Oregon Athletic Director and Football Coach Respond to Media Inquiries Regarding Recruiting Allegations
Feb. 7, 2003
EUGENE - University of Oregon Director of Athletics Bill Moos and head football coach Mike Bellotti addressed the news media for 30 minutes Friday in the Casanova Athletic Center in response to published accounts by various newspapers in Stockton, Calif., and the state of Oregon as it relates to recruiting accounts conducted by the Ducks' football program.
Because of NCAA regulations and student privacy acts which prevent university officials from commenting on specific instances involving prospective recruits signed at other institutions, only questions involving general policy and procedures could be addressed. The following transcript was the result of the question and answer period.
The following statement was distributed to those in attendance and referred to on occasion as 'the statement.'
In the recruiting process or in general practice, we as a football staff at the University of Oregon do not encourage, condone, or tolerate underage drinking, driving under the influence, or substance abuse of any kind. We work very hard to educate our athletes and students who act as hosts as to what is right and wrong. We make it understood and implicit that the recruits wishes are paramount while working within department and University guidelines. Our athletes understand that as a nationally-ranked, they are in the spotlight in everything they do.
More than 80 percent of an official visit consists of structured meeting time spent talking with coaches, players, instructors and support personnel, as well as viewing films, facilities, campus and dorms. Recruits are allowed to spend free time with student hosts in the afternoons or evenings which may include movies, bowling, video games, parties, or just hanging out. We hope they will interact with the team and regular students to see if they can fit in and feel comfortable. These opportunities are designed to acquaint the recruit with activities of college life in the city of Eugene.
And the end of every recruiting visit, we always conduct an exit interview with all prospects. Each recruit is asked what he liked or did not like about his trip. He is asked if there was anything that would prevent him from coming to the University of Oregon. In general, answers will reflect concerns over weather, distance from home, or the size of the town. These are the typical responses of any teenager. At no time has a recruit ever mentioned concerns regarding alcohol or drugs. If they did, we would immediately investigate and address any impropriety.
By law, the state of Oregon does not allow random drug testing. However, if there are credible allegations of drug use or instances of inconsistent behavior, we may use probable cause to test. All information regarding those results are restricted by the same privacy act that protects student records.
Our procedure in dealing with student-athletes who break team rules are simple:
1st Offense: Probation - internal evaluation, interview and supervision.
2nd Offense: Structured Probation/Suspension - professional intervention and evaluation and/or out-patient treatment.
3rd Offense: Dismissal/cessation of scholarship.
We are concerned first and foremost with our character as well as our reputation. This program has been built on honesty, hard work, guts, ingenuity, and integrity. We do not, and will not, take short cuts or make excuses. We also realize that there is a higher degree of accountability for those in the program and we accept that. At the University of Oregon, we sell the opportunity to get a world-class education, compete at a national level in the sport of football, and live in one of the friendliest, most nurturing communities in the world.
We are always concerned about the health, education and welfare of the students in the program. We are capable of and committed to making the student-athletes' experience at the University of Oregon the best time of his life.
Director of Athletics Bill Moos
'Oregon football has and continues to operate in great faith. I'm proud of a program that under Mike Bellotti has not had a major (NCAA) violation, graduates its players at the highest rate in the Pac-10 and has averaged nine wins over the past five years. Some of what has recently been said in the media is wrong and inaccurate but unfortunately we cannot discuss specifics because of NCAA rules and (student) privacy issues. With that, if you would like to discuss in general terms our recruiting policies and procedures, then we are open to questions.'
Oregon Football Coach Mike Bellotti
'The problem with any situation is that there are Family Educational Rights Act Issues that I cannot disclose some things that we do. Also I cannot talk about the recruitment of a specific individual even though these allegations and questions fly and come at me, I really cannot do anything other than say that we run our program in a first-class manner with tremendous institutional control of which I feel very comfortable and confident that operate within the rule and guidelines, both of the department and the NCAA.
'Any problems that ever occur in any situation with a recruit or a player on team, I would call personally and talk with the parent, the athletes themself and any people involved. And I would visit them personally and make sure that they were over it or we would not recruit that athlete. So its unfortunate in any situation whether there were differences that occur.
'In general about recruits we have them fill out a profile before they come in and I have a profile from my coaches on every recruit based on their interests, their hot buttons, their religious preferences, etc. We match recruits with a person at their position or somebody if they specifically request we would honor that request. But its generally trying to find somebody from a similar geographical area who plays the same position.
'Our general process in recruiting is for once a young man has visited here, I do make a home visit and make sure that everything is good and hopefully we are continuing the recruiting process in a positive manner. I, as the head coach, go into homes of people we are actively recruiting and believe truly want to come to the University of Oregon. In any case, I would not go into a home if I believed we had no chance to recruit that young man.
'I'm the one that conducts the exit interview, I talk one-on-one with the athlete and or their parents if they visit. I ask them specifically the questions you see on the statement - how they liked Oregon, what they liked about the university, what they may not have liked and if there was anything that would stop them from coming here. Often times those answers are dealing about questions with the weather or the size of the town or the depth chart or something like that. But never in the eight years I've been the head coach has anybody suggested to me that there was a problem with drugs or alcohol and that they would not come here or that they were concerned about that.
