Friday, July 01, 2011

Will Lyles throws Oregon under the bus

The cover has been blown off the weird "here's some money for some recruits" relationship between Oregon and wannabe agent Will Lyles, as Yahoo's Dan Wetzel and Charles Robinson -- who are on a freakin' roll with their various investigative reports this year -- published an in-depth interview Friday in which Lyles sings like a canary with all kinds of delicious details.

The takeaway: Oregon worked with Lyles exclusively for his "access" to Texas kids (specifically Lache Seastrunk) and agreed to pay $25,000 to help him start up a recruiting service that would provide them with nothing of substance, and when Chip Kelly realized that this was (a) stupid and (b) going to come out publicly, he asked Lyles to put together a bunch of recruiting information retroactively so he'd have something to show the NCAA.

A couple of particularly crushing excerpts:
"I look back at it now and they paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits," Lyles told Yahoo! Sports. "The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should. I made a mistake and I'm big enough of a man to admit I was wrong." ...

Lyles said Oregon never asked him for written profiles of any players from March 2010 until February 2011. When the request came, Lyles said, he believed it was because Oregon wanted to establish that he had provided legitimate scouting services. ...

Lyles’ intimate involvement with Seastrunk’s letter of intent came just weeks after Kelly and Oregon agreed to be Complete Scouting Service’s first client. It also was after Lyles filed the founding documents of his company. That places him under the jurisdiction of the NCAA as an active recruiting service provider.
So ... that all sounds pretty bad.

It's not as bad as it could be -- Lyles is pretty adamant that he did NOT pay any recruits (why share, amirite?), which would be the nuclear explosion we've all been waiting for -- but it's pretty bad.

The problem is the same as when everything first came out: Either Lyles wasn't running a recruiting service and was getting paid for his (ahem) persuasive abilities or he was a recruiting service and was getting paid for his persuasive abilities. He's readily admitted that he provided nothing of real value other than his creepy knowledge of how to connect with his naive and malleable high school buddies -- the rest is just semantics. The emails, phone records and various notes are all pretty benign and don't add any exciting dirt to the pile, but they don't need to.

The funny thing (not in a "haha" sense) is that my first reaction to Oregon's involvement was "well yeah, this is pretty bad, but Chip Kelly's not gonna get fired or anything" ... and then I got to this part:
Lyles said they requested printed reports on Class of 2011 prep prospects, ones that had already signed letters of intent, as soon as possible.

“So I just threw it together.”

Lyles said he took old profiles off a computer, copied some information from elsewhere and tried to accumulate a last-minute recruiting package. He said he never bothered to consider the quality because he felt Oregon didn’t care.

“They were covering their tracks,” Lyles said. “They were covering their asses. They were scrambling.”
Prepare your distressed politician face, Chip Kelly. The coverup is ALWAYS worse than the crime (just ask Cheatypants McSweatervest).

I honestly have no idea whether Kelly's job is in immediate jeopardy, but we can expect the following things:
  1. Some sort of contrite or defiant public statement;
  2. An NCAA investigation;
  3. Punishment that may or may not make Kelly unemployable (this is dependent on both his response and what exactly the NCAA believes Lyles was doing in exchange for his hefty paychecks).
The second and third items on that list will be tedious and slow, maybe even slow enough that the whole issue will have drifted out of the public consciousness and Kelly will be salvageable if Oregon wins a lot of games and stops doing stupid, rule-shattering things.

But given the vengeful axe the NCAA has been wielding of late, it's probably not the best time to find out. Paying middlemen has been known to be a coach- and program-destroying tactic.


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