EUGENE, Ore. – For the past 18 months, the University of Oregon football program has been operating under the cloud of an NCAA investigation of possible recruiting violations.
On Friday afternoon, in response to a public records request from KATU News, the University of Oregon released a set of heavily redacted e-mails related to the NCAA investigation.
The e-mails don’t provide many details, but they do show the NCAA and school officials have talked about possible penalties the university might face.
The controversy around the program started with a report on Yahoo Sports in 2011 about a so-called “street agent” named Willie Lyles. Then, in February of this year, KATU broke the news that the NCAA had formally accused the school of violating recruiting rules by paying for recruiting services it didn’t receive.
The 28 pages of documents contain e-mails primarily between three people: Randy Geller, the university’s general counsel; Mike Glazier, a private attorney specializing in college sports law who was hired by the school; and Steve Duffin, the associate director of enforcement for the NCAA.
The vast majority of the e-mails are fully or partially redacted. A school spokeswoman said they were redacted in compliance with Oregon law protecting attorney-client privilege.
They also only cover e-mails sent before May 9. KATU made our original request on May 10, although we didn’t receive the documents until August 31.
While we can’t connect too many dots from the redacted documents, the e-mails do show that an NCAA enforcement official was having frequent conversations with university lawyers through May, after the NCAA had formally accused the school of wrongdoing.
In one e-mail, Duffin from the NCAA talks about how the university could potentially face penalties for “major violations.”
In an e-mail dated March 23, Duffin wrote to Glazier saying, “I’m assuming that the institution is cognizant that NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199.1 MAY be applicable in this case based on the COI’s (Committee on Infractions) 6/23/04 Infractions Report concerning the institution.”
That particular bylaw concerns penalties for “major violations.” Penalties laid out include a probationary period, limiting recruiting trips, losing scholarships or some staff members being suspended or fired.
The 2004 infractions were about “impermissible contact and violations” related to an assistant coach administering a “National Letter of Intent,” which the letter a recruit signs when committing to a school.
Also of note, a school can be considered a “repeat offender” if a violation occurred within five years of a previous penalty being issued. That means if the UO is found to have committed violations before June 2009, five years after they were last penalized, they could be considered a repeat offender and face stiffer penalties.
On May 2, Duffin suggested that he was still working on the “drafting process,” although it’s not clear what exactly he was drafting.
On May 8, another NCAA official sent an e-mail to athletic director Rob Mullens and Glazier with the subject “secure website access to evidentiary materials.” The e-mail mentions an attachment, but the university did not give us any attachment.
The e-mails also indicate that, as of May, the university was still working with the NCAA on a “summary disposition.” That’s a process where the university agrees to not fight the allegations and work with the NCAA to reach a resolution.
However, it’s not clear where the school and NCAA currently are in the summary disposition process.
While the e-mails do offer a glimpse into the investigation process, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions from them. The school has remained silent about the process, so we’re not able to fill in the gaps.
In fact, it’s still not clear if the investigation is ongoing, or what, if any, penalties the UO might face.