Chip Kelly

Documents: Oregon, NCAA agree ‘major violations’ committed

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Chip Kelly may be off to the NFL, but the NCAA cloud that formed on his watch still looms over the Oregon football program.

In documents released to both The Oregonian and KATU-TV, both Oregon and the NCAA agreed that the school’s football program had committed what the television station describes as “several major violations” in its use of so-called recruiting services.  The documents were provided to the media entities following open records requests that were several months in the making.

The vast majority of the allegations — which in addition to utilizing suspect recruiting services include impermissible phone calls and too many coaches on the recruiting trail — occurred under Kelly, who left shortly after the first of the year for the Philadelphia Eagles.

One of the more significant takeaways from the released documents is that the NCAA’s enforcement staff made “no finding of lack of institutional control and no finding of unethical conduct.”  Such a development, if it holds through the next couple of steps in the process, could be a signal that the Ducks will avoid significant sanctions.

For its part, Oregon released a lengthy “no comment” in response to the reports.

“The review is ongoing until the NCAA Committee on Infractions issues its final report,” the school’s statement began. “The integrity of the process and our continued full cooperation with the NCAA prohibits us from publicly discussing the specifics of this matter.”

In March of 2011, both Yahoo! and ESPN.com published reports that called into question the financial relationship between Oregon and a pair of so-called recruiting services.  One of those services was/is Complete Scouting Services, solely owned and operated by purported “street agent” Willie Lyles.

In late February of 2010, Oregon purchased for $25,000 from Lyles’ scouting service what was described as a “2011 National Package” that detailed recruits from several states.  One of the biggest problems with that? The package for 2011 purchased by UO contained zero recruits that would make up the following year’s recruiting class.  Instead, the vast majority of players highlighted in the 143-page book UO received from Lyles contained data on members of the 2009 recruiting class.

In the midst of rumors that Lyles had steered recruits such as Lache Seastrunk to the Ducks — and that he was paid handsomely for said steering (allegedly) — the man at the center of the controversy claimed in July of 2011 that UO “paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits. The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should … I made a mistake and I’m big enough of a man to admit I was wrong.”

That claim came a couple of months after Lyles, who has spoken to the NCAA on multiple occasions, labeled as ““unequivocally false” reports that he steered recruits to universities.

It was reported in late December that UO will appear in front of NCAA’s Committee on Infractions at some point this year, likely in the spring, after the school’s attempt at a summary disposition failed.  That failure apparently stemmed from the severity of one of the allegations involving Lyles.  From The Oregonian:

Oregon and the NCAA, however, reached an impasse late in 2012 while attempting to agree on the severity of one violation concerning the Ducks’ $25,000 payment to Texas-based talent scout Willie Lyles.  The Ducks believe the impermissible “oral reports” delivered from Lyles constitute a secondary violation; NCAA enforcement officials believe them to be another “major violation.”

Because the summary disposition fell through, the television station writes, “the findings discussed in this draft document will not necessarily be binding.”

According to the document dump late Monday night, the school has already proposed two self-imposed sanctions: two-year probation and a reduction of one scholarship for each of the next three seasons.  Following the hearing in front of the COI, sanctions will be handed down on the football program, at which point UO can either accept the punitive measures or appeal all or part of the sanctions.

UPDATED 11:38 a.m. ET: In response to the document dump, former Ducks and current Eagles head coach Chip Kelly released a statement that echoed comments made last December.  For what it’s worth, here it is.

“I am aware of the recent reports and of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the NCAA and the University of Oregon. While at Oregon, I know we were fully cooperative with all aspects of the investigation and I will continue to contribute in any way that I can. But until the NCAA rules on the matter, I will have no further comment.”

Jim Harbaugh fires his Twitter cannon in the direction of Nick Saban and Alabama

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks at a press conference during the NCAA college football team's annual media day in Ann Arbor, Mich. Jim Harbaugh has come up with another way to get in the spotlight. Michigan announced Friday, Feb. 19, 2016,  its spring football game will be at night for the first time on April 1. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File)
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Earlier today Nick Saban went on a lengthy rant against satellite camps, arguing them as some great evil that his program has nonetheless voluntarily participated in, despite winning four national championships without holding a single one of them.

Toward the end, Saban envoked Jim Harbaugh‘s name, saying:

“I’m not blaming Jim HarbaughI’m not saying anything about it. I’m just saying it’s bad for college football. Jim Harbaugh can do anything he wants to do. I’m not saying anything bad about him, if he thinks that’s what’s best. There needs to be somebody who looks out for what’s best for the game, not what’s best for the Big Ten or not what’s best for the SEC or not what’s best for Jim Harbaugh, but what’s best for the college football. The integrity of the game. The coaches, the players and the people that play it. That’s bigger than all of this. That’s what somebody should do. Now, who is doing that? I don’t know because right now since we have the Power 5, everybody is politicking for what they want for their conference. That’s why I said there needs to be a college football commissioner.”

Saying Harbaugh’s name is the college football equivalent in stepping in a cobra’s nest. One minute you’re walking unabated, the next there are fangs inside your skin and venom in your bloodstream.

To wit, Harbaugh fired this missive after being alerted to Saban’s comments.

It is worth noting Saban had to fire defensive line coach Bo Davis for NCAA recruiting violations.

