Due to the hectic nature of the previous weeks involving conference realignment, the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm wanted to ensure interested persons knew of an important development in the NCAA enforcement investigation of the University of Oregon. Specifically, Oregon announced in a news release on September 17, 2011, that it had received a notice of inquiry from the NCAA. The notice of inquiry came in the form of a telephone call from the NCAA enforcement staff to Oregon president Richard Lariviere during the week of September 12, 2011.
A notice of inquiry is described by NCAA Bylaw 32.5.1 as the following:
If the enforcement staff has developed reasonably reliable information indicating that an institution has been in violation of NCAA legislation that requires further investigation, the enforcement staff shall provide a notice of inquiry in writing to the chancellor or president unless the institution and enforcement staff have agreed to pursue the summary disposition process as set forth in Bylaw 32.7. The notice of inquiry shall advise the chancellor or president that the enforcement staff will engage in an investigation, that the investigation will be conducted under the direction of the vice president for enforcement services and that members of the enforcement staff if requested, shall meet in person with the chancellor or president to discuss the nature and details of the investigation, and the type of charges that appear to be involved. The notice of inquiry shall state that if the investigation develops significant information of a possible major violation, a notice of allegations will be produced in accordance with the provisions of Bylaw 32.6, or, in the alternative, the institution will be notified that the matter has been concluded. To the extent possible, the notice of inquiry also shall contain the following information: (Adopted: 4/24/03, Revised: 3/8/06, 4/17/07)
(a) The involved sport;
(b) The approximate time period during which the alleged violations occurred;
(c) The identity of involved individuals;
(d) An approximate time frame for the investigation;
(e) A statement indicating that the institution and involved individuals may be represented by legal counsel at all stages of the proceedings;
(f) A statement requesting that the individuals associated with the institution not discuss the case prior to interviews by the enforcement staff and institution except for reasonable campus communications not intended to impede the investigation of the allegations and except for consultation with legal counsel;
(g) A statement indicating that other facts may be developed during the course of the investigation that may relate to additional violations; and
(h) A statement regarding the obligation of the institution to cooperate in the case.
According to The Oregonian’s September 17, 2011, article, Oregon’s athletic director Rob Mullens stated in the media release “This notice has been anticipated and is simply the next stage of the process. The University of Oregon football program, from Head Coach Chip Kelly through the entire organization, has tremendous respect for the NCAA’s important role in monitoring collegiate athletics and, to this end, continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA ‘s ongoing examination. The Athletic Department, Coach Kelly and the entire staff remain committed to operating the athletics program consistent with the highest standards and ensuring our program follows best practices.”
The NCAA is investigating alleged rules-violations involving Willie Lyles, the owner of a scouting service that alledgedly was paid $25,000 by Oregon. Lyles informed Yahoo! Sports that the institution requested him to provide “retroactive players profiles to justify the payment”. The NCAA is determining whether Oregon paid Lyles shortly after the signing of Texas prospect Lache Seastrunk (a Lyles mentee). Lyles told Yahoo! that Oregon head coach “Chip Kelly ‘scrambled’ and eventually asked Lyles to ‘find out what the best paying services is’ and send the school a bill for that amount”. Lyles contends Kelly personally approved the $25,000 fee for Lyles’ services”.