Chip Kelly often acts like the smartest person in the room. When it comes to football, he often is the smartest person in the room. You can’t argue with that. His program is the nation's first non-sanctioned program to reach four straight BCS bowl games. His offense and his philosophy have both revolutionized college football.
While most college coaches go belly up when they step up to the NFL, there are still about seven or eight NFL owners who would love to get the name Charles Kelly on a head coaching contract. To accomplish what he has, you have to be a bit of a gambler.
Well, Kelly’s chips are always pushed to the middle of the table, even while holding a losing hand. He doesn’t need an 11 to double down. He’d split kings. Kelly would hit on 14, even if the dealer was showing 2. When field position favors the offense, announcers often say, “Fourth down is decision time for the head coach.”
Except for this coach, who made up his mind about fourth down years ago. His on-the-field risks have paid off, more often than not. There are some exceptions, like this year's Stanford game. Or the Rose Bowl against Ohio State on New Year’s Day 2010. But if you spend four years playing against the odds, occasionally the dealer is going to take that 2 and pull the right combination of cards out of the chute to total 21. (I think we’ve all been there!)
But Kelly’s lasting Oregon legacy may not be the wins, or the break-neck speed of his offense, or the on-field risks he took.
Kelly’s legacy may now, and forever, be linked to a gamble he took on Will Lyles and the risk Kelly chose to take off the field. Lyles, the Texas based “scouting services provider,” at the very least worked for a legitimate business at one time or another. Scouting services are invaluable to college coaches all over the nation, as recruiting has become much more than a regional business. Kelly and his colleagues need information and film on a kid 3,000 miles away.
A scouting service can provide those things.
Let it also be known, I think they are extremely beneficial to the high school kids. They help get kids' names out there, who might otherwise struggle to get noticed. Kids who might not otherwise get a chance to attend college on a scholarship, for playing the game they love. The scouting service can uncover a “diamond in the rough.” Will Lyles’ list, at least the one Oregon made public, had no diamonds, just a lot of rough.
Many of the names on that list were no longer eligible to be recruited. One young man on the list had unfortunately passed away. For that, the University of Oregon sent Lyles a check in the amount of $25,000. Did Oregon get hoodwinked? That’s what they’re hoping the NCAA will believe. Did Chip Kelly’s inexperience with the process lead to the debacle?
Since his prior experience was in small college football, most at the University of Oregon hope the Committee on Infractions will buy that as a valid reason. Or was it something much bigger? Was Lyles being paid for delivering at least one player to Oregon? (The player in question, Lache Seastrunk, has since transferred.) Sometimes the smartest person in the room thinks he can pull a fast one on anyone. Sometimes the biggest risktaker at the table thinks he can count the cards in the chute. Maybe Chip Kelly just thought he could get away with one?
Or maybe he didn’t know what he was doing. (Though, if anyone actually told him this happened because he was clueless, he’d probably fight that person.) The NCAA rejected Oregon’s summary of disposition.
That’s what most of us call a plea bargain. So now top university officials, perhaps Chip Kelly included, will be asked to appear before the NCAA’s supreme court justices. It’s likely they’re heading to Indianapolis in 2013 for sentencing. It isn’t likely to be overturned on appeal. And punishment may not be very severe. Who can figure out the NCAA infractions committee from one case to the next?
We don’t know what will be done. But we do know what will be discussed. It centers on the risktaking coach, who doubled down on Will Lyles.