Misery Loves Company

By Jason Priestas on July 3, 2011 at 6:00a
Houston-area "scout" Will Lyles and former USC coach Pete CarrollOf course there's a photo of Will Lyles and Pete Carroll.

It's a holiday weekend, so that can only mean one thing: a scandal is blowing up on a college campus.

This time, Oregon is the school grabbing its ankles, with new and embarrassing details of the program's $25,000 scouting relationship with Will Lyles coming to light.  After breaking the story on March 3rd with a report of the lump sum payment from Oregon to Lyles, Yahoo's tenacious duo of Dan Wetzel and Charles Robinson1 took things up a notch when they released further details from the case on Friday.

During the pair's "wide-ranging, multi-day" interview with Lyles, the scout alleged the following:

  • Oregon head coach Chip Kelly personally approved the controversial $25,000 payment to Lyles.
  • Kelly "scrambled" in late February and asked Lyles to submit retroactive player reports to justify the payment.
  • Oregon did not pay him for his work as a "traditional scout", but rather for his influence with top recruits and their families.
  • Oregon's Assistant Director of Football Operations Josh Gibson worked with Lyles to arrange for prized recruit Lache Seastrunk's grandmother to be his signing guardian for his NLOI (Seastrunk's mother wanted him to go to school closer to his Houston area home).
  • Lyles helped current Oregon running back LaMichael James find a loophole around Texas' standardized test requirements, securing his eligibility as a freshman.

On the surface, the last two bullet points aren't NCAA violations per se, but the NCAA, already investigating in Eugene, will be looking closely at the dual role Lyles served as mentor to preps and paid contractor for the Ducks, and that's where things get interesting.

The Ducks have maintained all along that they were paying Lyles for scouting services, but he tells a different story. One in which the school waited a full 11 months -- from late March of 2010 when he received the $25,000 payment from Oregon to late February of this year -- before requesting a single written recruiting profile. The exorbitant amount charged is one thing, but the documentation Oregon provided after public records requests is a whole other level of comedy2.

The NCAA spoke to Lyles for six hours in early May, but a bulk of the information in the Yahoo interview was not disclosed to the organization because, as Lyles himself put it, "it didn't come up".

Lyles has a stack of evidence, including phone records and signed cards and emails from the Oregon staff, which, if you're reading, Mr. Dohrmann, is the best way to back up assertions. If the allegations of Kelly trying to cover the deal up are proven true and he mislead the NCAA when he spoke to them in last month, we could very well be looking at another summer coaching change at a high profile school3.

The fallout may not end in Eugene, however. Lyles received a $6,000 payment from LSU in December shortly before linebacker Trevon Randle of League City, Texas, signed with the Tigers, and the situation had enough DEFCON to spook Longhorn insiders spur up Longhorn involvement rumors earlier last week. And let's not forget former Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Van Malone alleging Lyles told the Aggies they had to "beat" $80,000 for the services of Patrick Peterson back in 2007. Peterson would go on to star at LSU before being selected with the 5th pick in this spring's draft.

Of course, with an assistant coach moonlighting as an agent, an army of sugar-daddies passing out money to players, hundreds of unpaid parking tickets and allegations of academic fraud, North Carolina looks at what's going on in Oregon and scoffs. And then there are cryptic tweets from plugged-in recruiting analysts that spend a lot of time in the sunshine state about one of the "big three" in Florida entering the NCAA cross hairs. Finally, there's also whatever is still heading Auburn's way (you can almost hear Duck fans: "It's just $25,000! Auburn shelled out SIX FIGURES, BRO."), and USC, the current poster child for angering the NCAA.

It's been a scandalous 12 months on the college football front and that is a trend that will continue until enough schools get punished -- and harshly enough -- so that other schools get the message. When you hear about reporters sniffing around the campus of your favorite school you can't help but feel a little despair. If you look closely enough at any program, you're going to find something (except you, Penn State fans, so I should rephrase that to read "at any elite program"), you're going to be able to dig something up, whether it's a free meal, or a free round of golf from a clown that thinks it's the pinnacle of status to hang out with a teenager.

