That huge wind that cut a swath across Oregon and beyond? Duck football fans breathing a huge sigh of relief after the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions hit the program so lightly, it doesn’t even constitute a slap on the wrist. No bowl ban — that’s the biggie of course — and a loss of one scholarship each of the next two years. Also, three years probation, and the Ducks won’t be able to use scouting services over the course of probation. Former head coach Chip Kelly, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, is hit with a 18-month show-cause penalty, and a former assistant 12 months of show-cause.
In some cases, the penalties are less than what Oregon initially proposed. The Ducks suggested one scholarship lost for each of three years, not two. They proposed two years probation. Of course, they didn’t want a bowl ban.
Some are suggesting that the penalties are so light, every program should do what the Ducks did, that “failure to monitor,” which is what Oregon was cited for, apparently isn’t a big deal. Others say too often the NCAA penalizes innocent parties much too harshly, that the program is hit hard while an offending administrator or head coach moves on to greener pastures. That clearly didn’t happen here. Sure, Kelly is probably laughing all the way to the bank, but at least the program dodges a bullet.
When Oregon proposed its penalties and the NCAA rejected them, you had to figure the governing body would come back with something a little stiffer. There was the unknown factor of what bearing a former infraction, in 2004, would have. But also, there didn’t seem to be lack of institutional control. And would the NCAA take this as a chance to make an example of one of its most powerful programs (would it dare to cross Phil Knight?), or would it go lightly for the same reason? Or, would any of that factor in? My guess is that had nothing to do with it, but there will be those who point to such a notion.
So, after 27 months, the case is over. Oregon’s future is now and, unless the new regime under head coach Mark Helfrich proves otherwise, it’s as bright as ever.
Let the talk of a national championship commence.