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Oregon Scandal: What Happens to Chip Kelly?

Suspected street-agent Will Lyles felt jilted and flipped on Chip Kelly and Oregon. He presented his side, provided evidence to corroborate it and strongly suggested what most rational observers expected: he was paid, either proactively or retroactively, for his influence over top recruits who ended up at Oregon. Worryingly for the Ducks, he’s still talking. (Lache Seastrunk got a pair of Jordans. Corruption! Outrage! Amateurism! Ignore the $110,000 golf game!)

The Lyles stuff is damning, but remember he is a self-interested participant with a clear agenda. His narrative can’t be accepted as incontrovertible fact. There is still significant grey area and Chip Kelly’s future rests on two outstanding questions.

The NCAA must define Will Lyles under its bylaws. Does he qualify as a recruiting service? Does he qualify as a booster who was engaging in third-party recruiting? The situation looks awful but exactly how the NCAA classifies him is crucial and, at the present moment, nebulous.

We also don’t know what Chip Kelly told the NCAA. We know Kelly misled a media member. We know the school complied with an open-records request and released the bogus scouting reports Lyles sent them. What we don’t know is whether Kelly lied to the NCAA or tried to cover anything up. The consequences for that could be worse than for the initial crime.

Chip Kelly could be facing the same self-inflicted result as Jim Tressel, but the circumstances are different. Kelly faces some facts that (piled together and shaded a certain way) indicate he hasn’t been above board, at least in spirit. Tressel, in contrast, had an explicit paper trail linking him with a specific violation under the law’s letter. His situation was untenable. Kelly’s situation remains unclear, at least publicly.

Longterm, Kelly retaining his job does not appear promising. Oregon, unlike some schools who shall go unnamed, is expected to be an academic institution first, and a football program second. The standards for propriety and the perception of propriety are greater. It’s hard to see him emerging from this cleanly. Immediately, though, the investigation is ongoing, and the NCAA operates at a glacial pace. Oregon has assistants implicated with Kelly and would have to clean house, something impossible to do this late in the calendar. Without explicitly damning revelations, Chip Kelly, however awkwardly, should be coaching Oregon through 2011, while Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez ready their resumes.

[Photo via Getty]

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