Byline: BOB CLARK The Register-Guard
Several University of Oregon football players exchanged complimentary tickets to Duck home games for rent breaks on their off-campus housing - a violation of NCAA rules.
It's not clear whether the university or the players will face sanctions or how it could affect this football season.
The scheme involved a half-dozen UO players over at least two seasons, UO Athletic Director Bill Moos confirmed this week in response to public records requests by The Register-Guard. The arrangement apparently was with only one local property management company, he said.
The university learned of the allegations in May, launched its own investigation and concluded that some players had participated in the practice, Moos said.
The UO forwarded its findings to the Pac-10 Conference, which is expected to investigate further before making a decision on possible penalties.
The breach puts a blemish on the football team's rise to national prominence, especially coming as the university adds the finishing touches to its 12,000-seat, $90 million expansion of Autzen Stadium.
The violation is an exception in a football program that takes pains to follow all NCAA regulations and makes sure players and coaches know the rules, Moos said.
`Our record is very good, and I hope that continues, but this serves as a lesson for us ... that when you're in the spotlight, there are more and more temptations out there, and we need to be cautious and not fall into any ruts," he said.
UO coach Mike Bellotti was not available for comment Friday.
NCAA rules prohibit players from receiving any financial gain from complimentary tickets, even selling them at face value - which ranged from $29 to $42 at Autzen last season. Any current players found to have violated the rules could face suspensions from competition, along with forfeiture of an amount equal to the monetary gain from the trade.
The program also could face sanctions if the school is found to be in some way negligent in monitoring or enforcing the rules.
The Pac-10 won't comment on pending investigations. The league's eventual findings and any recommendations will go to the NCAA.
A representative of the athletic department's compliance office interviewed both players and employees of the property management company. A Pac-10 investigator is likely to follow up on those interviews and possibly expand the list.
Moos said he hoped that Oregon's past record and immediate response would mitigate any punishment.
`We always play these things overly cautious," he said. "When we see a potential red flag pop up, we take a good, hard look at it.
`We're certainly not trying to cover anything up. There have been other instances where we have turned things over to the Pac-10 after we investigated, and they termed it not worthy of further consideration. This may not amount to anything either."
Two factors could determine how serious the violation proves to be: the number of players who participated in the tickets-for-rent arrangement and how long it lasted.
At least one current player was involved and "a handful, four or five" former players, Moos said. He declined to name them on the advice of the university's attorney. Federal privacy laws prevent schools from releasing most student information.
The UO investigation indicates that the arrangement continued `at least for two seasons,' Moos said. `It's more than just last year.'
The NCAA rules allow each football player on the team to receive four complimentary tickets for each game, intended for use by friends and family members.
The seats generally are in prime locations at Autzen. A ticket buyer normally would have to be a donor to the university to obtain similar seats. …