The Oregon Ducks have had a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads for several years as the NCAA has investigated the program (at a glacial pace) for their improper use of a recruiting service. The program, including former head coach Chip Kelly, met with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions last week and the two sides agreed that there had been “major violations” that occurred. While this has made many of the anti-Oregon crowd almost giddy with excitement to watch the axe get dropped, don’t ring the death knoll on the Ducks just yet.
The NCAA is not known for its swift actions (just look at their case with the Miami Hurricanes program) and are going through a glut of legal issues of their own when it comes their authoritative power. While the timetable to make a decision on Oregon’s punishments has been set at 60-90 days, it isn’t likely that the slothful “justice” system of the NCAA is going to churn out a decision that quickly. Mark Emmert and the NCAA can’t even decide on a lunch order in 60-90 days. They have a lot on their plate and they’re notorious for taking their sweet time. They’ve been working on this Oregon case for two years, for crying out loud!
Even when they get around to a decision, they may not have the teeth left to make it sting. The missteps during their investigation of the University of Miami have given college football’s governing body a major crisis of authority. There is a massive house-cleaning taking place in their own building, which could give the NCAA pause to really judge others’ dirty laundry too harshly right now. Without the moral high ground, the weight with which the NCAA comes down on Oregon could be seriously undercut.
The biggest thing working in favor of leniency for Oregon, however, is what the NCAA didn’t find in their investigation. While there were violations with shady recruiting services, impermissible phone calls and too many coaches on the recruiting trail, the NCAA had “no finding of lack of institutional control and no finding of unethical conduct.” The death-nail for programs is that dreaded “lack of institutional control” charge and that’s the one that leads to the heaviest penalties.
The SMU Mustangs had a lack of institutional control before they suffered the “death penalty” in 1987. The USC Trojans were determined (tenuously) to have a lack of institutional control before they got handed their heavy sanctions that they are just now coming out of. The Penn State Nittany Lions infamously got tagged as seriously lacking institutional control and were hit with massive penalties for it. Without finding that specific charge, there’s less reason to expect that the NCAA will come down quite so severely on the Oregon program.
There will be penalties levied, and they will be more than a slap on the wrist because Oregon falls under the “repeat offender” clause. However, the punishment will not be a debilitating blow to the program long-term like SMU, USC or Penn State suffered.
Will it a postseason ban for one or more seasons with fines or a reduction of scholarships? Some other combination of penalties? What do you think is an appropriate punishment for the Ducks?