Chip Kelly likely won’t face any discipline of any kind for breaking NCAA recruiting rules at Oregon. The NCAA’s 18-month punishment is meaningless after Kelly signed a multi-year contract to coach the Eagles, and the NFL probably won’t wade into the matter, just as it didn’t wade into the matter when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was found to have violated recruiting rules at USC.
So far, the NFL hasn’t had anything to say about the news today that Kelly broke NCAA rules. Asked for a reaction to Kelly’s NCAA discipline, the league office told PFT only, “We are not familiar yet with the details and prefer not to comment.”
But the NFL has already set a bad precedent when it comes to discipline for violating NCAA rules, and it’s now fair to criticize the league if it doesn’t discipline Kelly for violating NCAA rules. That bad precedent was set when the NFL suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of his NFL career, a suspension that was the same as the suspension that he would have served if he had remained at Ohio State for his senior year. The NFL’s contention was that Pryor deserved punishment because he manipulated the league’s eligibility rules, but the reality is that the NFL allowed Pryor to enter the supplemental draft. Once the league ruled that he was eligible to play, suspending him for something he had done previously never made a lot of sense: Why is it the NFL’s place to enforce a suspension that the NCAA handed down?
At the time of the Pryor suspension, the NFL probably thought it was a unique situation that wouldn’t repeat itself. But it turned out that shortly after the league suspended Pryor, the Colts hired his old coach, Jim Tressel, to be their replay assistant. Tressel had been fired at Ohio State in connection with the same NCAA rules violations that got Pryor suspended, so the Colts’ decision to bring Tressel on board was heavily questioned — why is Tressel allowed to coach right away if Pryor isn’t allowed to play right away? After those questions surfaced, Tressel was quickly handed a six-game suspension of his own. The Tressel suspension was made by the Colts, although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that if the Colts hadn’t suspended Tressel, he would have.
Ultimately, the NFL set a bad precedent when it suspended Pryor for something he had done when he wasn’t even an NFL player yet, then compounded that bad precedent after it was caught off-guard when the Colts hired Tressel. The NFL almost certainly won’t compound that mistake again and suspend Kelly for his NCAA transgressions. And that will serve as a reminder that the league erred when it suspended Pryor.