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Oregon: The Other Route UNC Could Have Taken with the NCAA

June was a pretty depressing month for UNC football fans. The university was first hit with the NCAA's notice of inquiry, letting everybody know the full list of allegations was coming down the pike. Then they were forced to release the parking ticket records of various football players, leading to the embarrassing revelations that Marvin Austin was ticketed 68 times, Ryan Houston 74 times, and Greg Little a ridiculous 93 times in five cars with nine different plates. Then John Blake's phone records came to light, indicating that Blake and Austin probably lied to NCAA investigators, among other things. And finally the NCAA released their notice of allegations, indicating that yep, the two lied, lots of players got various benefits they shouldn't have, and UNC should really hire someone to hang out on Facebook. If it wasn't for the late announcement that Quinton Coples has been cleared of any wrongdoing, there would have been nothing positive to say about June at all.

The first day of July shifts the focus to another football program. The one thing Carolina did not do during the investigation was in anyway impede the NCAA. Cell phones were turned over, players were thrown to the wolves, and when academic improprieties arose, UNC suspended players en masse and sorted out the conduct questions later. Compare that to what apparently went down at Oregon.

Word went out that the NCAA was interested in the Ducks back in March, for paying $25,000 to a Houston high school scout named Will Lyles, who happened to mentor a player named Lache Seastrunk, who would sign with Oregon. The payment was supposedly for scouting services, but when Oregon newspapers pressed and got the reports Lyles provided released, they turned out to be worthless and horribly outdated; Oregon's defense, it seems, was that they were ripped off by a con-man, and didn't know how to stop payment on a check.

Well, Yahoo's Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel, who own the NCAA investigation beat, secured an interview with Lyles, who promptly tosses Oregon under the bus:

Lyles said Kelly and Oregon committed to becoming the first client for CSS prior to Lyles aiding Seastrunk with the letter-of-intent issue. Then, just after the guardianship switch, Lyles said Kelly instructed him to "find out what the best paying service is" and to bill Oregon that amount. When Lyles settled on the $25,000 figure, he said he called Kelly and Kelly personally approved it.

Eleven months passed - from March 2010 until February 2011 - before the Ducks requested a single written recruiting profile, Lyles said. And when that moment came, Lyles said the demand for the reports was sudden and emphatic, leading him to believe Oregon was "scrambling" to establish that he'd provided legitimate traditional scouting services because they were aware of a Yahoo! Sports investigation. Previously, Lyles said he had provided scouting reports verbally in frequent calls with Oregon coaches.

"They said they just needed anything," Lyles said of the embarrassingly thin recruiting profiles that Oregon made public earlier this month. "They asked for last-minute [stuff]. So I gave them last-minute [stuff] ... I gave them, like, old stuff that I still had on my computer because I never thought that stuff would see the light of day."

Lyles also helped current Oregon running back LaMichael James transfer to an Arkansas high school to duck a Texas satndardized math exam he wasn't likely to pass (with the OU staff's blessing), orchestrated recruiting trips to Eugene, and helped a Texas defensive back transfer to Oregon. He spent six hours with NCAA enforcement staff in May, but it's unclear how much the investigators are aware of.

COmpare and contrast the response of Chip Kelly and staff to improprieties coming to light with that of the Tar Heels. The scrambling to get materials to justify a $25,000 payout shows both complacency in the illicit deal and a desire to hid it from the NCAA; UNC on the other hand opened the door and let the chips fall where they may. Oregon's cheating is much more brazen and – to use a word an iced tea conglomerate would like to associate with their beverage so badly they're paying my company a small sum of money – bold. Oregon, and similarly corrupt at the top Ohio State presumably won't be hit with mere "failure to monitor" charges, and should get harsher penalties. (I say should, because the NCAA has never been a beacon of rationality when it comes to meting out justice.) As much as I'm ashamed that Carolina blundered their way into this entire NCAA mess, they appear to be handling it much better than other universities.

(I do wonder if by the end of things, any team in a BCS bowl last season is going to avoid an NCAA investigation. Connecticut, maybe? Or Virginia Tech? They're probably clean, right?)