Not So Fast Chip; You May Owe Us

We're all familiar with Chip Kelly's record while at Oregon, his three consecutive conference titles, and the heightened level to which he raised the bar for a good program stuck in an idle position, but due to what may or may not be shortly down the road; he may still be indebted to the very program indebted to him.

Oregon's NCAA issues haven't gone away. Nobody really knows what's going to happen and anyone who says they do is simply seeking attention. When Charles Robinson says he doesn't know, Bruce Feldman says he doesn't know, and beat reporters who spend their waking hours researching and investigating these specific issues have their hands in the air…no one really knows. Last week's news citing the two parties' (The NCAA and the University of Oregon) unwillingness to go the Summary Disposition route, only delayed the inevitable regarding apparent wrong-doing on the part of a program under Coach Kelly's watch. It seems fairly obvious that Oregon may have broken some rules, but which ones, how many and to what extent remains to be seen.

While some are viewing this delay as a negative development regarding any potential outcome, most understand and have stated that due to the complexities of the Oregon case coupled with the precedent the NCAA is looking to set regarding "third parties," a hearing was essentially inevitable so as to clearly state parameters for future cases involving recruiting services, 7-On-7 camps, and mentors of prospective student athletes. However, because there will be a hearing, Chip Kelly and his coaching staff will likely have to give testimony and missteps regarding the rules will almost certainly come to light, the coach responsible for Oregon's leap in relevancy will be left having to own his role in the virtually assured discipline which will ensue -- which is why I think he owes it to the school, the athletic department, and the players he put in this position to steer them through the mine field he himself knowingly laid.

Oregon's case is different. The Ducks are not (by most reputable accounts) going to be forced to terminate Chip, nor does what they've allegedly done (by most reputable accounts) suggest scandalous acts detrimental to the reputation of the university as a whole (i.e. paying players, cheating in the classroom, etc.), but – if true - it was wrong and if Chip Kelly is responsible – as he seems to be – he should reap what he sowed. However, should he be forced to put his career on hold (i.e. refuse an NFL position) for merely pushing the envelope in the interests of success? I'm not suggesting he should be forced to do anything, just suggesting that in the interests of the same ethics he preaches to his players, it would go a long way if he chose to suffer through the same penalties they'll be forced to suffer through.

After-all, there's something dirty about making a ***t sandwich, only to watch someone else have to eat it.

I've said from the beginning of this nearly two years ago, that what I believe occurred in the Willie Lyles case was an attempt by the football program to circumnavigate the rules through a loophole in the system. I also believe in some way, shape, or form it was common practice by virtually every relatively competitive program in the FBS. None of that makes it right, but all of it makes it survival in a game designed to be played that way. Life is looking for advantages, some have them built-in (i.e. locale's in fertile recruiting areas like Florida, Texas or California) and others have to create them by outside-the-box thinking. Oregon did that, and now how they did it has come into question.

Don't get me wrong: I believe Chip Kelly is and has been a great coach for Oregon; and as an outsider appreciates all that he's done for the program. Remarkably – and sadly - , he's made Mike Bellotti an afterthought due to a level of success few in the game can boast. What he's done and has sustained over his relatively short run at Oregon is but a pipedream for the majority of FBS programs, and he's made it look easy in the process. Sure, he's a bit rigid off the field and for those whose job it is to cover him can be an industrial-sized thorn in their side, but everyone has to march to the beat of their own drummer and Chip will always be more Belichick than Carroll. And Pete Carroll left when the going got tough and has taken a share of heat for doing just that. Chip? He can do better, or at least has the chance to. He doesn't have to skip town. He doesn't have to leave the young men he recruited and coached behind. And he doesn't have to put his successor behind an eight-ball of his doing. He can see it through, and salvage his legacy in the process.

If Coach Kelly leaves for the NFL, the college game will remember his record, his offense, and many of his coaching techniques that have made even the best coaches question how they do it. But they'll also remember Willie Lyles, a $25,000 check, and whatever punishment the NCAA has in-store for the school and players he'll be leaving behind. I wouldn't want to be remembered that way, I have to think Chip wouldn't either, but if he does…maybe you'd rather see him walk away, rather than pay the debt he's likely accrued.

Chip Kelly is a great coach, such is indisputable, but is he a great man…we'll know soon enough.

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