I hate to see this happening anywhere in the sport I love so much, but I understand it happens and as long as piles of cash are being tossed around, it will continue to exist. As we're just days away from submitting our response to the Notice of Allegations, you do have to wonder how bad Ohio State's transgressions really were, especially in light of the allegations leveled at the Tar Heels and Ducks.

  • 1 Is there anything more terrifying these days than Wetzel and Robinson showing up on your campus?
  • 2 See also.
  • 3 The Oregon situation won't draw anywhere near the level of heat that Ohio State faced earlier this summer, but it's nice to see the Worldwide Leader has finally taken notice.

Comments Show All Comments

buckeyedude's picture

I'm not one to revel in another's misfortune, but if this is what it takes to get OSU and JT off of the front page... then I'm all for it! Quack, Quack!



craigfling's picture

Good to get the focus off OSU I guess, but how can you not like a school whose mascot is a duck? Or maybe I just feel for the others under investigation now that we've gone through it, and still are.

I wonder what is the real agenda of Yahoo Sports. Wetzel is so outspoken about having a playoff. I wonder if all of this is part of some larger picture they're trying to influence, like challenging college football's tax-free status, restructuring the rules of what athletes and schools are and aren't allowed to do, or if it's simply to expose the reality of college football.

 Even when OSU was going through it, still are, I guess you have to respect Yahoo Sports. Much more than SI anyway. Then again, maybe they just have an insider and are using it.

An interesting story would be to uncover how Yahoo Sports gets their leads. I wonder if they're as above-the-board as they preach.

Kurt's picture

I was wondering the exact same thing as I read the Register-Guard piece. 

Perhaps as Brutus is saying, this is all far more widespread than anyone had imagined.  In my recollection there have never really been multiple big-time programs on serious NCAA sanctions at the same time (could you imagine an Oregon-USC game next year where neither have anything to play for?! What happens to the ratings of that game?).  Not at the level of say LSU, UNC, Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Auburn, etc. (of course, if all pan out).  But maybe that's what it takes.  Has the tv money (and gambling money) gone too far that now for it to come back down it takes this sort of falling out all across the country? 

Normal Buck's picture

"could you imagine an Oregon-USC game next year where neither have anything to play for?! "  I'm kind of thinking back to the entire 1980s and the early 1990s, and . . .wait a second. . .yep, that's pretty much how those games were during that period.  

NW Buckeye's picture

I concur with your opinion about Wetzel, and I have stated such in earlier posts. His real objective is to discredit th NCAA. "Death to the BCS" will surely come about if his work brings down the biggest players in it. I am not saying that he is dreaming up any of what he writes up, but he could easily put his efforts into any school and come up with some dirt. He chooses his targets wisely, and may have hit a home run here as he can nail both Oregon and the NCAA with incompetence. How can NCAA investigators have already interviewed Lyles and not asked these pertinent questions? And this cover up at Oregon is on a much more severe level than anything that JT did. One thing uniquely different about his Oregon report is that he actually dug stuff up that was not already in the process of being reported to the NCAA. His work at OSU only detailed what we all know now was already part of a self report.

While I certainly do not wish the OSU level media feeding frenzy on any school I think this is just the tip of the ice burg and there will be many more schools in his crosshairs. Even if other media sources are the ones to uncover more dirt, Wetzel will have the satisfaction of knowing that his work started all of this.

Brutus's picture

All these scandals remind me of when we realized several years ago how rampant steroids were in MLB. Everyone figured players were juicing but we didn't have sufficient proof until the mitchell report (and in retrospect canseco's book ironically enough). And like Bud Selig and MLB, the NCAA is to blame for turning a blind eye when there was sufficient evidence of wrong doing. Don't applaud the yahoo reporters for asking lyles the obvious questions. Instead, we should be asking how in the the hell the NCAA could have interviewed lyles for several hours a few months ago and this stuff not have come up. The answer is easy. The NCAA doesn't want to know how bad things really are because it further delegitimizes them as an effective oversight and enforcement body.

