I-A College Football
 
 
                  === Ducks have wings clipped, yet again ===
 
 By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the second time in a decade, the
 football program at the University of Oregon has been cited by the NCAA for
 rules violations stemming from improper recruiting practices.
 
 The NCAA's Committee on Infractions handed down their ruling earlier this
 week, hampering the Ducks' ability to conduct business as usual through June
 of 2016. The penalties include a three-year probationary period, the loss of
 one scholarship each year, a reduction in the number of paid visits from
 potential recruits from 56 to 37, and a ban on the use of any recruiting
 service.
 
 However, Oregon avoided a bowl ban and a major loss of scholarships, allowing
 the team to continue to compete for both the Pac-12 Conference and national
 championships.
 
 The NCAA's findings and penalties were in line with what the university itself
 had suggested during its own investigation, as it was apparent from the outset
 that the use of a recruiting service run by Willie Lyles by former Oregon head
 coach Chip Kelly had run afoul of NCAA regulations.
 
 In May of 2008, Lyles began working with the university's football team and
 apparently provided a recruit with several improper benefits, including
 lodging and monetary compensation. He also engaged in phone calls and off-
 campus contact with potential prospects, their families and high school
 coaches, all of which were impermissible.
 
 Kelly, whom the NCAA said was unaware of the extent of Lyles' involvement in
 recruiting, left the program earlier this year to become head coach of the
 Philadelphia Eagles. A curious move at the time considering his statements
 less than two weeks prior that he was staying in Eugene, but understandable
 now knowing that the heavy hand of the NCAA would come crashing down soon
 enough.
 
 Fortunately for Oregon and new head coach Mark Helfrich, the governing body of
 all things related to college athletics levied a softer blow. The punishment
 in fact is tantamount to little more than a slap on the wrist, thus allowing
 the native Oregonian to keep the Ducks in national title contention for years
 to come.
 
 At his introductory news conference in January, Helfrich was genuinely moved
 to be chosen to lead the team for which he served as offensive coordinator the
 previous three seasons, and has been rooting for all his life.
 
 "As a lifelong Duck fan, this is a responsibility that I welcome and accept
 the undertaking that stands before me to carry on the legacy of success that
 has been created by my many predecessors."
 
 He continued, "I have been fortunate to have worked with a number of great
 football coaches and mentors throughout my career and have utilized that
 knowledge to help make me a better coach."
 
 Oregon fans everywhere hope the lessons he has learned from Kelly, at least
 the ones involving X's and O's, will help lead the Ducks to another banner
 year.
 
 While Kelly was exonerated to a certain extent, the committee noted it is the
 head coach's responsibility to know the rules and make sure that his staff
 complies with them. As a result, the NCAA also placed an 18-month show-cause
 order on Kelly, which would require any school wishing to hire him to show
 cause why it should not be penalized for doing so.
 
 Oregon Director of Athletics Rob Mullens expressed his deep appreciation to
 the Infractions Committee for the professional and fair evaluation it came to
 after conducting its investigation.
 
 "Since the outset of this lengthy inquiry, we have worked diligently to
 cooperate with the NCAA Enforcement Staff to ascertain the facts and we have
 abided by NCAA confidentiality rules in discussing this matter. As we have
 stated from the beginning, we are fully committed to operating within NCAA
 Bylaws and accept responsibility for any violations committed by current or
 former members of our staff."
 
 Oregon was previously penalized by the NCAA in 2004 for a major violation
 involving the improper recruitment of a junior college player. The university
 was put on probation for two years and the unidentified assistant coach
 involved was suspended without pay for a week.
 
 The Ducks remained eligible for postseason play and did not lose any
 scholarships because of that violation, which occurred in 2003.
 
 While the punishment doled out by the NCAA this time around also isn't likely
 to cause much of a ripple in terms of production on the football field, the
 fact that twice in the last 10 years Oregon has been subject to a major
 investigation is cause for concern.
 
 Let's hope that in this age of electronic media where everyone knows everyone
 else's business almost at the moment it happens, the Ducks fly the straight
 and narrow, thus not ruffling the feathers of the NCAA any further.
 
 
 
 06/28 12:30:02 ET

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