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July 12, 2011Oregon can't talk about it, but Duck Sports Authority did. DSA's A.J. Jacobson joined Rivals Radio's Chris Childers in front of a national audience to discuss the status of the NCAA probe into Willie Lyles and his recruiting services.
Chris Childers - Rivals Radio: You and I first met in January at the BCS title game. It's amazing what a difference a few months can make. At the time you and I were talking on the sidelines in Arizona before the game, it was Auburn who was the one dealing with all the NCAA shenanigans and they had all the questions. Now, I guess the shoe has switched to the other foot and now Oregon dealing with some possible NCAA issues right now. I want to get your thoughts on what came out a little over a week ago now with the whole Yahoo! story. Willie Lyles speaks to them for several days, talks about his relationship with recruits and the Oregon Ducks. Give me your reaction to what you read.
A.J. Jacobson - Duck Sports Authority: First of all Chris I would much rather be talking to you about what we discussing on the sidelines in Arizona, but I'll still address the question. Congratulations to Yahoo! on some excellent investigative journalism. But you know, I don't think a lot new came out of that except for maybe some ponderings by Willie Lyles at that point. I don't think there was anything new and relevant to the facts of the story they had broken a couple months earlier. I think he was just musing 'well maybe they were using me for this?' That was the only thing kind of new and relevant that I saw. Other than that I didn't really see any new facts come out of what he was saying in this most recent round that came out this last week.
Rivals - I know Oregon, the school itself, the administration, still maintains no wrongdoing. Where is the fan base right now on the situation? Do they believe what Willie Lyles is saying right now?
DSA - I think it depends on which thing you're talking about that he's saying. I think Duck fans by-and-large have settled upon at this point is that there may have been something around the edges, in the gray areas that would result in perhaps minor-type infractions by the NCAA. I don't think anybody is especially concerned other than some of our local media that it's a huge, bombshell, major deal. I think Oregon honestly feels, and they're not just saying for public consumption, that what they did was OK'd by the Compliance Office. They felt what they were doing was OK in terms of their relationship with Lyles. They are sticking to that. I think maybe they'll find out that perhaps there are some issues revolving around the written materials he submitted. I don't know but there could be an issue with the quality or quantity of what he was giving them because there is something mandated by the NCAA how often the paperwork needs to come in from these types of recruiting services. So I'm not sure if it's a huge violation even if he didn't give them all the paperwork that he was supposed to. That's something in my mind and in Duck fans minds that something may result from that.
Rivals - Let me ask you this because we do actually have a football game to be played, the first of the year in a little over a month and a half so it's right around the corner. Huge game at Cowboy Stadium, LSU and Oregon, it's the premier game of the opening weekend of the season. Fall camp is starting in just a couple weeks. So there is some football we've got to play here soon. How much of a distraction has all this NCAA stuff been for the Oregon football team and poor Coach Chip Kelly right now do you think?
DSA - I don't think it has been as much a distraction for the team as it has been for everybody around the team. I think there are a lot of people busy around the Compliance Office and all those things but in terms of Chip Kelly, this is the time when coaches normally get some time off prior to fall camp. If coaches ever get time off which they really truly don't, this is the time when they're not scheduled to be in the office all the time. So Chip's basic approach to this, and I suspect it's a direct result of advice from the attorneys, is he's not talking to anybody including the press on this subject matter. Neither are any of the other coaches or players. So there is not a lot of information coming out on the Oregon side. I think they have been told to shut their mouths and let the NCAA do what they need to do to investigate this and move forward. You watch the Duck players on Twitter and whatnot and basically what they are saying is that they are surprised by the reaction and that they just want to focus on football. The little information we're seeing come out of the Oregon camp, that's what it is.
Rivals - I've asked a lot of national writers and pundits if they think Chip Kelly and his job status are in danger. A lot of people think that it is if in fact everything Willie Lyles is saying is true. They think that Chip Kelly would not survive this NCAA scandal going on. It seems to me like you're not in that camp. Are you pretty confident that Chip Kelly is going to keep his job going forward?
DSA - I would be very surprised if Chip Kelly did not keep his job. That would be very, very surprising to me. Frankly, if anything like that ever were to happen, it would not be the NCAA saying 'hey Chip Kelly, you need to step down'. It would be internal pressures or whatever within the University. But let me tell you, if that happens, it would be a little on the short-sighted side. Anybody that has Chip Kelly as their head coach is going to be a winning football program in my opinion. He's a very dynamic leader who gets his assistants and players to buy off on his system, and he's got unique thought processes that seem to be paying off at this next level here in the top levels of NCAA competition. So if he does get laid off by the University of Oregon or whatever, he will emerge in a couple years somewhere and make a very strong football program. So in my opinion, I would hate and be shocked if Chip Kelly left as a result of this because from what we're hearing, we're not so sure there are any major infractions involved here.
Rivals - Oregon is ranked very high in the preseason polls. I get it. Darron Thomas is back at quarterback, (LaMichael) James, Kenjon Barner, good skill players. I know that Maehl is gone but still guys that can make plays. I think people are excited what they have from a skill standpoint, but I guess I'm in the camp that I'm not sold on the Oregon team right now. The reason being is that they are replacing some key guys up front offensively, the front seven defensively is being rebuilt. I look at some of the spots that are a little bit green this year and I have concerns about it. I'm not too sold but you're around the program day-in and day-out, I want you to sell me on this Oregon team if you in fact believe that this team is a national title contender, and a Pac-12 championship contender.
DSA - Well I don't think they've proven anything yet, Chris. I think you're right to be a doubter because I'm a doubter until they prove something on the field frankly, and a lot of it is for the reasons you said. The defensive line and offensive line both underwent some graduation; three on the offensive line, two on the defensive line. That's half of the defensive line and three-fifths of the offense. I will say this. Generally offensive and defensive lines, because they are big units, replace a lot of guys every year. It's usually juniors and seniors starting for the most part on those units. So they do replace guys fairly often therefore there is often a lot of doubt surrounding those spots for every fan base. Yes indeed, going into this 2011 season that is an area of concern. I'm one of those line/trench type of guys that think to have a real strong national championship-caliber football team you need to get it done up front on both sides of the ball. Because those are the question marks, I think the Ducks need to prove something up front before anybody needs to crown them anything. I see, yes, they are in the polls, they are very high, but I want to see a couple games under their belts before anybody is handing them any roses or national championship crowns. It's going to start up front, like it does for every program.
You can follow A.J. on Twitter: @AJ_Jacobson