Mailbag: NCAA, Oregon -- USC! -- blowback

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To the notes!

Donald from Eugene, Ore., writes: First off, I agree with Andy Staples that Oregon's punishment was appropriate and what USC SHOULD have received. But I was wondering if Chip Kelly had forewarning about the "Show Cause" punishment and knew Oregon would have been forced to fire him if he had stuck around Eugene? So he didn't really escape, as some people suggest, as he wasn't going to coach The Ducks in 2013 anyway. He actually did Oregon a favor by leaving before spring practice.Also, why doesn't the NCAA mandate a standard contract clause for all head coaches making them financially liable for any violations occurring under their watch regardless if they are still at the school or not?

Ted Miller: You know in the movie, "Being John Malkovich," when everyone just starts going "Malkovich!" "Malkovich!" "Malkovich!" That's what it sometimes feels like being a college football writer with Staples around, "I agree with Andy Staples!" "I agree with Andy Staples!"

I mean, really, how hard is to be right all the time when you're bacon's biggest advocate?

I agree with Staples' idea about allowing recruits to take official visits beginning in January of their junior year of high school as a good way to reduce cheating.

And yet I don't agree that Oregon coach Chip Kelly would have been fired after the NCAA ruling, in large part because we don't know what the NCAA would have ruled if Kelly were still the Ducks coach. I do know Oregon would only have done that as an absolute last resort.

For one, Kelly and Oregon have had each other's backs in this from beginning to end, even when Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. I sense zero hard feelings between school and former coach.

If the NCAA had given Kelly a "show cause" as a sitting coach, Oregon would have had the option of firing him or going back in front of the Committee on Infractions to defend Kelly and itself against additional sanctions. The NCAA can't make an institution fire its coach.

Kelly might have been suspended, or the school might have been hit with other penalties. It's difficult to say.

But I think Kelly's 18-month "show cause" was largely symbolic and was given specifically because he was no longer at Oregon. If he were still in Eugene, I don't think that he would have been given that sanction. I think the NCAA would have found an additional way to hit him and the program -- in order to support the NCAA's attempt to hold head coaches more accountable -- but I don't think, based on my reading of the ruling, the NCAA would have wanted to hit Kelly with the worst penalty he could get as a sitting coach.

As for the NCAA mandating contract standards, that won't happen because institutions don't want to surrender their authority on contracts. Further, NCAA efforts to standardize penalties also have run into resistance through the years.

Costi from Phoenix writes: Ted, I have heard a lot of people say that Oregon has "won the day" with these imposed sanctions. I know the punishment could have been much worse, but it seems to me like these sanctions will still adversely affect the program and at the very least make life more challenging for the coaches. Do you think the Oregon coaching staff is looking at this thinking they "won the day"?

Ted Miller: Yes, I think the Oregon coaching staff feels like it won the day, based on far worst possibilities that were avoided, including a postseason ban and the loss of more scholarships.

But all things being equal, sure, the Ducks coaches would prefer to be recruiting without new restrictions, which are:

  • A reduction of official paid football visits to from 56 to 37 for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.

  • A reduction of permissible football evaluation days from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and permissible football evaluation days from 168 to 144 in the spring of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

  • A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the probation period.

The final one, which lasts three years and is an NCAA first, might prove most painful. Legitimate recruiting services provide good information and, most important, film. So there's some bite there.

That said: I think the dark cloud over Oregon during the NCAA investigation for the past 27 months was probably more difficult to deal with than these restrictions. It surely was frustrating to have to constantly reassure skeptical recruits the program wasn't going to get hammered, a notion rival programs surely were constantly volunteering.

So I expect to see Oregon take a jump in the recruiting rankings this February, not a step back.

Brian from Syracuse writes: From the tone of your Full Speed Ahead post it seems like you believe Oregon should have been hit somewhat harder by the NCAA. And you have been very clear in your belief that USC should have been hit far less than they were for the Bush situation. Based on the respective violations, what should the sanctions have been for each program? Does USC's level of cooperation during the investigation affect your opinion?

Kevin from Newport Beach, Calif., writes: While this may come across more as an airing of grievances rather than a question, I wanted to get your thoughts on the "sanctions" provided to Oregon as compared to those that were maliciously fired at USC. To me, it seems to set the precedent set by the NCAA here is that it is OK to pay a 3rd party to deliver a star player to you, which in turn provides you with a competitive advantage. However, it is ABSOLUTELY NOT OK to have a different 3rd party pay the same aforementioned player to LEAVE your institution, which in turn seems to put the institution at an overall disadvantage. What is more perplexing to me is it seems as the former (aka Oregon) is closer to the SMU infractions than the latter (USC).

Ted Miller: I thought Oregon was going to lose a few more scholarships, but the ultimate ruling fits in with what folks who know far more about the nuances of NCAA rules told me was likely to happen. I hope Pac-12 blog readers know that I was always of the mind that Oregon would not get hammered, though there were some worrisome moments for the program, which even Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens acknowledged.

As for comparing the Oregon case to USC, it's like comparing a logical exchange of ideas and a train wreck.

The USC case will always be considered one of the lowest moments in the history of NCAA enforcement -- and there have been some doozies. The folks who sat on the Committee on Infractions should feel shame.

The USC ruling started poorly when the late Paul Dee, overseer of Miami's athletic department during the reign of Nevin Shapiro, falsely asserted on his conference call with reporters, “[The USC] case strikes at the heart of the principles of amateurism.” It did not; pay-for-play was not part of the investigation. And then it was ridiculously propped up by a rule the COI just made up, "high-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance," a notion that appears no where in the NCAA rule book.

