Oregon & Willie Lyles
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It's Not A Big Deal
Something looks fishy here. Looks, though, are usually deceiving.
Too many people are making too many assumptions without all of the facts. Sure, if you angle the Oregon story to fit your agenda, it might appear as if the Ducks paid a scouting service, with the underlying purpose of luring top-flight Texas recruits out of the Lone Star State. However, plenty of reaches are being made with the saga without much proof that wrongdoing took place.
At the center of the storm is Willie Lyles, the owner of a Houston-based scouting service. Willie is a good man who has been providing valuable information to programs for years. How do I know this? I'm one of the small handful of people in the media who's gotten close to Willie this year. On multiple occasions, we've discussed his role in the controversy, and I'm convinced he's handled his business properly. More important, he deeply cares about the kids he mentors. Kids, like Oregon RB LaMichael James and former LSU CB Patrick Peterson, who told me personally in December and March, respectively, how much help Willie was when they were in high school. Willie provided a valuable scouting service to various programs, and was paid for his time and expertise. Where exactly is the crime here?
Leave Willie Lyles alone. His business has been decimated and his name has been unfairly dragged through the dirt. Unless someone can definitively prove that he was compensated for guiding athletes to certain schools, this is nothing more than a character assassination. And a dangerous precedent of how one powerless and innocent man can be summarily destroyed on hearsay and salacious conspiracy theories.
It's A Big Deal
At the 1992 Final Four I was stuck talking to a few Minneapolis police officers (long story) and got into the ins and outs of ticket scalping. Basically, if you were trying to scalp, and if you sold it the right way and got lucky, there was a possibility you could get away with it on a technicality if you asked for and received face value for the tickets and then sold some object, the example was a pen, for $1,000 with a distinct second transaction.
It's sounding more and more like
Willie Lyles sold Oregon a pen.
Whether or not you want to believe the story reported weeks ago that Lyles allegedly tried to get Texas A&M to outbid LSU for Patrick Peterson's services is up to you, and whether or not you want to believe the unflattering rumors and innuendo surrounding his business practices is immaterial. The simple facts are these:
- Oregon paid Lyles $25,000, claiming it was for a "2011 National Package" that turned out to be skimpy and shoddy.
- Two of Lyles' top prospects from Texas, Lache Seastrunk and LaMichael James, signed with Oregon a few years ago.
- There are too many questions and not enough answers about how those two might be related, and even if they're related.
The reports Oregon paid 25K for were reportedly outdated and irrelevant, and the recruiting videos were light for the money
spent. As reported by Sports Illustrated, they weren't even sent out for
almost a year after Lyles got paid meaning either: 1) Lyles got $25,000 in
exchange for pushing players to Oregon, and/or 2) Oregon was sold a bad product.
If Lyles sold Oregon a lousy recruiting package, then wouldn't the university be
ticked off? Why, if the money really was for the recruiting service, was the school still working with Lyles after getting
the mediocre reports?
Wouldn't someone be squawking about getting ripped off, if for nothing else than to
put on a good PR face once the controversy started?
And then there's the issue that should've been more front and center in the Cam and Cecil Newton debate. If Lyles pushed James and Seastrunk to the Ducks, a charge he denies, then how is he not acting as the textbook definition of an agent?
According to the NCAA, "an agent is any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete," and, "an agent is any person who represents any individual in the marketing of his or her athletic ability."
Was Lyles shopping around, or marketing, the individuals? If so, then the NCAA
has its case made, but it appeared to have an easy verdict in the Newton fiasco,
If you want to argue that there's no difference between a school spending $25,000 on a "recruiting service," and spending $25,000 on planes, car rentals, hotel rooms, correspondence, etc. on expenses to court top recruits, you'd probably win. If you want to argue that a coach having a pipeline to a fertile recruiting area isn't really that different than a guy steering talent to a school, okay. But by the NCAA rules and standards this
is a hard story to swallow considering all the latest information that came out.
Oregon, start talking.
What did we all learn from the Ohio State fiasco and the
USC appeal denial? The story and excuse had better be iron-clad, and if they're
not, the program has to come 100% clean and take the medicine or else the
problems will become exponentially worse.
As George Schroeder of the Register Guard detailed, there are way, way, way too many moving parts and way too many problems with the stories to assume this is all just a bad business transaction.
This is a very big deal, it's extremely sloppy – even if everything was above board – and it's impossible to accept any plausible explanation that keeps Oregon from getting into trouble without far more evidence and a far better excuse.
A lot of big time programs have a lot of vested interest to see how this will
play out, and at a time when the agent issue is so sensitive, the NCAA might
make an example of the Ducks unless there's more evidence that everything is