Kelly the scoundrel? Or Kelly the straight shooter?
If you read the CBSSports.com piece on Friday, and you were from say, Georgia or South Carolina, and had little knowledge of Oregon football and its culture, you no doubt shook your head and wondered what the heck is going on under the tall Douglas firs.
Later, sitting on a bar-stool swivel with your beer-drinking buddies, you probably let ‘er rip. “Why up at that Or-e-gone, they got a coach who’s flat out buying players. That shoe company is backin’ him all the way. And the college outfit that puts the schedules together, that N-C-A-A, is in on the deal, too.”
Indeed, the piece by CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel had these choice blows:
— “… What happened at Oregon doesn’t look like a misunderstanding or an honest mistake. What happened at Oregon looks like blatant cheating.”
— “If you ask me, the USC sanctions should be the starting point for Oregon. The minimum. … At USC, the checks were written by outsiders: agents, runners, marketing reps. At Oregon, the check was written by the Oregon football team.”
— “This wasn’t some mysterious off-campus figure exerting influence. This was Chip Kelly making sure $25,000 went to the guy in Houston who says he helped steer recruits to Oregon.”
— “Why would Nike matter here? It shouldn’t, and I hope it doesn’t. But I can’t ignore the fact that Nike has multimillion-dollar deals with scores of Division I schools, making it one of the NCAA’s biggest revenue streams. … What would an unhappy Phil Knight mean to scores of NCAA athletic departments relying on his money to stay solvent? I don’t know, and I hope it doesn’t matter to the NCAA. But you have to wonder about the whole thing. How could you not?”
Now, juxtapose that with this recent news from Eugene:
— One of Kelly’s recent ‘grads,’ former Duck linebacker Dewitt Stuckey, has set up his own nonprofit foundation and auctioned off his Rose Bowl jersey and two other game jerseys all in an effort to fund a college scholarship for needy prep athletes.
— Oregon players visited a Eugene elementary school to talk about anti-bullying as part of the team’s “O Heroes” program.
— Without fanfare, Kelly slipped former NBA player Chris Herren into town to talk to the school’s athletes about his drug addition and the sad path it led him down.
Or compare the image of Kelly in Doyel’s piece with these older “nuggets” from Eugene: Kelly attending the funerals of soldiers, embracing the wife of a slain police officer, giving LeGarrette Blount the second chance he deserved.
As for the NCAA investigation, these stories from those who regularly cover the Ducks — a report by The Oregonian and a Eugene Register-Guard column — both leave the impression the Ducks are many moons removed from SEC-like duplicity.
Yes, good deeds by student-athletes and coaches go on elsewhere. So does balanced reporting. So does advocacy journalism.
But since the Will Lyles story first broke a year ago, there has been a disconnect between the national media narrative and that of the regional media, including the likes of ESPN’s Pac-12 reporter Ted Miller.
Who’s to be believed? Which view more accurately reflects the truth about Chip Kelly the person and coach? And the Oregon program as a whole?
Is Kelly a villain, a scoundrel, the author of an SMU-like chapter in Duck football history? Or is he is a wise-cracking, hard-working, straight-shooting ball coach with a humanitarian streak?
Could he be both?
My experience, after a 25-year newspaper career, including stints as an editor and investigative reporter, is the more local you get, the more the truth emerges. Professional journalists living in the community or region in which they report develop more sources, retain more institutional knowledge, get to stare in the eyes of those they interview, get to watch their body language, hear all the rumors.
They aren’t inclined to write good-deed stories about someone who they know is a bad apple.
Contrast that with a columnist thousands of miles away who knows he is not likely to run into the people he writes about. At least not anytime soon.
In following the nuances of human behavior, it’s also my experience the deceptive personality doesn’t change. Which flies in the face of the story line pushed by some: That Kelly went from being a good person to a low-life con artist and then back to a good person.
We’ll see how the NCAA investigation plays out. We have yet to hear Oregon’s side of the story. Maybe there is a “smoking gun” that has yet to be photographed in Kelly’s right hand. Maybe the parts redacted in the UO’s recent release of the NCAA’s “Proposed Findings of Violations” will reveal that more than sloppy mistakes led to rule-breaking.
But at this point, I’m reminded of what transpires in a court of law. The judge and jury weigh the evidence and listen to testimony. They also weigh the credibility of those who come before them, their past deeds and history of truthfulness.
It’ll be interesting to discern what NCAA investigators made of Kelly’s talks with them.
It’ll be interesting to siphon out who they believed.
With that, I rest my case.
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OK, here are the week’s best stories and blogs (I’m the judge here) on Oregon Duck football:
Oregon fans can be found at other colleges … and in the most unlikely places.
A surprise from the NFL combine where former Duck cornerback Cliff Harris didn’t exactly post a fast 40 time. Odd, given how quick and fast he appeared returning punts during his brief career at Oregon.
Here’s a big picture view of the importance of quarterback battles at Oregon and Stanford.
Oregon quarterback legend Bob Berry is on the upcoming College Football Hall of Fame ballot.