Will Lyles: Oregon ‘paid for… my access and influence with recruits’

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UO?  Try uh-oh.  In all-caps.  With multiple, multiple exclamation points.

And Chip Kelly may want to study up on the fate of Jim Tressel as it’s the same thing currently in his rear-view and gaining fast.

In early March, a Yahoo! Sports article raised many questions regarding Oregon’s financial ties to recruiting services, particularly the $25,000 paid to Will Lyles of Complete Scouting Services for what was described as a “2011 National Package”.  Prompted by open-records requests from multiple media outlets, UO released documents last month pertaining to what they received in Lyles’ national package in exchange for the $25K.  As the package consisted mainly of players from the 2009 recruiting class — and 135 of the 140 profiles were for players from Texas — even more questions were raised.

Unfortunately for the Oregon football program in general and Kelly in particular, those questions may have been answered today in yet another outstanding investigative piece by Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo!.

In extensive on-the-record conversations that took place over the course of several days, Lyles claims he was paid the $25K by the university because of the influence he carried over recruits, particularly high-profile 2010 UO signee Lache Seastrunk.  Additionally, Lyles claimed that Kelly and others contacted him shortly before Yahoo!’s March story was published, saying “they were on my ass” to get the written reports on recruits he had never provided them despite the $25K payment.

Those demands for the written reports on purported members of the 2011 recruiting class came at least three weeks after National Signing Day in February, well beyond their “expiration” date even if the fact that they were for ’09 recruits isn’t factored in.

Lyles said Kelly “scrambled” in late February and asked Lyles to submit retroactive player profiles to justify the $25,000 payment to his company, just days before the transaction was revealed in a March 3 Yahoo! Sports report. …

Lyles insists Oregon did not make a direct request or payment to steer recruits to Eugene. However, he 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.

“I look back at it now and they paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits,” Lyles said. “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.” …

(It should be noted that, in early May, Lyles labeled as “unequivocally false” reports that he steered recruits to universities.)

In the expansive and lengthy piece, which should be read in full and can be accessed again by clicking HERE, Lyles claimed that Kelly personally provided, in essence, a blank check for his “recruiting service”.  And, once again, the conversation turned back around to the appearance that Kelly and the Ducks scrambled to fill in the holes created by the $25K that’s more and more taking on the appearance of a payment for a player.

Lyles said Kelly and Oregon committed to becoming the first client for CSS prior to Lyles aiding Seastrunk with the letter-of-intent issue. Then, just after the guardianship switch, Lyles said 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.

Eleven months passed – from March 2010 until February 2011 – before the Ducks requested a single written recruiting profile, Lyles said. And when that moment came, Lyles said the demand for the reports was sudden and emphatic, leading him to believe Oregon was “scrambling” to establish that he’d provided legitimate traditional scouting services because they were aware of a Yahoo! Sports investigation. Previously, Lyles said he had provided scouting reports verbally in frequent calls with Oregon coaches.

“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 added that he spoke to the NCAA for several hours in early May, but “didn’t reveal the stories concerning Kelly, [LaMichael] James and Seastrunk to investigators because the specific topics never came up in questioning.”

We’re guessing that, after this expose’ finds its way to the NCAA and if — if — it has any validity, The Association will want to discuss the specific topics Lyles broached in what could prove to be the most explosive piece of journalism this offseason.  Yes, more so than the Tressel/OSU allegations.  And, yes, it’s that bad.

So much so, in fact, that it would be hard to see Kelly surviving the damning accusations leveled against him.  Or the university standing behind/beside him in the face of the latest round of allegations.

Again, if Lyles can be believed.  And the NCAA can prove he’s to be believed.