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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

February 24, 2012 at 6:56 PM

Oregon and the NCAA: The plot thickens

Friday, the University of Oregon released documents that reflect a preliminary conclusion by the NCAA that the Ducks committed violations surrounding their use of football scouting services.

It appears the UO and the NCAA are working together to establish common ground on the extent of the violations. What Oregon released isn’t a formal notice of allegations, but it’s logical to assume that would follow on a timetable that’s impossible to outline.

The violations — again, this is the NCAA version — appear to fall into two major headings: Starting in 2008, the Ducks paid for recruiting services and got oral reports in return, including the celebrated, alleged $25,000 they paid Will Lyles, the Texas scout/mentor to former running back Lache Seastrunk. (The NCAA requires written reports, and in the case of Lyles and his Complete Scouting Services, four annually were required.)

Second, among the proposed findings is an athletic department “failure to monitor” the use of football scouting services. The NCAA has a sort of scale of such neglect, and failure to monitor, while not a trifling matter, isn’t as severe as the dreaded “lack of institutional control.” Often, an initial finding is reduced if the school can prove some checks were in place and utilized.

Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens issued a statement that said, “We are in constructive discussions with the NCAA on the draft of their proposed findings.”

Specifically, the Ducks are said to have paid $6,500 and $10,000 to Elite Scouting Services and received oral reports in 2008-09; $3,745 to New Level Athletics in 2009 for oral reports; and $25,000 in 2010 to Lyles and CSS for oral reports. The Oregonian quoted Elite’s Charles Fishbein as disputing the conclusion, saying that everything it offered “was available in hard copy and on our website.” The newspaper also quoted a UO spokesman as saying that Oregon wasn’t necessarily in agreement with the proposed NCAA findings.

So what’s it all mean?

Nothing definitive can be gleaned from the documents, because it isn’t unusual for a school to “plead down” an initial finding by introducing its own information. And the use of such scouting services (if you’re jaded about this, you might be tempted to put quote marks around the term) is a new frontier with the NCAA in football.

I’ve felt all along the key issue might be whether the NCAA can find a smoking gun to tie Lyles’ involvement to player procurement rather than a scouting function. Perhaps it doesn’t need to do that, if indeed it’s fact that there were no written scouting materials received by Oregon and that the Ducks violated not only specific regulations about what they needed to be receiving, but in the failure-to-monitor test.

If all this holds up — and it’s still somewhat preliminary — I could see something like a one-year bowl ban with the usual other assorted hits. But that’s pure, unadulterated, unrefined speculation.

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