Oregon Case Lesson: Cooperate

The NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) released it’s report and findings yesterday in the matter of the University of Oregon.  The case had gone on for over two years, but ended with a relative whimper.  John Infante at the Bylaw Blog provided his take here, which provides valuable context around why the penalties for the Ducks were so light.  However, something perhaps as important as the items he mentions is Oregon’s level of cooperation throughout the investigation, summary disposition and hearing process.

Let’s start with the fact that former head coach Chip Kelly (as well as assistant director of operations Josh Gibson) appeared before the committee when they had no obligation to do so.  I’ve written before about the NCAA’s lack of subpoena power and how difficult that can make it on investigators to get to the truth and develop their case.  Having the two men at the center of the issue appear and cooperate voluntarily certainly creates a more positive environment for the NCAA Enforcement and COI personnel to do their job.

Greg Sankey, SEC Associate Commissioner and COI member, noted Oregon’s cooperation in the teleconference he conducted with the media early Wednesday.  Ducks’ Athletic Director Rob Mullens, said,

“We pledged our whole cooperation from the beginning, and we’ve worked tirelessly to get to the facts.”

It appears that is in fact the case.  Mullens also said Oregon will not appeal the ruling.  This makes sense in conjunction with Mr. Sankey’s comments that most of the penalties levied by the COI were agreed to by Oregon, Enforcement and the COI earlier in the process.  The sides were apparently very close to coming to a “summary disposition” of the case, which is similar to a settlement or plea bargain that doesn’t require the sides to go all the way to a hearing (i.e. trial).

Are you seeing the blueprint here?  Cooperate.  Show up.  Get the facts.  Try to settle.  Don’t appeal.  All prudent steps which in this case led to Oregon getting a fair or perhaps forgiving ruling.

Schools have often gone the opposite way in their response to NCAA investigations.  Whether it be not providing anyone for the NCAA to talk to or falsely denying all wrongdoing whatsoever, schools who fail to cooperate tend to get the harsher end of the stick.  Now make no mistake, simply cooperating isn’t going to get you off for obvious major infractions.  But when  the violations can reasonably be seen in a modest light, cooperation can make all the difference.


photo credit: Wolfram Burner via photopin cc

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