The verdict is in: Oregon dodged a canon ball Wednesday when the NCAA handed down several minor penalties to the Ducks for major recruiting violations committed under former football coach Chip Kelly.

Call it "The Slap on the Wrist Heard 'Round the World."

Oregon was placed on a three-year probation and will lose a scholarship in each of those seasons. During that time, the Ducks' allotment of official paid recruiting visits will be cut to 37 from 56, their number of evaluation days will be reduced, and the program will be banned from using recruiting services, which got the Ducks into hot water in the first place.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions, the same group that hammered the football programs at Penn State, Ohio State and USC in recent years, also dealt an 18-month show-cause order to Kelly, who won't be allowed to coach at the college level during that time. Which goes without saying since Kelly is now head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

That's it. No vacated wins, no financial penalties, and most importantly, no bowl ban for a perennial national championship contender.

The NCAA went against its usual pattern and did not pin this on the current players and coaches, but rather the former head coach. And only after a lengthy, thorough investigation.


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It led Kelly to release a statement, saying "I want to apologize to the University of Oregon and its football program, I want to apologize to the University of Oregon, all of its current and former players and their fans. I accept my share of responsibility for the actions that led to the penalties."

And just like that, the so-called Willie Lyles Scandal at Oregon and its subsequent 27-month investigation ended with a whimper, rather than the big bang of a program collapsing on itself.

You can just hear the screams from Happy Valley, Columbus, Ohio, and Heritage Hall.

The Penn State, Ohio State and USC faithful have plenty of reasons to be upset. The one time the NCAA is fair and lenient only magnifies how rash and unfair it was in previous cases.

How did the Ducks get off so easy, when they even admitted to committing seven major violations?

As Committee on Infractions spokesman Greg Sankey put it, "the committee made its decision bases on the information presented to it, not on other speculation and evaluation." Basically, it penalized the Ducks based solely on what it could prove.

While the Ducks did pay a substantial amount of money ($25,000) to Lyles for his flimsy recruiting services, the NCAA did not interpret that amount as enough to buy a recruit. Lyles was as close to his recruits as he was to some of the coaches at the UO, but he also did business with other schools. So the NCAA couldn't necessarily peg him as an Oregon booster.

Kelly and UO officials were fully cooperative during the investigation. That did not go unnoticed by the NCAA.

"At the investigation's conclusion," the NCAA said in its ruling, "the enforcement staff, the institution and the involved parties were in substantial agreement on the facts of the case and on the violations that had occurred."

While Kelly and the Ducks admittedly "failed to monitor," the NCAA found no "lack of institutional control." Its sanctions were almost lockstep with the ones Oregon proposed for itself: a two-year probation and the loss of three scholarships.

The reality is, those penalties are nothing the Ducks can't overcome as long as they keep winning football games.

That they were able to avoid a dreaded bowl ban is the biggest win for the Ducks and the Pac-12 (think BCS money). Oregon is loaded with talent and poised for success under Mark Helfrich, Kelly's former offensive coordinator. The Ducks have a manageable schedule with one major obstacle, a road game at Stanford on Nov. 7. They avoid playing USC and Arizona State during the regular season.

With the new College Football Playoff looming a year away, Oregon is facing easily its best chance to play for a national championship for years to come.

These are some lucky Ducks. And they've already overcome their toughest opponent in 2013, the NCAA.

Follow Scott on Twitter @SJAdams