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Oregon Ducks Facing Another Tumultuous Offseason
Here we go again.
Last offseason, after the Oregon Ducks football team fell to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2010 Rose Bowl, chaos ensued here in Eugene.
I was working at the local newspaper at the time, and every day the question was asked: "Which Oregon football player got in trouble today?"
All too frequently, there was an actual answer to that question.
If you're a Duck fan, you know the timeline well. The off-the-field transgressions between the 2009 and 2010 seasons involved then-Heisman hopeful quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, star running back LaMichael James, kicker Rob Beard, receiver Jamere Holland and linebacker Kiko Alonso. Masoli and Holland were kicked off the team; James, Alonso and Beard were suspended; and the Ducks were left with an even bigger black eye than the one LeGarrette Blount gave the university in the season opener when he socked Boise State's Byron Hout on national TV.
Rebuilding a reputation after a stretch like the Ducks had in early 2010 is no easy feat, but winning certainly helps along the process, and that's exactly what Oregon did in the season that followed. The Ducks went 12-0 in the 2010 regular season to earn a spot in the 2011 BCS National Championship game against Auburn.
Meanwhile, the Tigers, quarterback Cam Newton and his father, Cecil, were facing questions regarding recruiting violations.
Oregon now appears to be headed down that same road.
Yahoo! Sports posted a story on Thursday that indicates the Ducks paid more than $28,000 to men affiliated with recruiting services and tied to multiple Oregon recruits who have signed letters of intent with the school, including 2010's prize recruit, running back Lache Seastrunk.
The university is not denying it made the payments, but it is denying any wrongdoing.
Oregon athletic department spokesman Dave Williford acknowledged that the program had made the payments, and Chip Kelly noted that both the recruiting services Oregon used and the payments themselves fell within NCAA guidelines.
Part of the issue, though, is the amount the Ducks shelled out to Willie Lyles, a Texas-based trainer who provides recruiting services and received $25,000 from Oregon. It's a huge sum of money; about five times what university programs typically pay to a recruiting service in a given season.
It's highly possible that nothing ends up coming of this, in terms of rules violations and repercussions for Oregon, even as the NCAA begins looking into the issue. But the problem, and the reason I said "here we go again," is that the Ducks are now going to endure another offseason of turmoil, instead of having all energy and effort focused on preparing for the upcoming season.
Just like last year, much of the talk around town will be about the football team, but it won't be about football. And just like last year, the Ducks are faced with an increasingly negative national perception.
And that perception is going to start to stick, regardless of whether any allegations do.
Aside from just being embarrassing, this type of negativity can have a big-time impact on recruiting, especially since recruiting is exactly what this whole thing is all about.
Did Oregon do anything wrong? I don't know; like you, I'll be watching closely to see what comes of this. But if the Ducks didn't do anything wrong, here's hoping that a resolution is reached quickly, before any additional damage is done.
Documents: Oregon paid pair with ties to recruits, Yahoo! Sports
Ducks deny suggestions that payments to scouting services were improper, The Register-Guard
Sources: Man who helps Ducks probed, ESPN
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