If Oregon's coaches have misled recruits on the seriousness of the NCAA investigations and sanctions they're facing, will these players have the opportunity to be released from their letter of intent?
You had to feel for Seantrel Henderson. It's not often you sympathize with a 6-foot-7, 300-pound behemoth who's all but guaranteed to someday make millions playing football but in this case, you'd make an exception.
After a whirlwind recruitment that saw damn nigh every school in the country try to secure the teen's services, Henderson had finally made a commitment to the USC Trojans.
With one caveat.
Head coach Lane Kiffin had told Henderson that they didn't expect the Trojans to face any significant sanctions from the Reggie Bush affair and, to his credit, when the penalty came down, Kiffin let the big man walk. Henderson was released from his letter of intent and had to start the recruiting process all over again, long after most kids had finished.
Instead of finally being settled into a new school, Henderson had to scramble, eventually winding up at the University of Miami. Not exactly a happy ending but at least a just one. Henderson wasn't stuck in a bad situation and Kiffin did the right thing.
Think Chip Kelly and Oregon will be as generous?
Throughout the recruiting season it was well documented in interviews with recruits that the Oregon coaching staff was telling recruits they didn't think any significant sanctions would hit the program.
Those coaches knew that the NCAA was investigating Oregon for paying Willie Lyles - as well as a pair of other individuals - $25,000 for access to star recruit Lache Seastrunk. The school maintains that it was paying for Lyles' scouting service, which sent Oregon some useless info and old tapes.
Oregon says it was duped. I say baloney.
Thanks to a public records request I was able to find out how much the University of Washington spent on similar scouting services in 2007.
To NorCal Scouting for videos and information on prospects in Southern California, Las Vegas and Hawaii? $7,078.50.
To Ron Allen Scouting Services? $4,500.
To Scouting Evaluation Association? $10,845.50 for nearly 400 DVDs of high schools and junior colleges in California, Hawaii, Utah and Las Vegas
The largest amount paid to a single recruiting service was $30,000 to Digital Sports Video, with only one other service charging over $15,000.
The only conclusion that can be reached from these numbers is that the amount Lyles charged was on the exceptionally high end of the spectrum. No way does an athletic department at a public school -- which has to account for every penny spent - "accidentally" pay a premium price for crap.
Call me overly skeptical but somehow the claim that Oregon's coaches thought they were getting off easy rings hollow.
Or maybe it's the fact that Oregon's recently released "Proposed Findings of Violations" was dated Dec. 16, 2011, a full month and half before signing day. In this document, Oregon admits an improper relationship with the aforementioned scouting agency, that too many coaches were on the road recruiting, and that "The athletics department failed to adequately monitor the football program's use of recruiting or scouting services."
This document is heavily redacted and remember: It's what Oregon's admitting to up front. This is their position of strength. And it was drafted in mid-December.
Now, I don't pretend to know much about contract law in the state of Oregon. For all I know it's perfectly permissible to get someone to sign a contract under false pretenses. And make no mistake, a letter of intent is a contract.
But I know that if Seantrel Henderson was given a second chance to pick a school knowing all the facts ahead of time, then Oregon's recruits deserve that same opportunity.
Oregon's coaches sat there on couches and in living rooms lying to recruits and their families about the seriousness of the NCAA's investigations. And that's far worse than overpaying for some bad information and grainy, outdated videos ever could've been.