One reason that Chip Kelly is such a perfect fit at Oregon is his constant innovation. He's been called a genius, due to his ability to stay one step ahead of other coaches. He is continually lauded as one of the top minds in the country. His attitude is perfect for Oregon, which has been pushing the envelope in college football for the last 15 years.
But for every innovation that Oregon has made, there will be pushback. Oregon's uniforms may be loved by some, but they are hated by many. Oregon has used the boatloads of cash it has received from Phil Knight to create facilities that are among the best in the country, leaving others in the Pac-12 struggling to catch up.
And now, Oregon has visibly pushed the envelope in recruiting, working with a man that few in the current NCAA power structure will defend. At the very least, the interactions seem shady, pushing to the very brink of NCAA violations. But Oregon, under legal council from a man who would not hesititate to self-impose sanctions, has continued to proclaim its innocence.
There are many conversations that could be had about the validity and the future of scouting services and recruiting in general. I won't get into that today, but I do want to discuss how far we as fans want the Ducks to push the boundaries.
To many fans, there will be an obvious difference between making prospective student athletes their own comic books, and working with a man like Lyles. While making comic books is now against NCAA rules, it just feels different. Though Oregon's innovation in that area caused a change in NCAA rules, I think there are few Ducks fans that at this point would say that Oregon should never have created the books. By the same token, Oregon used to bring in recruits on private jets, until that was outlawed as well.
So where do we draw the line? In my opinion, we draw it at NCAA violations. I have many problems with the NCAA rules, and there is no doubt that they need to be changed across the board, but they are the rules to which all Universities are (or should be) held accountable.
Success in sports is about finding weaknesses and exploiting those weakness. As a coach, you must do this both on the field and off of it. Oregon has been successful because they have used their resources to fill a niche that was not present in college football. In a game that dominated by tradition, Oregon turned that on its head, and used its vast resources to fulfill this vision.
We want our coaches to innovate, and it seems to me that this situation with Will Lyles is direct byproduct of that. While I'm still confident that Oregon will come through this unscathed, we can't discount the possibility that Oregon could get sanctioned due to their actions. If Oregon did break NCAA rules, they should be punished accordingly. And let's be clear, when you're cheating, you're not being bold or innovative.
Only time will tell what happens with the current situation with Will Lyles. If the Ducks come through unscathed (which seems likely), it will be hard to fault them for the relationship. Pushing the envelope is the Oregon way, and I wouldn't want it any other way.