The University of Oregon’s two-year-plus dance with the NCAA on football recruiting violations has come to an end, and the Ducks are almost unscathed.
The Ducks can still play in bowl games and will lose only one scholarship per year over the next three years.
The NCAA levied some penalties on Wednesday, many of them self-imposed by Oregon, for the football program’s involvement with purported street agent Willie Lyles.
The Ducks have been put on three years of probation (they had proposed a two-year period), must ban the use of recruiting services and disassociate from a recruiting service provider (Lyles).
The Ducks also will lose paid football visits and evaluation days, meaning they will have fewer opportunities to spend time with players they are trying to recruit.
“Throughout this process,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in a prepared statement released by the school, “there has been speculation and innuendo regarding the nature and severity of potential violations, much of which was unfounded. As stated by the NCAA Enforcement Staff, the violations committed in this case were unintentional.
“The University of Oregon remains committed to fair play, integrity and the best interests of our student-athletes. We have all learned from this experience and look forward to continuing the progress of broad-based excellence in Oregon athletics.”
The Ducks’ press release called the NCAA findings “substantially consistent with recommendations” made by the school during a lengthy negotiation process with the governing body.
Also on Wednesday, former Oregon coach Chip Kelly received an 18-month show-cause order. Penalties to him, through his association with Oregon, could be imposed if he is hired by another NCAA school in the next year and a half. Kelly now coaches the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
Gregory Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and member of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, says Oregon fully cooperated in the 27-month investigation, even through a change of leadership with a new president and athletic director.
The sticking points were Oregon’s proposal of a two-year probation period and that the NCAA and the university differed on the application of a bylaw that required the Ducks (and other schools) to issue four reports annually from recruiting/scouting services.
All this led to a summary disposition meeting between the UO and NCAA in summer 2012.
The committee found that the Ducks used Lyles as a representative of the university’s athletics interests to “assist the school with the recruitment of multiple prospective student-athletes.”
Lyles, the report found (although it did not name him), provided cash and free lodging to a prospect (running back Lache Seastrunk of Temple, Texas) and engaged in impermissible calls and off-campus contacts with football prospects, their families and high school coaches.
Sankey says the NCAA found that the Ducks’ recruiting benefitted from Lyles’ influence on players, including Seastrunk.
The Ducks’ relationship with Lyles began in 2008 through an assistant director of operations (Josh Gibson, who is no longer with the school and reportedly left in summer 2011).
Wednesday’s NCAA report found that the university paid $25,000 for a subscription to Lyles’ service but did not receive the necessary reports, and the UO’s compliance office did not follow up with football staff to ensure the reports had been received.
Seastrunk signed with Oregon in February 2010 and redshirted during the 2010 season. He attended training camp in 2011, before leaving the team and transferring to Baylor. He enjoyed a stellar 2012 season, and enters the 2013 season as one of the country’s top running backs.
Both Kelly and the university agreed that they failed to monitor the football program, the report said.
Because Kelly is now coaching in the NFL, the show-cause penalty is not likely to have any implications.
But, Sankey says, “I’ve not met a person that is seeking to have a show-cause penalty applied to them. The committee does find it meaningful, even for somebody who has left (college).”
Likewise, Sankey says that a three-year probation and a loss of three scholarships does have substance.
“I’ve not met an institution that wants to go through the infractions and enforcement process,” Sankey says. “There are penalties that impact the program.”
Sankey says that it’s the first time, in his recollection, that an NCAA member has been banned from using recruiting services.
The Ducks now have a 2004 violation (recruitment of running back J.J. Arrington) and a 2010 violation (association with Lyles), which serves as “warning” to conduct affairs appropriately, Lankey says, and to not be investigated again. The inference being that stiffer penalties would be part of any future investigation and finding.
The University of Oregon used a recruiting service provider, who became a representative of the university’s athletics interests, to assist the school with the recruitment of multiple prospective student-athletes, according to findings by the Division I Committee on Infractions.
The representative provided cash and free lodging to a prospect and engaged in impermissible calls and off-campus contacts with football prospects, their families and high school coaches. Additionally, the football program allowed staff members to engage in recruiting activity, which resulted in the football program exceeding coaching limits. Both the former head football coach and the university agreed they failed to monitor the football program.
Penalties in this case, many of which were self-imposed, include a three-year probation period, a ban on the use of recruiting services, a disassociation of the recruiting service provider and a reduction of scholarships and evaluation days. Additionally, the former head football coach received an 18-month show-cause order and the former assistant director of operations received a one-year show-cause order. If these individuals seek employment at an NCAA member school during the show-cause periods, they and the schools wishing to hire them must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine if the school should be subject to the show-cause procedures.
In May 2008, the representative began assisting the university’s football program in recruiting prospects. Through the relationships he cultivated, the representative gave the football staff valuable information that would not typically be included in the recruiting service’s written reports. The former assistant director of operations was aware of the representative’s involvement in the recruiting of prospects and it was common for him to ask the representative to tell a prospect to contact the football staff. Further, the former assistant director of operations and an assistant football coach sought and obtained the representative’s assistance in facilitating a prospect’s taking of the SAT.
On two occasions, the representative provided a prospect with lodging and training in advance of US Army All-American events. The representative also gave the prospect cash.
After a rule change requiring four reports annually from recruiting/scouting services, the university paid $25,000 for a subscription to the recruiting service but did not receive the necessary reports. The compliance office provided the football staff with rules education about the rule change, but it did not follow up or monitor the staff to ensure the reports were received.
While the former head coach was unaware that the involvement of the representative in the recruiting process, the staff’s recruiting calls and the lack of recruiting service reports all violated NCAA rules.The committee noted that it is the head coach’s responsibility to know NCAA rules and ensure that every coach and staff member complies with those rules. Because of this, the former head coach agreed that he failed to monitor the football program.
Additionally, three noncoaching staff members placed or received approximately 730 recruiting-related phone calls over a four-year period. The staff members stated they were not aware the calls would be considered recruiting telephone calls and claimed they were administrative in nature. The athletics department did not have a rules education session tailored for the football operations staff and did not have a monitoring system in place for the staff’s phone calls.
From 2009 through 2011, the former assistant director of operations engaged in recruiting activities, resulting in the program exceeding the number of allowable coaches. The former assistant director of operations knew and communicated with the representative, asked the representative to have prospects contact the staff and made recruiting-related telephone calls.
The university also agreed that it failed to monitor the football program’s use of a recruiting service, the provision of athletics apparel and telephone calls made by noncoaching staff members with sport-specific responsibilities.
The penalties include:
• Public reprimand and censure.
• Three years of probation from June 26, 2013 through June 25, 2016.
• An 18-month show cause order for the former head coach. The public report contains further details.
• A one-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of operations. The public report contains further details.
• A reduction of initial football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (25) during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (imposed by the university).
• A reduction of total football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (85) during the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years (imposed by the university).
• A reduction of official paid football visits to from 56 to 37 for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
• A reduction of permissible football evaluation days from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and permissible football evaluation days from 168 to 144 in the spring of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
• A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the probation period.
• A disassociation of the recruiting service provider. Details of the disassociation are included in the public report (imposed by the university).