EUGENE, Ore. - The University of Oregon avoided the worst penalties from the NCAA after the football program violated a series of recruiting rules. The NCAA said the school will lose one scholarship for the next two seasons and will be on probation for three years.
The NCAA decision, which has been 27 months in the making, settles the case that has had Ducks fans worried stiff penalties, including a potential bowl ban that ultimately did not materialize.
Statements: Former head coach Chip Kelly | University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson
The most serious violations for the Ducks involved a recruiting service provider who provided free lodging and around $100 cash to a football recruit. The report doesn't name the provider, but it's clear from past reporting and documents that the provider is Will Lyles.
Lyles ran the recruiting service that first raised suspicions about the football program.
The NCAA also found the school had too many staff members involved in recruiting and that Chip Kelly failed to adequately monitor the program.
The football team will face the following penalties:
- The school will face three years of probation that starts on Wednesday and ends June 26, 2016.
- The Ducks will lose one scholarship for a new player for the 2013-2014 seasons, meaning they can only offer 24 of the maximum 25 allowed scholarships for new players. The team also forfeited one new scholarship last season.
- The team will also lose one total scholarship for both the 2013-2014 and the 2014-2015 seasons, meaning they can only have 84 of the maximum 85 total scholarships during that period. The team also forfeited one total scholarship last season.
- For the next three years the team will only be allowed to host 37 official paid visits for recruits, down from the maximum 56. For the past four years the team has only averaged 41 visits per season.
- The team will lose "football evaluation days" for the next three years.
- The team will not be able to use subscription recruiting services during the probation period.
- The school will have to cut ties with Lyles.
Former head coach Chip Kelly, who has since gone to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, will also face penalties for failing "in his duty to monitor his program as it related to the recruiting service provider's impermissible contact with prospective student-athletes."
Kelly is now subject to an 18-month "show-cause" period. That means if Kelly returns to the NCAA during the next 18 months, he must appear before the Committee on Infractions to determine if he will face any sanctions. If he doesn't return to the NCAA in that period, he won't be punished.
The show-cause period for Kelly ends on Christmas Day in 2014.
"Now that the NCAA has concluded their investigation and penalized the University of Oregon and its football program, I want to apologize to the University of Oregon, all of its current and former players and their fans. I accept my share of responsibility for the actions that led to the penalties," Kelly said in a statement. "As I have I stated before, the NCAA investigation and subsequent ruling had no impact on my decision to leave Oregon for Philadelphia. I have also maintained throughout that I had every intention to cooperate with the NCAA's investigation, which I did.
"I do expect the University of Oregon and its football program to continue to thrive at a high level. They are a talented and resilient group of coaches and players and I'm sure they will attempt to put today's news behind them very quickly and move forward as they prepare for the 2013 season."
"Nobody wants to be in this position, so I don't think anybody is happy. Again, we're pleased to be at the end of the process," Mullens said. "We're ready to move forward. We've learned a lot, some mistakes were made. We've corrected some of those along the way, we still have some more things to implement, but we're pleased that it's finished."
Mullens also said he spoke with Kelly.
"Chip's a straight shooter and he reiterated today again that this played no part in his decision to go to the Philadelphia Eagles and I certainly believe that," Mullens said.
"The University of Oregon takes compliance with both the letter and the spirit of NCAA regulations very seriously," said school president Michael Gottfredson. "Integrity is paramount at Oregon, both in academics and athletics. We cooperated fully with the investigation, and I will continue to emphasize our commitment to compliance in Oregon athletics."
Greg Sankey, a member of the Committee on Infractions, said Gottfredson and the school cooperated fully with the investigation, but warned them to stay out of trouble in the future.
"The warning that is provided is 'pay attention,'" Sankey said. "The institution needs to conduct its affairs in a way that it does not come back before the committee."
In addition to the probationary period, the school could be considered a "repeat violator" if it commits any NCAA violations in the next five years. If that happens, the school could face stiffer penalties.
Some critics in the media and public said the NCAA was too soft on the Ducks.
Asked if the penalties against the school were too lenient, Sankey said, "I have not met an institution that wants to go through the enforcement and infractions process."
One reporter asked Sankey specifically to respond to criticism that the penalty against Kelly was "toothless."
"I'm not going to go through a dental exam," Sankey responded, adding that the committee could only dole out penalties with the resources it had available.
NCAA faulted Ducks on six recruiting violations
1 - Recruiting service provider "engaged in impermissible recruiting activity"
The NCAA said the case centers on Lyles, although they did not identify him by name in the report. For three years, the NCAA said Lyles recruited on behalf of the Ducks and "provided impermissible recruiting inducements to prospective student-athletes."
In two cases, Lyles violated NCAA rules by letting a Ducks recruit stay at his house before U.S. Army All-American events. NCAA investigators also said Lyles gave a recruit around $100 in cash during one of those stays.
The NCAA also said Lyles wrongly gave a recruit some Ducks clothing that was not available to the public. The school noticed the clothes when an employee saw the recruit wearing it in a YouTube video.
2 - School failed to follow recruiting rules
The school paid $25,000 in 2010 to Lyles's recruiting service but did not receive the minimum amount of reports required by the NCAA. When they realized the mistake, the NCAA said the school scrambled to get reports from Lyles but was given outdated material.
During the investigation, both the school and the NCAA agreed these violations took place. Still, the Ducks maintained they didn't get a direct advantage, but rather were getting "impermissible recruiting efficiencies."
"At a minimum the recruiting service provider's actions resulted in a recruiting advantage by freeing up time and resources early in the recruiting cycle that could be devoted to targeting prospects likely to be a good fit at Oregon," the report said.
Coaches at Oregon told the NCAA that Lyles's greatest value to them was identifying which prospects to not recruit, rather than helping them land any single person.
A former assistant director of football operations either knew what Lyles was doing or requested he break rules, the NCAA report said. That former Ducks employee also faces a show-cause penalty, similar to Kelly's penalty.
3 - Three staff members made impermissible recruiting phone calls
From 2007 to 2011, three staff members made phone calls they were not allowed to make.
The people making calls were not coaches who had been properly certified and whose calls count towards call limits, the NCAA said.
The staff members told investigators they didn't realize the calls would be considered "recruiting related" and considered them to be more "logistical."
4 - The school exceeded coaching staff limitations
From 2009 to 2011, the Ducks had too many coaches recruiting players. That was because the former assistant director of football operations was not technically a coach under NCAA rules, but he still engaged in recruiting.
The staffer made recruiting calls to athletes and was involved with Will Lyles.
5 - Chip Kelly failed to monitor the football program
The NCAA investigators found that Chip Kelly failed to properly monitor his staff when it came to how they conducted recruiting and how they used recruiting service providers such as Lyles.
The report said the NCAA, the school and Kelly all agreed on this point.
"While the former head coach stated he was unaware that certain activities (including those of his staff involving the recruiting service provider in the recruiting process) were violations, the committee concluded, and the institution and the former head coach agreed, that it is the head coach's responsibility to know NCAA rules and regulations and to see that every coach and staff member complies with those regulations," the report said.
6 - The school failed to monitor the football program
The NCAA also faulted the university administration for not properly monitoring the football program and its recruiting efforts.
The report also says the former assistant director of operations failed to notify anyone of a rules violation when he saw the recruit in the YouTube video wearing clothes he wasn't supposed to have. He was required to do so under NCAA rules.
One accusation not substantiated by NCAA
The case also included allegations that the university wrongly used two other recruiting services between 2008 and 2009. The school admitted using the services, but said they didn't violate any NCAA rules in the process.
In the end, the Committee on Infractions agreed there was no violation from using those other two services.