Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24, 2012


Ok Duck fans, take a moment and breathe; just relax. Whatever you hear from those pundits whose job it is to sell something take with that knowledge in hand; they are trying to drive their business.

Sports radio guys are going to tell you that the redacted portions hide more sinister allegations.

Writers are going to insinuate the same thing. We will hear people mock the privacy laws which are cited as reason for redacting information. As the first example, listening to a local sports radio show, the host of the show, a young Oregon graduate himself, implies that section 5 which reads

”It is agreed that from 2009 through 2011, the institutions football program exceeded the permissible limit on coaches by one when...” and then there are some redacted portions leading to the rest of the paragraph which goes on to say “engaged in recruiting activities as outlined in Finding Nos. 1-a, 1-b, 1-f and 4-a.”

The host, of course, treats this paragraph with derision as if the redaction is not necessary. Sadly, to drum up callers, he simply over exaggerates the “darkness” of the section. Clearly there is a person named in that paragraph who is subject to privacy laws as an employee of the university. State law allows organizations to redact the names of employees especially if it pertains to their personnel record. Because this person was deemed an impermissible coach for recruiting purposes, that implies that the person engaged in those activities was not one of the 11 coaches on staff that are allowed to recruit. However, the person was very likely a University of Oregon employee. There is nothing sinister.

Furthermore, that paragraph alone explains the redacted portions of four other paragraphs (the aforementioned 1-a, 1-b, 1-f, 4-a). As such, what this tells us about those redacted portions is that there were student-athletes who the un-named employee had contact with during recruiting activities. The redacted portions simply protect their privacy, as granted through FERPA laws. If the circumstances surrounding the recruiting activities were made public, it is very likely that the names could then be inferred based on information about their recruitment.

As Athletic Director Rob Mullens said in his statement the NCAA draft document contains student information protected by law under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other information protected under Oregon Revised Statutes and Oregon Administrative Rules that legally must be redacted. There is no conspiracy here and there are no “bombshells” in the redacted portions, simply the specifics of which student-athletes were involved in the violations of the university's use of scouting services.

So far we have seen that Finding No 1 deals mostly with the university employee being involved with impermissible recruiting contact. Finding Number 2? Well, later in the draft, the NCAA states: “It is agreed that from 2008 through 2011, the scope and nature of the violations set forth in Finding Nos. 2, 3-c and 4 demonstrate that the athletics department failed to adequately monitor (1) the football program's use of recruiting or scouting services.”

Okay, now we know that finding 1 relates to the employee acting as a coach and finding numbers 2 and 4 deal specifically with the program's use of scouting services.


Impermissible Benefits

This is more important than what is in the draft. First, there are no signs that any student athlete received any impermissible benefits from the University of Oregon. We know that some student athletes who signed with Oregon did, in fact, receive extra benefits from other schools. However, we also know that Oregon suspended that player prior to his departure. There are no indications that any player played a game for the Ducks while ineligible.

This negates the doomsayers who wanted to predict vacated wins, post-season bans and the more heavy handed penalties that can be handed down by the NCAA.

Cover Ups

Nowhere does the document refer to the worst possible violation that a coach can commit; attempting to cover-up their transgressions. This was potentially the worst of the speculated allegations when the story first became news almost a year ago. Will Lyles attempted to paint the university's too late request for documents as some sort of cover-up attempt. This is simply not the truth; it was merely an athletic department attempting to come into compliance after realizing that they had not been in compliance.

As I first speculated, the NCAA has found that Oregon did not receive the proper documentation from Complete Scouting Service and received oral reports rather than the required written reports.


Okay, time to take a leap of faith here and say that there do not seem to be any bombshells on the way. This report is about what I expected from the very beginning of this story. The Ducks spent a LOT of money on a scouting service that was not well established and then proceeded to ignore the rules for documentation. The Athletic Department already has one scapegoat as most of the violations happened during the tenures of the two previous athletic directors.

Further improving the Ducks chances of flying through this investigation relatively unscathed is their cooperation. I can assure you that USC did not go back and forth with a “Proposed Finding of Violations.” USC denied at every step of the process and they fought against the NCAA in a way that is sure to draw the ire of the governing body.

Oregon has helped reduce the impact of potential violations with their willingness to cooperate and they will come through this better than our rivals hope.

I have no clue as to the exact violations, but it can be deduced that there will be some scholarship reductions and some recruiting limitations. The Ducks played last season with just 74 scholarship players (not including walk-ons who were granted temporary scholarships). With the just signed class of 2012, the Ducks will have 82 scholarship players barring off-season attrition. Only 13 of those players are seniors in 2012. That means that the Ducks were highly unlikely to take a full class next season anyway. As it stands, without unknown attrition, the Ducks only have room to sign 16 players next season.

What about the following season? Well, the Ducks currently have only 15 players that are scheduled to graduate after 2013. Once again this will shield the Ducks from any scholarship reductions. The Ducks are positioned almost perfectly to absorb any potential sanctions nearly unscathed.

My expectation is that there will be something in the range of 2-3 scholarship reductions for, most likely 3 seasons. I would also expect that Coach Kelly will have his allowable contact off-campus with recruits reduced for one season and the number of permissible recruit official visits will likely be reduced for a year as well.

In the end, there is nothing in the redacted portions of this report that would likely rise to the level of bowl bans or vacated wins.

So, go ahead Duck fans, breathe, the 2012 season is just around the corner and the Ducks will, once again, be favored to win the North Division of the Pac-12 and will be in the national title talk for most of the season.


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