Too often it's incorrectly noted that USC didn't cooperate with the NCAA investigation. That's untrue. We know that because the NCAA officially stated USC cooperated in its ruling. We can't just assume the NCAA would dissemble, can we?

What did damage USC was its desire to vigorously defend itself. And know what really bothered the COI? That USC won the argument. Feel free to again read USC's official response to the notice of allegations. There's some smugness in there that might have hurt USC -- and then-athletic director Mike Garrett was apparently a bit imperious during the hearing -- but the fact that probably became an issue makes the COI look like a pack of sniveling teenagers ganging up on someone to whom they feel inferior.

The buffoonery on display was disheartening. Members of the COI, in fact, didn't seem to understand their own case. Their mission was singular: Get USC. So they built a false argument around it. My feelings on this have only strengthened through the years.

But I've been over this again and again and again. My guess is USC fans keep asking about it because it's mildly cathartic to watch me ruffling my feathers again.

From now on, USC fans, please go here to get your dose of Soma.

Drake from Parts Unknown writes: Arizona starts the season 5-0. What's the odds of that.

Ted Miller: I see 3-0. Then the odds drop considerably.

The Wildcats should beat Northern Arizona, UNLV and UT San Antonio. I'm pretty close to guaranteeing that, which might be the kiss of death, of course.

Then, after a bye, there's a trip to Washington and, after another bye, a trip to USC. Winning consecutive games on the road against quality foes, even after off weeks, feels like too much to ask.

To me, a 4-1 start should be enough to get Wildcats fans enthused.

In fact, it's the next three game that are critical: Utah, at Colorado and at California. The Wildcats might be favored in all three matchups, and winning them all would make them bowl eligible -- even with losses to both the Huskies and Trojans -- with four games remaining.

Angelo from Phoenix writes: I'm a long-time ASU fan and alumnus and am legitimately pleased with the direction we seem to be headed. After numerous obstacles (Lisa Love, Dirk Koetter, Dennis Erickson, Lattie Coor) we finally seem to have the right combination of President/AD/Coach to achieve success in the football program. There is one small area of concern though that I can't quite get past. I know it is just year 2 of the Graham regime, and it's early in year 2, but I'm concerned with the staff's ability to recruit. With as much positive press the program has rec'd lately, I would have thought that might translate into a few more noteworthy recruits. Is this what a real issue looks like early on... or do you see Graham being able to at least keep ASU performing at league average from a recruiting perspective?

Ted Miller: First of all, both Arizona and Arizona State need to do a better job of keeping the homegrown talent at home. But that only will come with consistent winning.

As for the Sun Devils, Graham's first full class ranked eighth in the Pac-12 and 42nd in the nation, according to ESPN Recruiting. Other recruiting services had the Sun Devils ranked either sixth or seventh in the Pac-12 and between 31st and 41st in the nation.

That's really not too bad for a program that has been mostly meandering around since a magical 1996 season, getting labeled a "Sleeping Giant" perhaps 1,354 times.

If there is a specific and fair gripe, it's been the failure to land a quarterback. When Arizona State lost Joshua Dobbs to Tennessee on signing day that was a big hit because that meant Graham hasn't signed a quarterback in either of his first two classes.

That made the whiff on touted local Kyle Allen, who hails from Scottsdale, three weeks ago even more of a drag, though the commitment of Manny Wilkins was a nice recovery.

Still, it's way premature to pass a verdict on Graham's recruiting.

For one, let's see how well the incoming guys turn out. The Sun Devils are counting on several new players, most notably wide receiver Jaelen Strong, to play immediately. If those guys prove ready for prime time, perhaps you'll feel better about things, Angelo.

Name withheld from Parts Unknown writes: UNC hasn't been better in football, past or present, than Oregon St.??? Really, you [bleep!]?How about the facts? OTHER THAN THE CONVENIENT TIME PERIOD YOU REFERENCED, UNC has ALWAYS been better than Oregon St!! And in terms of their future, which is what the article was about, UNC certainly has more resources, tradition, and solid history to bank on than does Oregon St.Do some research, idiot....and then maybe you won't look like such an idiot. UNC is the nation's 25th most winning program in college football history....Oregon St. doesn't even crack the Top 50! UNC has finished in the Top 10 4 times in the past 32 years, the Top 25 8 times in the same timeframe.Take off your Left Coast blinders, you moron....UNC easily has a better program than Oregon St. in terms of trending for the future...

Ted Miller: The convenient time period I referenced? You mean using information from our present century?

UNC has "always" been better than Oregon State? You mean other than this century?

UNC finished in the top-10 four times in the past 32 years? My question to Mr. Leaves No Name: Are you old enough to remember that last top-10 ranking in 1997, which also happens to be the last time UNC was ranked at all at season's end?

And, yes, I am aware that ACC blogger Heather Dinich penned a perfectly reasonable rebuttal to my rant this week.

Yes, I am aware we are projecting to the future. And, really, why should the last 13 seasons be used to project what might happen in the next three? In the soft, cuddly world of What Might Be If Things Are Different From The Past Decade-Plus, North Carolina might actually become a top-25 team.

But, well, what about next year? Can you find me a preseason poll with North Carolina ranked ahead of Oregon State. I'll wait here.


But I can do this and this and this and this.

And I've got $1 that says you'll get the same in the preseason AP poll.

But, of course, it truly is an exacting, non-speculative science to project that North Carolina will, finally, after 14 years of futility, break through in 2014 and 2015.

And, really, I'm sure that if Larry Fedora leads the Tar Heels to 10 wins in 2014 that he will stick around hoops-obsessed Chapel Hill instead of doing a Mack Brown, jumping at the first nibble to a bigger, football-first program. He'd never, ever do that.