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NCAA let Oregon Ducks off easy

Don Ryan, File
AP Photo

It should’ve been tougher. That’s what KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says about the punishment that the NCAA has issued to the Oregon Ducks football program for recruiting violations.

'Pretty serious allegation'

The NCAA and the Oregon administration agreed that the school's football program was paying for a recruiting service that was nothing more than a street agent in Texas who had influence over some top recruits.

"It's basically bribe money to get top-flight kids to come to Eugene," Art said. "Recruiting services are not illegal by NCAA's rule book but this was just one guy trying to get money to send kids Oregon's way."

Expected harsher penalties

Art calls the violation "pretty blatant." "I expected fully there would be at least a more severe scholarship punishment or a bowl ban," he said. "But the NCAA is not in the mood to deal harsh penalties these days."

What the NCAA did do was take away one scholarship for each of the next three years. It also put some restraints on what the coaches could and couldn't do in terms of recruiting.

"It was a pretty light hit," Art said. "They're on probation, which means 'don't do it again.' It's a toothless sort of thing."

'No real harm done'

Art says there was no real significant harm done to the University of Oregon football program. "I just think that the NCAA didn't want to make a bigger fight out of this because they just don't have the resources or the time or the investigators to do what they have done in the past to other schools (like the University of Washington and University of Southern California)," he said.

Art points out that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly doesn't feel the heat because he's now in the NFL - serving as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. "Once again the NCAA's punishments never quite find their targets."

Bowl ban would've hurt

Art calls the lack of a bowl ban "significant" in this case. Removing them from bowl contention could've really impacted the Ducks because they're considered to be national contenders.

Some argue it's not fair to punish the current players by keeping them from playing in a bowl game. But Art contends bowl games are designed to woo big donors with sun and fun.

"It's all about boosters and getting more money out them," he said. "When you take a team out of the bowl picture you are really doing a hurt. And it's one that might resonate with more teams if the NCAA administered that punishment more readily."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Note: Art is laid up at home and doing his commentaries by phone the next two weeks. He broke his ankle while surveying storm damage outside his home. He explains it all here.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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