If our experience in this has taught me anything it's to withhold judgment until more info comes out. Lyles has a bone to pick, much like ray small did. But there is a lot of smoke here and things don't look good for the Oregon faithful. I don't think this will receive near the scrutiny that our mess did, but it's nice to have some company. To quote John McClane in Die Hard, "Welcome to the party pal."

Normal Buck's picture

Does the NCAA even have enough investigators to be able to handle this workload?  Mercy.  Gotta say though, that this kind of stuff, if true, is what I think of when somebody says "cheating."  Seems as if Barry Switzer had some of the best perspective when he noted that tOSU situation was "like jay walking."

GoBucks713's picture

they could always hire the worthless Census workers from last year. Holy crap those people were a pain in my side. I'm sure they could do the same thing to the NCAA schools.

-The Aristocrats!

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Glad I wasn't the only one to find them odd.  I ducked (no pun) them for a while, but they finally caught me outside mowing one day.  My beef was the race questions.  I refused to answer those questions.  What does the color of the skin of folks living in my house have to do funding?  Just seemed a little shady to me.

GoBucks713's picture

I work for one of the banks in PIP, running property inspections for loans that are in default. If the bank secures and starts maintaining the property after the borrower vacates, we have to post our information on the properties for emergency purposes. They would call asking if the property were occupied and who lived there and how many people lived there and on and on and on. Thank God, due to Federal Regulations, banks cannot divulge ANY information on loans if you aren't the borrower or an authorized third party. But I would get about 30 calls a day asking these questions. I started just letting them go to my voice mail and had my voice mail greeting say that I could not anwer any Census information. Some of these idiots would yell at me. "I AM THE GOVERNMENT" one guy from Louisville KY would yell at me. No you're not buddy, you're on a 6 month contract.

-The Aristocrats!

Arkansas Buckeye's picture

Thank goodness the SEC schools all run clean programs.



"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

GoBucks713's picture

The files are IN the computer?!?1

-The Aristocrats!

Bucks's picture

Should be interesting to see how the NCAA goes about this. There are also alot of things though that while sleazy, aren't necessarily NCAA violations. 

I do find it laughable that Lyles sat with NCAA officials for multiple hours & claims that some of the meat to this entire thing (what would help solidify Lyles as a rep of Oregon Athletics) didn't even come up so he didn't volunteer.

Lyles certainly has an ax to grind & I think that is pretty clear. If he was just coming clean period, he'd be going on the record about other schools ... but so far, only the one that didn't pay him.

If the NCAA decides to go after Oregon, this could get fairly ugly. This isn't a situation of one man doing something wrong & withholding information from everyone (JT & Bosses/Compliance/etc) ... this is documented multiple contacts within the Oregon Athletic Department who were well aware of Lyles and spoke numerous times.


smokeybandit's picture

"If you look closely enough at any program, you're going to find something (except you, Penn State fans, so I should rephrase that to read "at any elite program"), you're going to be able to dig something up, whether it's a free meal, or a free round of golf from a clown that thinks it's the pinnacle of status to hang out with a teenager."


Speaking from a Penn State fan's perspective, I'd be shocked if this stuff wasn't happening at PSU, too.  Now, I doubt it's encouraged/led/precipitated by the coaching staff...but any sane PSU fan can't help but know it's happening.

William's picture

Well SmokeyBandit, you're the first Penn State fan on here that has acknowledged that things of this nature may take place at Penn State, M1EK and Scrappled, who are the two main PSU bloggers on this site, stand firm in their belief that PSU is completely free and has always been completely free of any athletes receiving benefits or performing acts that would be considered impermissible.

m1ek's picture

You just really don't get it, do you?

