After two years of worry by Ducks fans, the Oregon recruiting scandal won’t hinder the team’s ability to build for the future.
The NCAA placed Oregon on probation Wednesday for three years and took away one scholarship for recruiting violations under previous coach Chip Kelly. Oregon came under NCAA scrutiny after self-reporting violations stemming from payments made to recruiting services, including $25,000 to Willie Lyles and Houston-based Complete Scouting Services in 2011.
But in the end, the loss of one scholarship and limiting official visits for the 2014 to 2016 classes to only 37 per year is about as good an outcome as Oregon could have hoped for from a recruiting standpoint.
“If I’m coaching at Oregon, then I’m feeling really good right now,” said one Pac-12 assistant. “The outcome shouldn’t hurt them one bit with recruits. Honestly, it helps them now more than anything.”
It certainly does.
Gone is the black cloud that had been looming over the Ducks' program and had prospects, parents and high school coaches asking questions about Oregon’s future.
Many top prospects in the Class of 2013 admitted the NCAA allegations played a factor in their decisions, and schools recruiting against the Ducks certainly used it as a tool to lure prospects away from Eugene.
That -- combined with Kelly’s departure to the NFL -- caused Oregon to slip to No. 26 in the RecruitingNation class rankings. The previous three classes the Ducks finished in the top 25, and before the allegations first surfaced last fall, Oregon was involved with a large number of ESPN 300 recruits.
The loss of official visits could be the only thing that stings a little bit.
The maximum number of official, paid visits in football is 56, but Oregon has averaged only 41 over the previous four academic years. Coaches like to be able to have the option to use as many visits as possible if they get on a recruiting roll or if they face a string of decommitments that force them to bring in more players.
Under the ruling, Oregon also won’t be able to take advantage of the NCAA rule that allows a school to retain unused visits for the following year, so the Ducks coaches will have to be just as efficient as in the past with who they bring to campus.
In addition, the Ducks will be limited to only 36 evaluation days in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015, but truthfully that’s not a big deal because schools -- including Oregon -- are making more and more assessments and offers to prospects earlier in the recruiting calendar. Plus, not being in the high schools on those days won’t stop them from recruiting in other ways.
The NCAA also banned Oregon from using recruiting services during the period of probation. But that, too, shouldn’t hurt the Ducks one bit. Many schools use services to help supplement film and get a head start on underclassman evaluations, but there are countless other schools that still do it the old-fashioned way, collecting film and doing their own evaluations.
In the end, Mark Helfrich and his staff surely are glad to have this behind them. It gives the Ducks close to a clean slate moving forward and removes the ammunition from the schools recruiting against them.
Now the Ducks can officially go back to selling what’s worked for them in the past -- an exciting brand of football that has produced a lot of wins over the past 10 years, a passionate fan base, tremendous facilities and uniforms that recruits all want to play in.