As John summarized this morning, recently obtained documents show that Oregon and the NCAA have agreed that the university’s football program committed “several major violations” in its use of recruiting services over the past few years. The majority of the allegations are said to have occurred under former coach Chip Kelly, who left to become the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in mid-January.
Now, Kelly’s former employer will carry on and is expected to appear in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions at some point this spring, although exactly when has yet to be officially determined and/or announced. Such a timetable has given new life to accusation that Kelly got out of Dodge before he could personally be affected by whatever sanctions the NCAA hands down.
(UO has has already proposed two self-imposed sanctions: a two-year probation period and a reduction of one scholarship for each of the next three seasons. Additionally, the released docs say the NCAA’s enforcement staff made “no finding of lack of institutional control and no finding of unethical conduct”, suggesting potential penalties may not be as severe as initially thought.)
The accusation is at least understandable when looking at things chronologically: Kelly leaves in January, one month after it was reported that a hearing with the COI was coming within the next several months; documents previously held by UO agree that major violations are at hand, though the definition of “major” is a wide brush by the NCAA’s older standards.
Therefore, it’s an easy accusation to make. But it’s not necessarily a correct one.
The idea that Kelly “ran away” from Oregon suggests he knows what’s coming and that simply isn’t close to being true. If it was, we should all be furious with Kelly for not disclosing the upcoming Powerball numbers.
Furthermore, it ignores the fact that he was reportedly thisclose to accepting the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago — while the Ducks were still under the NCAA microscope. Before departing for Philly, Kelly was in the middle of a window where he was one of the hottest coaching names in the country. If the opportunity wasn’t with the Bucs, it was the Eagles. If it wasn’t the Eagles, it would have been another NFL organization the following year (or the following months). As elements of the spread offense filter up into the pro game, so has the league’s interest in great offensive minds like Kelly.
And those great minds will eventually answer that call.
Yes, yes: the timing. But when was the timing ever going to be right for Kelly? Let’s say Kelly left for the Bucs last year. Would the criticism of his departure have been any less? What if he left a year from now while Oregon was serving its punishment? Unless Kelly stuck around long enough for UO to repay its debt, chances are he would have been criticized for leaving — whenever it was. And he simply doesn’t owe that to the Ducks.
That’s not to say Kelly shouldn’t be accountable for something that happened on his watch. He should, and the fact that he won’t be is the easiest bridge to make between his departure and the upcoming hearing for Oregon. Kelly’s ability to leave and let others suffer the consequences of NCAA wrongdoing is, in itself, fundamentally wrong. Unfortunately, that’s an issue bigger than Kelly. Unless the NFL decides to take action similar to what it did with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel – and those are two different situations as Tressel was already suspended five games before his resignation in 2011 – Kelly will be able to wash his hands of what happened at Oregon.
Does that need to change? Absolutely. Will it? Almost certainly not, save for extremely specific cases.
The fact that Kelly won’t face repercussions for what allegedly happened at Oregon makes him a target for speculation, but you can bet that Kelly would still make the decision to coach on Sundays even if he did.