Philadelphia, PA – In what has seemed to become an increasingly alarming trend, yet another premier college football program has felt the sting of recruiting violations after reports surfaced this week indicting the University of Oregon.
Over the last several years the Oregon Ducks have been one of the elite football units at the FBS level. With a style of football all their own the Ducks have racked up four straight BCS bowl invitations, finished among the top five teams in the national rankings three times and even had their shot at a BCS National Championship in 2011.
Like so many other programs before it (Ohio State and USC come to mind), Oregon has now had that legacy tarnished as reports have surfaced of apparent recruiting violations by Oregon under the tenure of departed head coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly, who left the school in January to take on the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles, has said in a statement that "While at Oregon, I know we were fully cooperative with all aspects of the investigation and I will continue to contribute in any way that I can."
During a press conference after the Eagles' first day of voluntary mini-camp Kelly also made a definitive statement that his choice to leave Eugene for the City of Brotherly Love had nothing to do with the NCAA's investigation into these reported violations.
"No, it had absolutely no impact on my decision to leave."
However Kelly's departure is eerily reminiscent of the same type of exit that current Seattle Seahawks' head coach Pete Carroll made when he left USC after the 2009-10 season. Carroll led the Trojans to the 2004 National Championship and also coached Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Reggie Bush.
Carroll was officially named the Seahawks' coach on January 11, 2010 and almost six months to the day, on June 10, the NCAA leveled a number of heavy sanctions on the Trojans. Those included postseason bans for both the 2010 and 2011 season as well as a vacation of all wins in the 2004 and 2005 seasons, which included a stripping of the 2004 National Title.
Bush was at the center of much of the recruiting transgressions and the school as well as Bush himself ended up returning their copies of his Heisman Trophy.
No one can blame Kelly or Carroll for leaving for the big lights of the NFL but their exits mean that they were able to take bigger pay days and completely avoid taking responsibility for violations committed under their watch. Meanwhile the players who remain behind are forced to pay for the transgressions they had no hand in crafting.
Though it is unclear what the punishment from the NCAA will be for Oregon, the school has proposed a two-year self-imposed probation period as well as a reduction in scholarships over the next three seasons.
One area where the Ducks have managed to stay away from some predecessors is that according to reports by the NCAA there was "no finding of lack of institutional control and no findings of unethical conduct."
Without those types of violations, Oregon may be able to avoid such decisive and crippling blows as the ones handed down to USC and Ohio State. The Buckeyes finished 12-0 this past season but due to a postseason ban, were not able to factor into the BCS Title conversation.
Oregon's reported violations come just weeks after reports that the NCAA was investigating the football program at Auburn University came to light. Former head coach Gene Chizik, who was fired following a dismal 3-9 campaign this past winter, has been less forthcoming than Kelly about alleged violations as the investigation continues.
Of course swirling around any possible violations by Auburn is the shady history of the recruitment of former star quarterback Cam Newton. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in college football history while leading the Tigers to the 2010 National Championship.
However there was always a dark cloud over Newton's accomplishments as a controversy about his eligibility hung over the season based on supposed illegal actions taken by Newton's father while he was being recruited out of Blinn Community College.
Although the investigation of Newton's recruitment ended after 13 months in October of 2011, recent developments just make any and all controversies in the past seem more shady.
Oregon's violations do not seem to be as major as those by USC, Auburn, Ohio State, or the long list of other schools that have taken hits of late in both football and basketball.
Despite that, the fact that yet another successful and respected program is embroiled in a controversy surrounding impropriety, just continues to chip away at the 'idealized amateurism' that collegiate athletics are supposed to perpetrate, replacing it with an air of suspicion of any and all programs that succeed.
At the very least, it has created a numbness to this type of blatant rule breaking in the name of winning.
It is unfortunate that when the dust settles following these investigations, the people paying the price are very often not those that committed the infractions, but rather the student athletes left behind.