Late last night, Yahoo! Sports broke yet another damning piece of investigative journalism, this time aimed at the University of Tennessee. According to the report, Complete Scouting Services owner Willie Lyles — the man at the center of the NCAA’s interest in Oregon and LSU — paid nearly $1,500 for airplane tickets for then-recruit Lache Seastrunk and his mother to take an unofficial visit to Tennessee in 2009.
Lyles claims he was reimbursed by former Vols and USC assistant Willie Mack Garza. Garza followed Lane Kiffin from Knoxville to LA when Kiffin took the USC job and resigned suddenly at the beginning of this month following another interview between Lyles and the NCAA.
When asked about the report today after practice, Kiffin said pretty much what you would expect:
“All I can say on that, the alleged incident, I had no knowledge of (it), or knowledge of a relationship at all.”
Hey, it’s better than “no comment.”
But even if the latest allegation doesn’t involve Kiffin directly — although that could change — it’s another blemish for a coach who left Tennessee football with several recruiting violations and a slew of NCAA-approved, self-impose sanctions.
If the report is true, a major area of concern becomes who will be directly affected. Tennessee? Kiffin? Tennessee placed itself on probation from August 24, 2011, through August 23, 2013 as part of the self-imposed sanctions. Because the latest allegation reportedly took place before the 24th of last month, it’s unlikely that UT will be considered a repeat violator in the eyes of the NCAA.
Still, current Vols coach Derek Dooley says he’s hopeful that whatever the NCAA finds — if anything — won’t be connected to the his coaching staff and players.
“All we can deal with is make sure everybody understands that this wasn’t under our watch, and it wasn’t involving a coach on our staff and it doesn’t involve a player that’s been in our program.”
Ironically, Kiffin and USC are dealing with the repercussions of NCAA sanctions stemming from violations connected to a former player, Reggie Bush, and an assistant coach, Todd McNair.