LOS ANGELES (AP) — Oregon coach Chip Kelly refuses to discuss the Ducks’ use of Texas-based recruiting service until the school and the NCAA finish an extensive review of the program’s dealings with the service’s owner.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens acknowledged the review Tuesday before Pac-12 media day, and Kelly provided little new information in his first comments to reporters about an association threatening to tarnish the Ducks’ run to the national championship game last season.
“I would love to talk about it, and when we have a chance after the report comes out, I will be able to clear up any questions that anyone has about the whole situation,” Kelly said.
In a statement sent out to Oregon supporters by email last Friday, Mullens said the Ducks have retained a law firm to assess the program’s payment of $25,000 to Willie Lyles, a Houston-based recruiting service owner, for an apparently outdated scouting report last year. Kelly said Oregon publicly will announce the results of its evaluation when it ends.
The NCAA is investigating whether Lyles steered star running back Lache Seastrunk to Oregon, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. Lyles has said his services went beyond the normal scope of a scouting service, acknowledging he “made a mistake.”
The Ducks rolled to their second straight Pac-10 title last season, going undefeated in the regular season before losing to Auburn in the BCS title game.
“As head coach of this football program, we’re held accountable for everything we do,” Kelly said. “I’d love to talk about it. There are a lot of answers I’d love to make sure we can get out there.”
The Ducks paid Lyles for information about players in the 2010 recruiting class, but Lyles’ scouting report mostly covered players who had already signed letters of intent in 2009 — largely useless information.
Oregon’s off-field troubles haven’t put off voters in the preseason media poll — particularly with Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James returning to lead the Ducks’ hyper-aggressive offense.
Oregon was picked to win the first Pac-12 title game in the poll announced Tuesday, getting 28 of 42 votes. Even with just 11 returning seniors, the Ducks are favored to win the North Division with 29 first-place votes.
Southern California is narrowly favored over Arizona State to win the South Division.
“I haven’t had to address it with the recruits right now,” Kelly said of the Ducks’ recruiting-service woes. “We’re coming off back-to-back Pac-10 championships as we move into a brand-new league with a brand-new television contract. It’s a bright future for us. We had a berth in the Rose Bowl (in the 2009 season). We had a berth in the national championship game, and I understand from the kids we’ve talked to, our recruiting is going very, very well.”
California coach Jeff Tedford is among many coaches who also used Lyles’ services — but unlike Kelly, Tedford said he got something useful for his money.
“I’m not concerned one bit,” Tedford said. “We deal with probably four to five recruiting services per year. I wouldn’t know Will Lyles if he was in this room right now. ... The reason we use those services is to make sure that we can be efficient with our time and our resources. I have no concern whatsoever about it. We have the videos, we have the prospect list, and so I have absolutely no concern about it.”