After the 1996 season, Curtis Enis was headed to the pros (leaving early - yes, it sometimes happens even at PSU). He accepted a suit from an agent. Paterno quickly found out about it. Didn't hide it. Didn't talk to his "mentor". He just up and threw him off the team, even though we desperately needed him to win the bowl game.

And did the same thing to our star WR Joe Jurevicius, who skipped too many classes for Paterno's liking that semester but still would have been eligible for a while longer by NCAA rule. Off the team. 

Even if you think Enis couldn't have been hidden like Tressel did the Tat5, Jurevicius clearly could have been.

We got killed (score doesn't indicate how badly Florida pwned us; Spurrier called off the dogs big time). For those of you not old enough to remember, they were both first-day NFL talents. (Jurevicius lasted for many years - to my slight surprise, and I'm still disappointed Enis never got his head right - but they were just outstanding players at the college level).

Compare. Contrast. Boom.

Abe Froman's picture

There are some valid reasons that PSU probably will never be in the same situation as tOSU football program.  However, they are less than altruistic:

1)  Paterno uses a rotary phone;

2)  Paterno does not have a cell phone, therefore no text messages;

3)  Paterno doesn't think this computer fad is going to 'stick';

4)  Paterno is safely tucked away from any actual flow of information coming into the football operations.


Basking in the wake of mediocrity.....

Brutus's picture

More news and for a change, it's not that bad. The august 12 hearing could possibly be postponed until November because the NCAA is looking at one additional violation related to Pryor. The violation in question has to do with whether Pryor had greens fees paid for at a golf course. If that's the extent of it, then color me happy. At this point, I figured free golf was a given, and laughable compared to the UNC and Oregon stuff. OSU wants to have the august 12 hearing stand because they want to get this over with.

I can't imagine the NCAA will postpone just for free golf, especially now that their plate is pretty full, but who knows. Either way, I'd be very pleased if free golf is the only additional allegation we have to answer for. The only thing that would complicate matters is whether the NCAA hits OSU/Tressel for not reporting the free golf right away. Remember that the guy at the country club said he left a message for Tressel about a couple players playing golf and then afterwards, he never saw them again. This implies that JT knew and took appropriate action, but never reported it up the chain again.

RBuck's picture

With the NCAA being back in town and Tressel being aware of the golf, it is bad news. Remember when Tress pointed out several years back that TP had taken up golf?

Just when I thought I could get through a holiday weekend without something new popping up. Thanks anyway Brutus.

Long live the southend.

elaydin's picture


I'm not sure that's great news, consider what it does to the timeline.  I'd rather get everything wrapped up by Decemeber so we can get a new coach and salvage some of the recruiting class.

So does this mean we see another NOA soon?

Brutus's picture

I didn't mean that postponing was good news, but that the only additional allegations supposedly involve free rounds of golf. I was expecting to hear that Pryor was up to much worse, like money hand shakes or something of that maginitude. I completely agree that any additional delays would just prolong our agony and hurt recruiting.

Brutus's picture

My apologies to all at 11W. I didn't realize that the info about the NCAA investigating the free golf had been reported by espn last Friday. I heard it for the first time yesterday and thought it was new news. Obviously not. Sorry to rehash old info. Happy 4th.

RBuck's picture

1st time I heard about it seeing that I don't watch espn anymore except for live games.

Long live the southend.

btalbert25's picture

I actually like that it's being postponed.   In my opinion that means the Buckeyes may still get to play in the B1G championship and a bowl game this season.  In the event this team ends up undefeated, maybe, just maybe they'll get a shot this season.  Let's face it, it could be the best team we'll see for a  few years, may as well enjoy it and win whatever they can now. 

I imagine it would be much harder for the NCAA to disqualify a team that is 10-0, then a team that hasn't played yet.  I'm not sure this team will be in that kind of position, but the defense is going to be awesome and with a stable of potential star running backs, and immensely talented young QB, it's not impossible that they'll be at the top of the B1G in November.