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7.02.2011

What Will Become of the Oregon Ducks?

LaMichael James is fast, but he and the Oregon Ducks are going to find it difficult to run away from the NCAA after this damning interview given by "recruiting guru" and all-around slimy character Willie Lyles.

Friday's revelations fly directly in the face of comments he made as recently as two months ago here.

The anti-Oregon sentiment has been ratcheted up, full throttle, back home and throughout PAC-12 country. The Ducks have had a great degree of success since the early 1990s. That, coupled with their lavish facilities and uber-booster financial backing by Phil Knight, have created some sore feelings by rivals in the conference.

After Coach Chip Kelly's amazing success in years one and two, many of these critics are elated to see Oregon's current misfortunes playing out in the national spotlight.

For what it's worth, I think Oregon will receive some minor penalties in this whole situation. The NCAA has some loopholes in its current guidelines, and the Lyles case above will come down to assessing whether or not he is a booster. Andy Staples outlines his thoughts here and, even in light of yesterday's Yahoo interview, I think this still holds true:

Because while the NCAA may have a mountain of circumstantial evidence that the payment had something to do with the recruitment of Temple, Texas, tailback Lache Seastrunk, investigators will have a difficult time proving Oregon's staff is guilty of anything other than being a lousy bunch of consumers. At best, the NCAA could ding Oregon with a ticky-tack violation of one of the January 2010 additions to the bylaw governing scouting services that requires services to provide information quarterly.

If someone's story changes, however, then that person could be veering into Bruce Pearl/Jim Tressel territory. That is Oregon's greatest challenge right now. The athletic department must explain this transaction in a plausible way, and everyone's stories must match up.

Expect John Canzano and a number of others critical of the Ducks' football operations to call for Kelly's resignation. I hope that doesn't happen. I hope that Oregon can clean this mess up and get on with preparing for the season because, sanctions or not, we just have about two months until it's time to play LSU in Dallas. I like and respect Coach Kelly, and I take him at his word when he calls this a "bad business deal."

But c'mon, Oregon!

Run a clean program. Play hard. Go to school. Respect others. Play with class.

That's what I ask of you. That's what I used to think Oregon was doing. That's what I hope we'll be sure to do moving forward.

But in the meantime? Man, it sure is hard to defend our football program right now with all of the things being written...

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