Joseph Duarte of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE today profiled Willie Lyles, the Houston-based recruiting service operator at the center of an NCAA investigation into the recruiting practices of the Oregon football program.
From Duarte’s July 8, 2011, piece in the Chronicle:
Lyles said he had informal conversations with other schools, among them the University of Houston and Rice, about purchasing his service. He occasionally contacted UH to recommend players “that they should look at” in an effort to build a relationship, but the school decided not to purchase his recruiting package.
The University of Houston football program may have not purchased a recruiting package from Complete Scouting Services, the company Lyles set up in late 2009 with Oregon football coach Chip Kelly’s blessing, but UH is documented to have made a $10,000 payment to a recruiting services company which employed Lyles at the time of the financial transaction.
In a Yahoo Sports report on July 1, 2011, Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel reported how Lyles first met Kelly:
Lyles said he first met Kelly in 2007, when he worked as a Texas-area scout for Muscle Sports, (MSL) a New York-based service.
A search of the official website of the state of Texas comptroller revealed today that the University of Houston paid “MSL Combines” $10,000 during the 2007 fiscal year. (Before Oct. 17, 2007.)
On Nov. 28, 2007, former University of Houston football coach Art Briles left the school to take over as the head football coach at Baylor.
The 2008 Baylor football recruiting class included star quarterback Robert Griffin III, who had previously committed to Houston, and former Texas high school prospect Kendall Wright, who this week was named to the 2011 preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award.
Current Bears QB Griffin visited Oregon during his recruitment in 2007 and said on July 13, 2007, “During the season I’m going to try to take officials [official recruiting visits] to LSU, Stanford and Washington State.”
Like the Briles-coached UH Cougars, LSU also reportedly paid MSL Combines $10,000 in 2007. Former Texas A&M assistant coach Van Malone recently alleged that Lyles asked him for $80,000 in 2007 in exchange for delivering high profile recruit Patrick Peterson to the Aggies.
Peterson ultimately sign with LSU.
In 2007, Lyles was a MSL colleague of current Florida-based recruiting service operator Charles Fishbein.
In 2008, Fishbein started Elite Scouting Services (ESS). Of that transition, Fishbein told reporter Justin Hopkins of Oregon.247sports.com three days ago:
“We are going into our fourth year at ESS. Previously I worked at MSL Sports for 4-5 years before I started this company. We had several of the MSL scouts come over with us, including Willie Lyles.”
More from Hopkins on Fishbein and Lyles:
Will Lyles was hired by Fishebein (sic) to help cover Texas and Louisiana. “Will’s job at ESS was to obtain game film, take pictures and create profiles for prospects in the state of Texas. He specialized in Houston, Dallas, East Texas and some of West Louisiana. He was also responsible for creating high school team pages on our website for coaches to access. He was also responsible for signing colleges to use our service.”
On March 12, 2011, Thayer Evans of FOXSports.com wrote of current Baylor defensive back Ahmad Dixon:
When Ahmad Dixon attended a BadgerSport Elite 7-on-7 camp in Las Vegas in March 2009, he was already well known in recruiting circles.
Then a-senior-to-be at Midway High School in Waco, Texas, he was regarded nationally as one of last year’s top safety prospects and committed to the University of Texas.
Dixon didn’t need to attend the camp, but like other top recruits from Texas he went to participate in the team competition against highly touted West Coast recruits such as Jake Heaps, Dillon Baxter and Kenny Stills.
But the camp’s real action and biggest danger was off the field, where reputed “street agents” lurked. That’s where Dixon for the first time met Will Lyles, who later would take him on unofficial visits to colleges.
On Feb. 1, 2010, the high-profile recruitment of Dixon came to a close as the four-star DB chose .. the Art Briles-coached Baylor Bears.
The Dixon signing was a coup for Briles - though despite a strong close, the coach was unable to land another top recruit his Baylor program was in on until the end that year: Lache Seastrunk.