Will Lyles, the high school scout at the centre of an NCAA investigation into the Oregon football program, has spoken out about his relationship with the school.And it’s not good news for the Ducks.
In an interview with Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Lyles details his role in funelling high school recruits to Oregon, and claims that the school was “scrambling” to cover-up the reason why he was paid $25,000 shortly after a major recruit signed with Oregon in 2010.
“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 and Oregon came under fire earlier this year when it came out that the Ducks paid his scouting company $25,000 for a recruiting package in early 2010. Since Lyles was the mentor of star running back and eventual Oregon player Lache Seastrunk, many speculated that the money was paid for more than simple recruiting services.
The NCAA is now investigating whether Lyles was paid for helping Oregon sign Seastrunk and other players, which would constitute a major rules violation.
Judging by Lyles’ comments to Yahoo!, it seems like that may be the case. From the report:
Lyles said Oregon’s assistant director of football operations, Josh Gibson, had direct knowledge – and played an ancillary role – in Lyles helping Temple (Texas) High School star Lache Seastrunk petition to have his grandmother, rather than his mother, sign his national letter of intent with the Ducks in February 2010. Seastrunk’s mother, who expressed opposition to her son about attending Oregon, otherwise could have blocked the signing.
“Indirectly I played a pivotal role in [Seastrunk signing with Oregon],” Lyles said.
Lyles also said that a price for his services wasn’t discussed until after Seastrunk signed his letter of intent:
Just after the guardianship switch, Lyles said [Oregon head coach Chip] Kelly instructed him to “find out what the best paying service is” and to bill Oregon that amount. When Lyles settled on the $25,000 figure, he said he called Kelly and Kelly personally approved it.
Oregon’s case is further muddled by the nature of the “recruiting materials” that cost the school $25,000. Most recruiting services packages of that price come with “large caches of cutups filmed and edited by crews of videographers, quarterly prospect reports numbering in the several hundreds, verbal consulting, biographical information and contact numbers,” according to Yahoo!.
But Lyles produced a single filmy, out-of-date pamphlet, in addition to “verbal scouting reports” that he delivered over the phone. According to Lyles, this was part of a cover-up conducted by Oregon after people began looking into the payment:
Lyles believes Oregon was trying to retroactively comply with the rules. He says in mid-February the football staff became aware of a pending Yahoo! Sports investigation into its payment to Lyles and the Dallas-based scouting service New Level Athletics.
“They were covering their tracks,” Lyles said. “They were covering their asses. They were scrambling.“
Here’s some other highlights from the report:
- “Lyles said many of his efforts were known by Kelly or other Oregon staffers before, during or after they took place. And while Lyles insists he never sold recruits to any school, he acknowledged his actions went well beyond the boundaries of a typical scouting service.”
- “Regardless of his intentions, his relationship with both Oregon and Seastrunk could be a major violation of at least one – and possibly multiple – NCAA regulations.”
- “Lyles’ engagement of both Oregon and Seastrunk in a manner that facilitated the Ducks securing the prep star’s letter of intent could classify Lyles as a representative of the school’s athletics interests.”
- “Lyles’ advisement in Seastrunk’s letter of intent process – along with Gibson’s involvement with Lyles’ actions – could be a major point of interest for NCAA investigators.”
We’ve seen football programs get slammed by the NCAA for much less, so if Lyles’ statements are true, expect some serious consequences for the Ducks in the coming months.
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