NCAA Punishment? Just Do It, Says Oregon U.
On June 26, 2013 the NCAA issued a Public Infractions Report against the University of Oregon, ruling that former Ducks head coach Chip Kelly failed to monitor the football program. The report cited a recruiting service as its basis for the infractions.
The University of Oregon hired a Texas scout, Will Lyles, for recruitment services for its football program. Lyles provided cash, lodging, travel, and academic aid, and made personal contact with high school prospects and their families. This is a violation of NCAA recruiting rules because once Lyles engaged in activities on behalf of the University of Oregon; he became a representative of the university. The former assistant director of operations was either aware of the activity or requested that Lyles participate in this impermissible recruiting.
The NCAA committee spent an inordinate amount of time on this case. The committee found multiple NCAA bylaw violations and imposed a three-year probationary period (June 26, 2013–June 26, 2016), public reprimand, and censure. The university self-imposed the following: reduced scholarships from 25 to 24; reduced scholarships from 85 to 84; reduced official paid visits from 56 to 37; reduced football evaluation days; and a ban on subscription recruiting services. In addition, Lyles is no longer affiliated with the school and Chip Kelly and Josh Gibson (the former head coach and assistant director of operations) are essentially suspended.
So how does this affect the University of Oregon? Unsurprisingly, this will not impact the 2013 season; Oregon can recruit and compete for a conference and national title. There will be diminished official visits, but it is of little import. Kelly was hired earlier this year by the Philadelphia Eagles as its new head coach along with Gibson, who is now part of the Eagles operations staff.
This begs the question, why would the NCAA issue this mediocre punishment when the University of Oregon blatantly violated its bylaws and constitution? Could the answer be … Nike? There is a long-standing relationship between the university and the footwear and apparel designer, whose co-founder Phil Knight is an Oregon graduate and an active supporter. In fact, in October 2008, Knight pledged $100 million to Oregon to support its Health and ScienceCenter. (Nike has supported other football programs, as well, including the University of Georgia, LSU, Army, MichiganState, Navy, OhioState, Boise State, and Stanford.)
If the NCAA begins to issue punishments that actually affect the football programs, then Nike and other corporate sponsors may begin to shift away from the industry. But first, the NCAA must determine what it is actually worried about protecting — the integrity of the game, the academic institutions, or corporate sponsorship.