EUGENE OR - NOVEMBER 6: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks watches his team warm up before the game against the Washington Huskies at Autzen Stadium on November 6 2010 in Eugene Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
NCAA investigations aren't based on precedent -- or so we're told.
But naturally, most of us are itching to compare ongoing cases with those from 2011, and 2010, and so on and so forth.
The latest news surrounding Oregon is no different. How does the Ducks' ordeal compare with Ohio State? Auburn? USC? Could pending sanctions possibly be more severe?
Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the program's ongoing Willie Lyles saga. Cheers! And last Friday, the university released two four-page draft documents, labeled "Proposed Findings of Violations," as the result of a public records request made by several media outlets. The documents allege several infractions.
Though Oregon has not publicly acknowledged any violations and it has not yet received a formal notice of allegations from the NCAA, the documents' language suggests that the school and the NCAA remain in agreement regarding the Ducks' improper use of scouting services.
"It is agreed that from 2008 through 2011, the football program paid for subscriptions to at least three recruiting or scouting that did not conform to NCAA legislation," the document reads.
How much did they pay? $45,245. And if you're keeping track, $25,000 went to Lyles' Complete Scouting Services.
Additionally, it is noted Oregon exceeded the limit of coaches allowed to recruit at one time, ranging from 2009-2011.
But what might stand out the most remains the following phrase: " ... the athletics department failed to adequately monitor (1) the football program's use of scouting services." Evidently, it seems to suggest that the Ducks could be slapped with the "failure to monitor" charge, which is what Ohio State received last December when it was hit with a one-year postseason ban and a loss of nine scholarships over three seasons.
Determining what category Oregon falls under, however, appears to be a lingering question -- one that won't be answered for at least a couple months.
Stemming from federal and state student privacy laws, four of the document's seven sections -- each proposing a violation of some sort -- are redacted. Consequently, the extent of the combined violations is unknown. There could be more. Whatever is left could also be largely inconsequential. We don't know yet.
The failure to monitor tag is currently among the more serious charges. A step below the dreaded "lack of institutional control" label, sure, but it's still considered a major violation. Should the Committee on Infractions eventually find that the Ducks failed to properly monitor their recruiting services, they could face a fate similar to that of Ohio State: a postseason ban, among a loss of scholarship. But then again, that's largely speculative. The process is ongoing, still.
What will likely lesson the blow for Oregon down the road will be the result of its cooperation with NCAA investigators since September. Though USC was, in a sense, cooperative with the NCAA throughout the Reggie Bush case, it conceded almost nothing. By comparison, Oregon's latest document dump comes across as a bit of admission. That should help, particularly in terms of avoiding the LOIC tag.
Provided things don't spiral further, it wouldn't appear as if Oregon faces a daunting fate -- nothing near USC's two-year postseason ban and a loss of 30 scholarships over three seasons.
But that doesn't mean it gets off easy, either. There are continuing complications. In short, Oregon could be classified as a "repeat violator" as the result of violations committed in January 2003, involving the recruitment of J.J. Arrington, a running back at the College of the Canyons who eventually signed with Cal.
Friday's documents indicate the program's improper use of recruiting services dates back to 2008, which could subject it to more stringent penalties as the time frame is within the NCAA's five-year window for determining "repeat violator" status. USC, in 2010, and Alabama, in 2002, two of the schools hit hardest in recent years, were found to be repeat violators.
But thus far, Oregon has played its cards better than 'SC did. For one, its case involves just one sport -- USC's case involved three in football, men's basketball and women's tennis, which led the NCAA to combine into one investigation. It hired an attorney in Michael Glazier, a partner in the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King, last June. It sure sounds cooperative, too.
"We remain in close communication with the NCAA as the process advances cooperatively through each stage," Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens said in a statement on Friday.
My guess: Oregon has made concessions in the hope of avoiding being charged with a lack of institutional control. Nothing is off the table at this point.
It's a little early to exactly forecast the Ducks' fate. But let's assess what we do know. We know they're flirting with the failure to monitor to charge, as evidenced by the language of the proposed findings. We know the violations occurred over four years.
But because more than half of the document is redacted, the future appears a bit hazy. Oregon likely isn't going to get levied with USC-like penalties, no, but it's not exactly in the clear, either.
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