The Oregon Ducks have had their attempt to obtain a summary disposition from the NCAA for the investigation of their use of scout Willy Lyles denied. Now, the school will appear in front of the NCAA committee on infractions this spring, something they were hoping to avoid, and it could be the final push head coach Chip Kelly needs to jump for the NFL.
The investigation stems from the school’s relationship with Lyles, which was first reported in March 2011. Oregon paid Lyles’ “Complete Scouting Services” $25,000 for what was called a national recruiting package. What Lyles provided to the school turned out to be essentially worthless, which raised questions about how the Ducks were able to sign touted running back Lache Seastrunk, who was mentored by Lyles.
Since the school and the NCAA could not reach an agreement on the summary judgement submitted by Oregon, a hearing in front of the infractions committee will occur. That means that all involved parties could be called to appear and answer questions, including Lyles and Kelly.
If it looks like the NCAA will be coming down on Oregon with sanctions, it could mean Kelly makes a quick exit and takes one of the soon-to-be-vacant head coaching positions in the NFL, a la Pete Carroll in 2009.
Right before the USC Trojans were hit hard with massive sanctions, Carroll made the move to the Seattle Seahawks, where he’s built a competitive team while collecting a huge paycheck and avoided all that messy postseason ban business that Lane Kiffin got saddled with. Is it hard to imagine Kelly making the same move if he thinks things are about to get more difficult in Eugene?
Kelly’s stock may never be higher than it is right now for NFL teams looking o pluck the next college coach to make good at the next level. In his four years at Oregon, he’s built the Ducks into a national power with three conference championships and four-straight BCS bowl appearances. He’s an offensive guru who has pushed the envelope when it comes to the spread offenses that have taken over college football and is starting to gain footing in the NFL.
And the Oregon coach hasn’t hidden his interest in testing the waters at the next level, either. After last season, Kelly was connected with the opening with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It looked to almost be a done deal, but fell apart at the last minute and Kelly returned to Oregon where he led the Ducks to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
But a looming scandal could hurt his stock at the next level, and any sanctions that cut into his ability to win games will further erode his value to NFL teams. With the NCAA inquiry looming overhead, an unhappy set of boosters and a sky-high stock, will the Fiesta Bowl be the last time we see Kelly on the sideline for the Oregon Ducks?