Uncertainty ahead for Ducks as they face NCAA hearing

Uncertainty ahead for Ducks as they face NCAA hearing
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly runs onto the field with his team before an NCAA college football game against UCLA in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

It’s the question every Oregon Ducks fan is asking: what penalties will the team face from the NCAA for recruiting violations?

On Monday evening, the University of Oregon fulfilled a six-month-old public records request and coughed up 300+ pages of documents about the NCAA investigation of their recruiting practices.

While the documents don’t offer a glimpse at the current state of the process – the school and NCAA are not disclosing anything about where the investigation stands right now – they do give us a picture of how the investigation has evolved.

On Tuesday we spoke with John Infante, a former compliance officer for two NCAA schools and author of the “Bylaw Blog” about NCAA enforcement issues.

Infante said the summary disposition report released on Monday – a plea bargain deal of sorts between the UO and NCAA – showed that NCAA enforcement officials at one point took a favorable position for Oregon about the violations.

However, Oregon might have lost some advantage when the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions decided in December to reject the summary disposition and instead make Oregon argue their case in one of their hearings.

“It’s bad news in the sense that the agreement they had with the enforcement staff that the Committee on Infractions rejected was very favorable to Oregon,” Infante said. “They’re back to the uncertainty of having to go in front of the committee for a hearing.”

It’s unclear when that hearing might take place, since the NCAA doesn’t disclose that information publicly. In fact, it’s possible the hearing has already happened.

“I don’t think you ever want to be at the mercy of the Committee on Infractions because it can be pretty unpredictable,” Infante said.

Despite the uncertainly, Infante predicts Oregon will avoid harsh penalties that have been given to schools like USC and Penn State.

“It’s probably still unlikely that the worst penalties like a bowl ban or crippling scholarship sanctions are coming, but I think they should be prepared for something worse than the penalties they proposed,” he said.

In the summary disposition report, Oregon proposed they be put on probation for two years and lose one scholarship for three seasons.

Infante thinks a penalty of losing 2-3 scholarships for two or three years like a realistic outcome. But ultimately, the Committee on Infractions can do anything it wants.

Oregon will have the ability to appeal any decision they think is too harsh.

Former head coach Chip Kelly could also face sanctions from the Committee on Infractions. But Infante points out likely penalties might only be for a few years, and that Kelly likely won’t return to college before they play out and no longer apply.

Kelly left the Ducks earlier this year to take a job coaching the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

 On Tuesday, current head coach Mark Helfrich avoided talking about specifics of the NCAA investigation.

“We have been, are 100 percent committed to compliance and along with that we are committed to that process and respecting this process,” Helfrich said. “We will comment on that when we’re allowed to.”

He would not comment on how losing a scholarship might hurt the team.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota said players in practice on Tuesday weren't getting too caught up in the news about the recruiting investigation.

"Really all we can do is control what we do out on the field," Mariota said.

Mark Helfich raw interview:

Marcus Mariota on NCAA investigaton: