Friday, July 1, 2011

Willie Lyles throws Oregon under the bus. Is Chip Kelly safe?

image Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel dropped a bomb on the Oregon Ducks today. In what the authors describe as a wide-ranging interview that spanned several days, purported street agent and recruiting service owner Willie Lyles threw the Oregon Ducks under the proverbial bus.

This of course, was after Oregon essentially tried throwing him under the bus.

What’s most interesting about the Robinson/Wetzel piece isn’t the bombshell that’s in it. It’s the bombshells that weren’t. There had been rampant speculation in recent weeks that an upcoming media story would implicate not only Oregon, but the University of Texas and possibly other programs. There was no mention of Texas or any other Football Bowl Subdivision school in the story.

What’s also missing is the “smoking gun” that would likely end up costing Chip Kelly his job as Head Coach. Recall that when Robinson’s first story on the Lyles-Oregon relationship was published last March, UO officials were quick to claim that the payments the school made to Lyles were run through the UO compliance office and approved beforehand.

Contrast that with say, the Jim Tressel situation at Ohio State, where the coach intentionally kept both compliance officials and his supervisors in the dark regarding his knowledge of improper benefits for Terrelle Pryor et al. There is no evidence here (yet) that Kelly misled his superiors, and Oregon is sticking by its claims that its compliance staff reviewed the transactions and gave the all clear.

That gives Kelly an out.

The school may still get hit with harsh penalties, especially if NCAA Enforcement can demonstrate that there was a failure to monitor and/or that the school “knew or should have known” that potential violations of NCAA rules were occurring. But once Kelly got the all clear from his compliance staff, he likely received a first class coat of butt armor. As a result, I think he likely keeps his job.

Given what we know now—and information could certainly come forward that changes everything—Kelly played by rules as he understood them and relied on the advice of people who probably should have known better. If anyone gets canned, it should be someone whose job includes “knowing or should be knowing” that something ain’t right.

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