No ducking the NCAA
Recruits watch programs the NCAA is investigating before making any decisions
TIGARD, Ore. -- What should have been a chance for Oregon to showcase its backyard has turned into anything but.
Just 103 miles away, it didn't take long for prospects at The Opening to start discussing the Ducks' pending NCAA investigation for allegedly paying scouting services with close ties to prospects.
Some 2012 recruits have dropped the Ducks among their favorite schools. Some will wait and see. All said the news affected him.
Linebacker Brett Bafaro from Hillsboro (Ore.) Liberty said Oregon was his clear leader and he was ready to make a summer announcement. Now, that's on hold as other schools garner more interest.
"I don't know what's going on with them right now," the three-star prospect said. "So I'm just waiting for that to kind of clear up and see what happens. They were my No. 1 school until all this happened."
I do worry about it because I don't want to have to worry about not being able to compete for championships because that's why we do this. You go out and compete every day. You want to win a championship. You want to go to a bowl game.” -- Four-star LB Kaiwan Lewis
Now, Bafaro is considering Boise State and Colorado. The Buffs are in contention despite the fact they want him to play fullback instead of his preferred position of linebacker. All because the NCAA may soon close the door in Eugene.
Oregon currently has seven commitments as they wait to hear if it will receive a notice of allegations from the NCAA.
Four-star offensive lineman Zach Banner said he keeps up with the steady stream of news about the investigation but is trying not to draw any conclusions.
"If something happens, then something happens and we can talk about that at the moment. It's nothing that's affecting my recruiting," the Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes standout said. "I'm not going to shut them out because if they don't end up getting anything, then that would be a horrible situation" to have not considered them thoroughly.
Oregon isn't the only school warily waiting for the NCAA. Ohio State has its own scandal while Tennessee's entire athletic department has been scrutinized. The two schools have nine and three public commitments, respectively.
Four-star linebacker Kaiwan Lewis is considering Tennessee among many other schools. Lewis complimented the Vols on Tuesday for recruiting him as hard as any school, but said the off-field issues have had an impact.
"I do worry about it because I don't want to have to worry about not being able to compete for championships because that's why we do this," the Hammonton (N.J.) St. Joseph star said. "You go out and compete every day. You want to win a championship. You want to go to a bowl game."
Lewis said an upcoming visit with UT's coaches should shed light on the situation. While most believe UT's football program won't receive strict sanctions, it's the uncertainty of the situation surrounding the Vols -- and the Buckeyes and Ducks -- that affects recruiting.
Offensive lineman Joshua Garnett, who is No. 43 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 8 offensive tackle, can tell you all about what it's like to be considering a school that has NCAA questions. Negative recruiting from other coaches can build a perception that can slide too close to reality.
"I know a lot of people say things about schools that might not necessarily be true or say some things they overexaggerate," said Garnett, who is from Puyallap (Wash.) High School. "I think Oregon may be a case where I have to wait and see everything come out before I make my decision to scratch them off my list or not, because I really like Oregon as a school."
That may not help the Ducks, who might not have their issues resolved with the NCAA for months and possibly after national signing day in February.
"If I don't hear before singing day, I probably need to talk to the coaches one-on-one," Garnett said. "And definitely talk to some of the players to get more inside detail than most people will know."
If they're frank, those sources should help. So would one within the NCAA. Just don't expect an answer any time soon.
Dave Hooker covers recruiting in the Southeast and Atlantic Coast for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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