After a two-year investigation, the NCAA concluded the Oregon football team and its former coach Chip Kelly failed to monitor the program while committing major recruiting violations.
However, the Ducks dodged a bullet in terms of sanctions and did not receive a postseason bowl ban.
Instead, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions placed Oregon on a three-year probation and took away two scholarships. The Ducks have 24 scholarships — one fewer than the maximum — this year and in 2014.
Oregon must also operate with stricter recruiting limitations. The Ducks’ official paid visits and evaluation days were reduced for the next three years.
And they must sever ties with Willie Lyles, who was at the center of the investigation.
In March 2011, the NCAA began looking into Oregon’s relationship with Lyles and his Houston-based Complete Scouting Services, when he reportedly received a $25,000 payment from the school.
According to the NCAA committee’s report, Lyles “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.” Media reports allege Lyles helped steer Texas running back prospects LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk to Oregon. James played three years for the Ducks and Seastrunk transferred to Baylor after a year at Oregon.
The NCAA determined Lyles became a booster for Oregon, and the school was responsible for his actions.
“The relationship did not meet the expectation of NCAA rules,” said SEC associate commissioner Gregory Sankey, who is a member of the Committee on Infractions. “Part of the reason those rules are there is to prevent undo influence and the report speaks clearly that there was advantages gained as an outcome of that.”
The NCAA said Kelly was unaware of Lyles’ involvement in recruiting, but noted Kelly was responsible to know the rules and ensure staff and coaches comply with them.
Kelly received an 18-month show-cause penalty that runs through Christmas Day 2014. That sanction requires him to meet with the Committee on Infractions before taking a job at an NCAA school and theoretically makes it difficult for him to land a collage coaching job.
However, Kelly left Oregon in January and signed a five-year, $32.5 million with the Philadelphia Eagles.
During Kelly’s tenure, Oregon posted a 46-7 record. The Ducks made four BCS bowl appearances, including a bid for the national championship in 2011.
Oregon was 12-1 last season.
Sankey acknowledged the NCAA can only penalize Kelly at the college level.
“I’ve not met a person that is seeking to have a show-cause order applied to them,” Sankey said. “I think the committee does find it meaningful even in circumstances where someone has left and it is meaningful in this case.”
Josh Gibson, Oregon’s former assistant director of operations, also admitted to recruiting violations and was given a one-year show-cause penalty. He was dismissed in July 2011 and landed on Kelly’s staff in Philadelphia.
Oregon proposed many of the penalties levied by the NCAA and in a statement released Wednesday, athletic director Rob Mullens said the school will comply with the sanctions.
“Throughout this process, there has been speculation and innuendo regarding the nature and severity of potential violations, much of which was unfounded,” he said. “As stated by the NCAA Enforcement Staff, the violations committed in this case were unintentional.”