During an appearance on Portland radio today, former Oregon head football coach Mike Bellotti defended his hand-picked successor to take over the Ducks program.
(Kelly ex-boss, benefactor: ‘Chip said he’s done nothing wrong. I believe him’)
At a charity golf tournament in Bend, Oregon, Bellotti was asked by 750 The Game host Jay Allen about the current NCAA investigation into the Oregon football program’s recruiting practices. In response, the former Ducks coach said that he believed Kelly had done nothing wrong but that the UO program would eventually be hit by some manner of NCAA sanctions.
From the 750 The Game interview today:
Jay Allen: “You ran a very tight ship at Oregon and now the NCAA is taking a look at some things. Have you talked to Chip? What’s your take on what’s going on with that [NCAA investigation]?”
Mike Bellotti: “I have talked to Chip and I feel it’s more probably a bad business deal than a bad choice about how they do business. Chip feels that he’s done nothing wrong and I believe him in that regard. I don’t know what’s gone down with [Houston-based recruiting service operator] Will Lyles and all that.
“It’s a shame because it puts a black eye on everything. I think Oregon is still honestly a program that does it the right way.”
Jay Allen: “Do you think there will be any sort of sanctions? Do you have a read on that?“
Mike Bellotti: “I think there will be some type of sanctions, yes.”
Jay Allen: “Such as?”
Mike Bellotti: “I don’t know. It’s a new era. They’ll probably write a whole new page in the rulebook based on this.”
Kelly was tabbed “coach-in-waiting” by Oregon on Dec. 8, 2008, with then-Ducks coach Bellotti noting at the time that he was behind the move to eventually promote Kelly:
“Basically a lot of this was at my suggestion, because of Chip’s popularity and the job he’s done for us.
“I think we have a plan in play that addresses continuity in our program for both our staff and players, and the people we’re recruiting.”
Kelly took over the job just four months later - after Bellotti announced his resignation on March 13, 2009.
Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports reported on July 1, 2011, that the recruiting service operator at the center of the current NCAA investigation into the Oregon football program, Willie Lyles, first developed a relationship with then-Oregon assistant Kelly in 2007.
Lyles said he first met Kelly in 2007, when he worked as a Texas-area scout for Muscle Sports, (MSL) a New York-based service.
Soon Kelly and Lyles were speaking regularly, phone records show. Over the next few years, when Kelly came to Houston, Lyles said he would set up an itinerary for him to visit various high schools. He would even pick Kelly up at the Marriott hotel at Bush International Airport and drive him around.
In 2007 Lyles, while encouraged by then-UO assistant coach Kelly, “suggested” LaMichael James transfer from a Texas High School to an Arkansas high school. The move by James facilitated his signing with Oregon to play football for Bellotti’s program. From the July 1 Yahoo Sports report on the transfer:
In 2007, Lyles counseled the family of current Ducks’ star LaMichael James on how to avoid a Texas standardized test required for high school graduation. James had yet to pass the math portion, putting his college eligibility in jeopardy.
Lyles suggested James transfer for the final semester of his senior year to a high school in Arkansas where no standardized test is required. James did and later signed with Oregon. According to Lyles, Kelly, then the Ducks’ offensive coordinator, praised the transfer as a great idea.
The current NCAA investigation of the Oregon football program, which Bellotti referenced today, germinated from a $25,000 payment by Kelly to Lyles first reported by Robinson of Yahoo Sports on March 3, 2011.
Later it was learned from official Univ. of Oregon public records that Kelly cut a check to Lyles for $25,000 on March 30, 2010,
Kelly’s payment to Lyles came 11 days after Bellotti resigned as Oregon Athletic Director - after Bellotti was “asked to leave” by the school’s administration.