'Once kids (enroll) into the University of Oregon, we ask them what they liked about their recruiting visit and what they didn't like about it so we can try to find out what works and what doesn't. We also ask them what they liked about other schools or did not like.'
Question - Had you done an internal investigation prior to this reference?
'Yes. Unfortunately, I can't talk about any of the results of that investigation.'
Q - When did the internal investigation take place?
'Anytime I'm appraised of any potential problem, I don't sit on it, we don't put our head in the sand, we immediately find out and interview anybody involved, including athletes, including the people acting as hosts (teamwork) for the weekend. We don't take any allegations or improprieties lightly. Any investigation we've done in a timely manner - not after the fact.'
Q - Why were the three steps of discipline put into the release?
'That's to prove that there is a program and policy in place that we utilize whenever it becomes necessary. It has been the same policy I've had the entire course of my career here. It has worked very well for all types of problems - whether it be something that may come up in recruiting, something that may come up involved with school, the university, team rules and policies.'
Q - Would you make any changes in any subsequent visits?
'No because we have a protocol and a plan in place for any official visits that includes the education of the people involved, the rules are read to them in terms of what they can and cannot do as hosts. The reality is that a visiting recruit to the University of Oregon spends 80 percent of their time in meetings with coaches, players, instructors, administrators and support people from the university looking at every facet and aspect of our program. There's limited free time with hosts that as we talked about can vary from anything to bowling, or the movies, or playing video games to going to parties or just hanging out with kids in the dorms or the places that they live. You cannot structure the entire trip, it's against NCAA rules first of all and its sort of ridiculous. We feel like the free time gives recruits the chance to learn if they really like the place - if they fit in with the people and the culture of the University of Oregon and the city of Eugene.'
'There have been drastic inaccuracies in every article and it is interesting to me that there are five schools that are mentioned and supposedly every thing occurred the same at every school, and yet the article only specifically talks about our school. That's interesting.'
'We always monitor and educate our athletes and any (current) students acting as hosts to what the correct actions are - basically right from wrong. And as said in the statement within the guidelines of the NCAA and the department, we want the recruit to be the most important person - that their wishes in terms of what to do - if they want to go bowling, go bowling; if they want to go to the movies, go to the movies; if they want to try and find a party, they find a party. Show them what college life is about because you don't play college football 12 months a year. That has not changed. The way we recruit, the people we recruit, has not changed in the 15 years I've been here as a coach. Do we evaluate it every year - yes. Do we try and improve it every year - yes. Are we concerned anytime there's concern on the part of the parent - absolutely. We have addressed that, we will address that, we always continue to address that. I don't see any different things coming out of it.'
'Part of this is an evaluation procedure on both ways. The prospective student-athlete is evaluating our players, our campus our community, and we are evaluating that player to find out if that person is a good fit for the University of Oregon. The things we look at don't change - we look for commitment, we look for obviously athleticism and ability to succeed in the classroom. Also the ability to get along and be coached and hopefully enjoy their time at the University of Oregon. The recruits are looking for the same thing. To that end, we will continue to recruit in a similar manner, to make sure hopefully that if whatever incidents have occurred don't happen again.'
Q - Can you answer the specific question if Hamilton's visit was mishandled?
Q - Would you like to?
Q - Do you feel powerless in this situation because you can't answer certain questions and then you have other people dogging the program and even if you could discipline them, you can't?
'I think the people in this program right now are very committed to doing things the right way. We, as a staff and as a university, know that as a nationally-ranked team - as a program of prominence - that we're in a fish bowl, that we're in the spotlight. And our players know that and our coaches know that. I think we're aware of that higher accountability, higher responsibility.'
Q - Regarding accounts by (Stockton) The Record (As reported by The Oregonian)
'I said there were legal issues by which I could not answer some of their questions - very similar to what we're doing today - and again cited the NCAA regulations on the recruitment of athletes and the FERPA - the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act . I also suggested that the person talk to the general counsel for the university to back up the fact that I could not answer questions. Finally, after telling him that this interview is over three times, I hung up the phone. I said 'that's it, I cannot answer any more questions' he continued, I told him twice, and I finally hung up the phone. That was the third time he called.'
'The problem for me again are the same problems we have today - it probably would have been more on the NCAA radar had it happened prior to signing date.'
Q - Are you concerned that this, combined with the Rodney Woods case, how this is portraying Oregon and Oregon football in the national spotlight?
'The inference that we tried to change justice or tried to change his verdict is incorrect. We only sent a timeline in, asking because of his acceptance of a scholarship agreement to enroll in the spring, that there was a timeline involved with his hearings. That should be a totally separate issue. So it is unfortunate - the timing and the inference that they're related or that there is a problem.'
Q - How many times have you, as head coach, had a parent call back after the (recruiting visit) and said 'I heard what went on and my kid may not had a problem but I had a problem.'?
Q - Did that happen recently - within the last year?
'I can only tell you, it has only happened once.'