Is Controversial Scout Will Lyles’ Yahoo! Interview Worse For Oregon Football, Or The NCAA?
Back in early March, a report came from Yahoo! detailing payments the University of Oregon's football program made to two men who had ties to high school players who signed with Oregon. The larger of those two payments - $25,000 - was made to a guy named Will Lyles, a former trainer who later tried to break into scouting. This already didn't look pretty for the Ducks.
And then, last month, things got worse. Lyles' $25,000 payment was, ostensibly, for a scouting package he provided to the school on potential recruits. However, the scouting package was not really national in scope (nearly all the prospects included were from Texas), and in many cases, it was out of date, "covering" players already out of high school. The conclusion of most: Oregon was "either corrupt or incompetent."
And today, Yahoo! (there those guys are again) released the details of a lengthy interview with Lyles. And while Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel, who composed the story, say the situation isn't "as cut and dried as it has been presented" thus far, it still won't make the national runners-up look good.
On the one hand, Lyles told Robinson and Wetzel that "Oregon did not make a direct request or payment to steer recruits to Eugene." On the other...
"[H]e now says Oregon did not pay him for his work as a traditional scout, but for his influence with top recruits and their families and his ability to usher prospects through the signing and eligibility process. That dual role as mentor to prospects and paid contractor to Oregon is believed to be a focus of the NCAA probe."
Lyled admitted he "[i]ndirectly...played a pivotal role" in star running back Lache Seastrunk signing with Oregon last year. He "counseled the family of current Ducks star LaMichael James on how to avoid a Texas standardized test required for high school graduation." He "orchestrated recent visits for multiple recruits to Oregon" - which got him a hand-written thank you from Oregon coach Chip Kelly. And in general, in Robinson's and Wetzel's words, he "acknowledged his actions went well beyond the boundaries of a typical scouting service."
Oh, and as for that recruiting service, here, in Lyles' words, is why Oregon's looked so shoddy:
"They said they just needed anything," Lyles said of the embarrassingly thin recruiting profiles that Oregon made public earlier this month. "They asked for last-minute [stuff]. So I gave them last-minute [stuff] … I gave them, like, old stuff that I still had on my computer because I never thought that stuff would see the light of day."
Lyles said he'd provided the Ducks' staff with verbal updates throughout the year, but nothing written until they explicitly requested it. Ultimately, Lyles felt betrayed, like he provided Oregon with a good scouting service, but "[i]n retrospect, it might have never been about the service." Of course, that's the issue. Lyles was engaged in other endeavors besides scouting - with the very players he was supposed to be scouting, often having to do with the very schools paying him.
Does all this mean "Chip Kelly's fate just got sealed" as Oregon coach, though? We're not so sure of that. Oregon maintains that it did nothing wrong. And even Robinson and Wetzel themselves call the details of Lyles' association with the school "murky," rather than, say, "damning."
If anything, a report like this one is damning for the NCAA. The Yahoo! investigative team has released bombshell reports in the last few years on the football programs of USC, North Carolina, and Ohio State. The wealth of information about Oregon's relationship with Lyles could fit that "bombshell" classification as well. Does anyone believe there aren't tons more stories like these out there?
Perhaps the only way for the NCAA to conclude the system currently in place is laughable, and to institute major reform, is to just keep pointing out just how brazenly rules are flouted, and just how much gray area there is within the rules. There's no doubt plenty of programs are doing what Oregon is doing and worse. It's past time for the NCAA to acknowledge once and for all that the main problem doesn't lie in Oregon, or Columbus, or Chapel Hill, but the organization supposed to be overseeing it all.
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