Oregon AD breaks silence on investigation

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With Pac-12 Media Days just around the corner, reporters will have plenty of opportunities to ask Oregon coach Chip Kelly a question or 10 about the ongoing NCAA investigation surrounding the program’s ties to Willie Lyles and his Houston-based recruiting company, Complete Scouting Services.

Kelly, on the other hand, will get to channel his inner Gene Chizik and say a lot without really saying anything.

But Kelly won’t be the first UO representative to break silence on the matter when he does take the podium. Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens preemptively sent an e-mail to important UO “constituents” informing them that the program is “still in the midst of an extensive review of the circumstances surrounding the use of outside recruiting services” and is taking the investigation “very seriously.”

Specifically, Mullens sent the e-mail to trustees of the University of Oregon Foundation, members of the UO alumni association board of directors and high-roller donors.

Below are some snippets from the e-mail, courtesy of the Eugene Register-Guard:

“The University of Oregon football program, from Coach Chip Kelly through the entire organization, has tremendous respect for the NCAA’s important role in monitoring collegiate athletics and, to this end, continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA’s ongoing review.

“The University of Oregon is committed to holding itself and the individuals associated with the University accountable to the highest standards.

“As part of the University’s commitment to accountability, we want to reiterate that the institution takes this matter very seriously and remains dedicated to an open and transparent approach with the NCAA.”

Additionally…

“The firm [Bond, Schoeneck & King] has been charged with making an independent assessment of the football program’s use of outside recruiting services. In addition, they have been asked to provide the University with recommendations for areas of improvement within the football program and athletics department in order to meet best practices.

“We look forward to making the recommendations public at the conclusion of the process. The University, our Head Coach and the entire Athletic Department are fully committed to ensuring our program is following best practices.”

Oregon has come under scrutiny since March when a story broke that the Ducks paid Lyles $25,000 for his services. Recruiting services are legal within NCAA rules, but according to documents, UO received a “2011 National Package” that was, in essence, completely and utterly useless.

(Writer’s note: I previously stated it was a “2010 National Package”; it was a “2010 National Evaluation”)

An invoice from Lyles to UO also stated that game and highlight footage was part of the package, although the university has yet to release any video.

Other invoices obtained by the Oregonian also show that fellow Pac-12 member Cal received what was described as a “2010 National Package” from Lyles for $5,000, although details of the contents of that package have yet to be released.

Oregon stands by its initial assertion that their business relationship with Lyles is completely within the confines of NCAA bylaws. However, Lyles came out swinging in an interview at the very beginning of this month claiming that Oregon “paid for… my access and influence with recruits”, rather than Lyles’ ability as a scouting professional.

The NCAA could possibly determine that to be a violation of its bylaws.

In March, Kelly claimed that he had cut ties with Lyles, which phone records — and brief moment of “clarification” — indicate to be nothing short of a full-blown lie.

So, what will Kelly say when he’s finally asked about the investigation next week? If he’s learned anything, probably nothing.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.