have been redacted, however, based on the redaction, it is logical to assume that said prospects later enrolled at Oregon as those were the only names redacted in this section; university employees and university students.

One of those students admitted he knew for sure that he received a t-shirt from that box. Because Lyles had been deemed a "representative of athletics interest" dating back to 2008, this provision of clothing became a violation under NCAA guidelines.

Making this provision of the t-shirt more relevant is the fact that a member of the football staff happened to notice in a random YouTube video the prospect wearing a shirt he knew to be exclusively issued by the football program. He suspected it was the t-shirt he had sent to Lyles, but failed to report the information to athletics administrators.

This extra benefit is behind the rationale for the suggestion of a reduction in scholarships of one per year for three years. The university clarified this saying that typically extra benefits of less than $100 in value are required to be paid back "two for one" under NCAA bylaws.

The university's original suggestion, then, was for one scholarship lost for two seasons, totaling two scholarships.

The player in question was a member of the 2010 football team, but did not play.


"Even though the university gained no competitive advantage (player did not play), the university believes it is appropriate to apply the two-for-one grant-in-aid penalty for the recruiting violation associated with a signed and thus enrolled prospective student-athlete. As an additional measure, to show the university's recognition of the need to further emphasize the importance of diligently monitoring the application of NCAA rules, the university elected to add on additions year of the overall counter part of the penalty."


Repeat Violator Status

This has been reported by the media to be at question still as to whether this case will cause the Ducks to fall into the repeat violator status due to their earlier major infraction regarding the recruitment of J.J. Arrington.

There is no question as to the repeat violator status as the university agreed that:


"Because the institution had a major infractions report that was relaseased May 4, 2004, the institution is a repeat violator since some of the agreed-upon major violations occurred within five years of that date. The Committee on Infractions will need to determine of any of the enhanced penalties apply."


This is the one area that could cause the COI to consider harsher penalties than would otherwise be considered. However, because that infraction had a completely different nature and the NCAA enforcement staff admits that there was no intent in this current case to gain any advantage and there was no unethical conduct, it is a generally agreed upon belief that any suggestion for more strict sanctions will not be enhanced considerably based on the repeat violator status.

The university believes that the mitigating factors combined with the corrective actions (beefing up of compliance and monitoring) adequately addresses the violations found in this case.

Lyles Status

Shortly after the news of the initial investigation broke in 2011, the university disassociated itself from Lyles. This was taken as a personal affront by Lyles and he went to the media to complain. Specifically, in an interview with the Oregonian Lyles stated that "they made me look like an incompetent jerk who was trying to swindle money from there."

What Lyles probably did not understand was that he had been deemed a representative or Oregon's athletics interest. By gaining such a designation, the moment such a representative becomes involved in committing NCAA violations, part of the presumptive penalties that must be imposed by the university to meet NCAA guidelines is disassociation with said representative.

Under Section F Paragraph 2(b) that is exactly one of the corrective actions the university promises; discontinued subscription to recruiting service operated by Lyles and that Lyles will be notified of his permanent disassociation upon completion of this case.

It may have seemed harsh to Lyles that the university did not do more to prop up Lyles when the news broke about the investigation, but the reality is that it was a necessary step to disassociate from Lyles as part of the corrective actions.

OVERVIEW

There is a lot of information to attempt to disseminate into one article regarding this release, so there is no way I will attempt to discuss everything in one article. Friday I will continue my in-depth look at the Summary Disposition Report and the important information contained therein.

First, the most important piece of this release has been widely discussed among all members of media. Simply put, there is no lack of institutional control in this case, nor was there any unethical conduct.

Some have tried to shape unethical conduct into the investigation based on haphazard reports about the timeline of certain events surrounding the beginning of this investigation and when the university attempted to come into compliance regarding the provision of quarterly reports.

A close look, however, at the timeline agreed upon by the NCAA enforcement staff clearly indicates that head coach Chip Kelly was not attempting to "cover-up" anything when he requested written information from Will Lyles.

The timeline indicates that in January 2011, the institution realized that Lyles had not sent any quarterly reports and began soliciting those reports from Lyles. On February 22, 2011, Lyles sent the now infamous largely outdated scouting materials to the institution.

On February 28, 2011, the NCAA enforcement staff received information from a confidential source regarding possible violations stemming from Oregon's use of scouting services.

Considering that the NCAA did not receive their confidential information until nearly two months after Oregon began requesting information from Lyles, it was clear to the NCAA that Kelly's request was not an attempt to cover-up anything.

The main issue in this case is the manner in which Oregon used recruiting and scouting services and how said use constituted a violation. It is that violation which remains in question as Oregon seeks to have the violation deemed "secondary" while the Committee on Infractions believes it to be a major violation.

Both sides have what they feel to be legitimate arguments and legal points regarding their position. It is this are which we will focus Friday's regular edition of Flock Talk.


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