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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

“Everybody Does It,” Says Oregon

The details aren’t in question; whether Oregon stepped outside the lines, however, might be up for debate. According to a Yahoo! Sports report, Oregon gave more than $28,000 to a pair of individuals “with ties to multiple recruits who signed letters of intent with the school,” including redshirt freshman Lache Seastrunk, once a heralded recruit, and Heisman Trophy contender LaMichael James. That’s according to official Oregon state — that’s the state itself, not the school in Corvallis — records, numbers that place the Oregon program firmly in the cross hairs of the N.C.A.A.

What remains to be seen is whether U.O. has gone beyond what the N.C.A.A. allows under its current guidelines. A better question, in fact, might ask what’s wrong with college recruiting when a program like Oregon can immediately offer the refrain that its not the only school to operate in this fashion — that “everybody does it.”

That’s according to Oregon spokesman Dave Williford, who confirmed that the school gave $25,000 to Will Lyles, who is described as a mentor to Seastrunk during his recruiting process and holds a close relationship with James, as well as $3,745 to Baron Flenory, an athletic trainer with ties to several current U.O. players. Flenory’s connection to the university continues with his ties to Chip Kelly; he played under Kelly when the latter was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire.

Said Williford: “Yeah, we made the payment. Everybody does it. This all has been run through our compliance office. We have nothing to hide.” Well, that may be true on the monetary end of things: Oregon is free to pay a recruiting service — which is how the university described the pair — any sum of money it wishes, though the attention the N.C.A.A. affords the university rises in correlation with the amount doled out to the individual or group in question.

It’s the amount in this case that made the N.C.A.A. stand up and take notice: the $25,000 payment to Lyles alone is nearly $9,000 more then Oregon spent on such recruiting services over each of the previous two recruiting cycles combined. Then again, this past cycle did see U.O. land perhaps the most heralded class in school history — it seems to be working.

Also raising eyebrows is the relationship Lyles seemed to have with both Seastrunk and James, the latter to the point where the 2010 Heisman finalist invited Lyles to be his guest at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show last December, according to an ESPN.com report.

So where does this leave Oregon? There’s the rising specter of a full N.C.A.A. investigation, which might or might not reveal any dirty laundry airing inside the Oregon program. In fact, one might say that any investigation, even one that does not yield any tangible evidence of wrongdoing, would cast a shadow over Oregon’s upcoming season: it’s a mistake to say the shadow falls on Oregon’s 2010 season, though if the N.C.A.A. does look into U.O.’s dealings, once could point out that each of last season’s B.C.S. title game participants face scrutiny from the sport’s governing body.

That’s not great news for the N.C.A.A. — that’s not good news for Oregon, which recently stood as the nation’s darlings, the clean alternative, entering its game against those questionable characters from Auburn. If the N.C.A.A. does come calling, however, mere bad publicity might be a winning scenario for the Ducks; it could be worse, after all.

Oregon could be penalized with a loss of scholarships, or placed on probation, or some combination of the two, which would put an immediate end to what might be another run towards a national championship in 2011.

I’d be shocked if it gets to that point: there’s simply not much for the N.C.A.A. to go on, if nothing else, even if the Oregon situation leads the body to create more stringent rules surrounding the relationship between schools, recruits and those who steer recruits towards a certain program. If everybody does it, after all, perhaps it’s time for the N.C.A.A. to take action.

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  1. [...] not sure how serious this will turn out to be, but wouldn’t it be a helluva black eye for college football if both [...]

  2. Uberd says:

    phil knight will make it all ok.

  3. HirsuteDawg says:

    What would be a real shame if for Oregon to get punished and Auburn get off scott freee after paying Cecil and Scam.

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