Far be it for me to speak for Harbaugh, but here’s something else that would be “amazing” — Alabama and Michigan meeting in a College Football Playoff game this winter.

Auburn RB Roc Thomas officially granted release, Jax State bound

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 6: Running back Roc Thomas #9 of the Auburn Tigers runs the ball in for a touchdown as offensive linesman Jordan Diamond #76 of the Auburn Tigers blocks safety Forrest Hightower #12 of the San Jose State Spartans on September 6, 2014 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. Auburn defeated San Jose State 59-13.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Auburn running back Roc Thomas will transfer, head coach Gus Malzahn announced Tuesday.

“Roc Thomas has asked for his release from Auburn and I have granted his request. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward,” Malzahn said in a statement.

Reports bubbled last week the former five-star running back would head to Jacksonville State, and this all but confirms them.

 A rising junior out of Oxford, Ala., Thomas garnered starts against Georgia and Alabama as a true freshman but finished the 2015 season fourth among Tigers running backs with 43 carries for 261 yards and one touchdown. He also caught 11 passes for 200 yards and a score.

Peyton Barber, first on the club with 237 carries a year ago, left for the NFL, but with spring ball now complete it appears Thomas did not like his chances for wrestling carries away from Jovon Robinson or Kerryon Johnson.

Report: Big 12 expansion, TV network on hold for 2016

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Thirty-five media members are expected to descend upon suburban Dallas this week for the annual gathering of Big 12 presidents and chancellors — more than three times the average number — and not because they’re excited to see whether Baker Mayfield gets another year of eligibility. Expansion is the first word off the lips everywhere from Provo to Storrs with numerous stops in between, but a report Tuesday said all these digital trees slain in devotion to the subject will die in vain.

According to Chip Brown of Horns Digest, the issue has already been decided and the Big 12 will stand pat — both on the membership and television network fronts — for 2016.

Brown writes:

“The bottom line is there is no consensus on any non-Power Five candidates to add, and the league’s primary TV partners – ESPN and Fox – aren’t exactly knocking down doors right now to start a conference network, the sources told HD.”

If the presidents haven’t even broken their proverbial bread yet, how could the issue already be decided? With 10 schools, only three are needed to block any movement, and Texas, TCU and Texas Tech were said to be against expansion heading into the meetings.

It’s also possible this report is a trial balloon of sorts, a shot across the bow at a specific group of people in the meeting room.

The only area change could happen, according to Brown, would be to add a championship game. The conference won the right to hold a title game without expanding during the NCAA Convention in January.

A conference championship game is believed to be worth an extra $2-3 million per year per school in television money.

Nick Saban calls satellite camps “the Wild, Wild West” in lengthy rant

Alabama football coach Nick Saban talks with the media, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)
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Nick Saban‘s program will partake in satellite camps this summer.

Nick Saban hates satellite camps.

Alabama and its four national championships have done just fine without satellite camps, so it’s perfectly understandable why its head coach would find no use for them. It’s also understandable on a personal level, as coaches will now spend hundreds of hours more work in preparation of signing the same amount of players.

Saban expanded on those thoughts during the SEC’s spring meetings on Tuesday:

“What’s amazing to me is somebody didn’t stand up and say there’s going to be the unintended consequences of what you all are doing,” Saban said, via SEC Country.

He continued: “Anybody can have a camp now. If they have a prospect, they can have a camp and then you’re expected to go to that camp and then they can use you to promote their camp because Ohio State is coming, Alabama is coming, whoever else is coming. Somebody sponsors a camp, they pay them the money. What do they do with the money? And who makes sure the kid paid to go to the camp? I mean, this is the Wild Wild West at its best. There’s been no specific guidelines relative to how we’re managing and controlling this stuff. It’s happening outside our normal evaluation window, which means we’re taking time away from our players.

“Our players come back to school today. We start working and making sure that our players are doing the right things with our strength and conditioning coaches, our academic people, with the limited number of meetings that we’re allowed to have with them. We’re not going to be there because we’re going to be going someplace else to look at some other guy.”

He continued again: “All you’re doing is allowing all these other people that we spend all of our time at the NCAA saying, you can’t recruit through a third party. You can’t be involved with third-party people and that’s exactly what you’re doing, creating all these third parties that are going to get involved with the prospects and all that. And who gets exposed on that? I go to a camp and I’m talking to some guy I don’t know from Adam’s house cat and he’s representing some kid because he put the camp on, and then I’m in trouble for talking to this guy? And who even knows if the guy paid to go to the camp. Is the NCAA going to do that? I mean, we do that at our camp. We have people responsible. They’re called compliance folks. What kind of compliance people do we have at these camps?”

And he continued again: “I’m not blaming Jim Harbaugh. I’m not saying anything about it. I’m just saying it’s bad for college football. Jim Harbaugh can do anything he wants to do. I’m not saying anything bad about him, if he thinks that’s what’s best. There needs to be somebody who looks out for what’s best for the game, not what’s best for the Big Ten or not what’s best for the SEC or not what’s best for Jim Harbaugh, but what’s best for the college football. The integrity of the game. The coaches, the players and the people that play it. That’s bigger than all of this. That’s what somebody should do. Now, who is doing that? I don’t know because right now since we have the Power 5, everybody is politicking for what they want for their conference. That’s why I said there needs to be a college football commissioner.”

And to think, all that came after Saban didn’t want to talk about satellite camps.