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Chip Kelly is latest successful coach to skate free of NCAA harm

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports

Congratulations, Chip Kelly. You’re Pete Carroll without the national titles.

You both took over an elite program in the Pac-12 – Carroll at USC, Kelly at Oregon – and made it an even better program. Conference championships and BCS bowl bids proliferated.

You both placed your personal stamp on the place: Carroll with the combination of enthusiasm, cool and charisma; Kelly with the rapid-fire offense. Recruits flocked.

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Chip Kelly, at a minicamp practice with LeSean McCoy, has plenty to be happy about in his gig with the Eagles.(AP …

You both had your own catchy little slogan: “Win Forever” for Carroll; “Win The Day” for Kelly. Fans and media acted like you reinvented the wheel with such cleverness.

Then the NCAA came to Camelot, and things got messy. Lo and behold, you both hit the eject button and landed on a pile of cash in the NFL: Carroll in Seattle; Kelly in Philadelphia.

The difference there is that Carroll was fleeing a mushroom cloud of massive sanctions, while Kelly was evacuating ahead of a small brushfire. Oregon got off light Wednesday. Very light.

But here is the bottom line: When the NCAA got around to doling out penalties, it was the school that took the lumps while you made a clean getaway.

Oh, sure, the NCAA Committee on Infractions hit Kelly with an 18-month show-cause penalty for failing to monitor his Oregon football program. That basically translates to not keeping up with rules regarding what “recruiting service provider” Will Lyles was supposed to be providing, though to me it appears Kelly & Co. paid Lyles $25,000 to deliver running backs LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk, then tried to cover it up. But maybe I’m just being cynical.

[Related: Did Oregon's relationship with Will Lyles really break rules?

Regardless, the 18-month show-cause is a hollow penalty. It’s meaningful only if the Kelly-Eagles relationship is so bad that it lasts less than two seasons. (The show-cause expires on Christmas Day 2014, which should be prior to the end of the Eagles’ regular season that year. That’s one more present under the tree for Chip that day.)

When it was suggested by USA Today’s George Schroeder on the NCAA teleconference Wednesday that the show-cause order was “toothless,” Committee on Infractions rep Greg Sankey drolly responded, “I’m not going to go through a dental exam.” The Southeastern Conference associate commissioner rebutted, “I’ve not met a person seeking to have a show-cause order applied to them.”

That’s undoubtedly true – nobody wants a stain on his or her personal record. But this stain can be removed without even scrubbing it.

All Kelly needs to do is Win The Day and Cash The Checks in the NFL for a couple of seasons. If he wants to get back into college in 2015, the NCAA sure isn’t stopping him.

Even without this NCAA investigation nagging at Oregon for two years, Kelly may have been ticketed for the pros. It might not have been a case of simply beating the posse out of town. But the timing of Kelly’s exit certainly was convenient.

I asked Sankey if the Committee on Infractions felt at all powerless when it comes to sanctioning cheating coaches who have left college athletics for the safety zone of the pros.

“I think that’s a fair observation,” he said.

Here’s another observation: it’s just one more way the deck is stacked in favor of a successful head coach.

An unsuccessful head coach is a dead man walking – we know that. It can be a tough way to make a living if you aren’t winning big. But a successful head coach has the game rigged in his favor.

You’re paid like a tycoon and worshipped like a religious leader. Schools will throw contract extensions and raises and bonuses at you every time you wink at another job. If you get beyond the winking stage and want to take another job, your contract is as breakable as Rob Gronkowski’s body. You can walk out carefree on all the players you swore you’d never leave when you recruited them.

And if the NCAA threatens your fiefdom, hey, there are other options. If you’re glib, they’ll put you on TV (Bruce Pearl). Or you can simply go pro (Kelly, Carroll, Kelvin Sampson, and so forth).

Contrast that freedom of movement with the restrictions on college athletes, who are inhibited by National Letters of Intent and transfer rules.

There was a story last week on the website Roopstigo in which college basketball coaches lamented the “poaching” of mid-major players by high-major programs. Part of the dismay pertained to the increasing number of athletes who graduated with eligibility remaining, and were transferring to play somewhere else immediately as opposed to sitting out a year.

That, friends, is breathtaking hypocrisy.

We can’t let these kids with degrees just go off and DO WHAT THEY WANT TO DO! Unless, of course, what they want to do is play for me. In the meantime, my agent has got to get me out of this job.

Chip Kelly got out of his Oregon job at precisely the right time to avoid NCAA penalties that might have kept him from coaching a powerful Ducks team in 2013. His great escape from the NCAA goes down as another victory for the successful head coach.

Even while being sanctioned, Chip Wins The Day. Kindred coach Pete Carroll, off Winning Forever in the NFL, can relate.

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