March 3: Kelly Claimed Not To Know ‘Willie Lyles’

After his portrayal as a deceiving cheat by Willie Lyles in a story published by Yahoo Sports on July 1, it was hard to imagine how things could get worse for Oregon football coach Chip Kelly - at least that day.

Chip Kelly

But eight hours after Lyles may have hammered the final nail into Kelly’s coaching career with the Ducks, the leading sports media figure in the state of Oregon released another bombshell impugning Kelly’s character.

PORTLAND OREGONIAN columnist and radio talkshow host John Canzano reported late last Friday that when he first asked Kelly about his relationship with Lyles on March 3, 2011, the Oregon football coach said he didn’t know the man he had cut a $25,000 check to for invoiced videos we now know never existed:

I spoke with University of Oregon football coach Chip Kelly in early March, amid reports that a Texas man named Willie Lyles was involved in a recruiting scandal that could bring down the Ducks program.

Kelly told me he didn’t know who Willie Lyles was.

I believed him.

That same evening, a Yahoo Sports story reported that Lyles was paid $25,000 by Oregon. So I texted Kelly, asking him why he lied to me, and we ended up on the telephone, where Kelly insisted I’d confused him by asking about “Willie Lyles.” He said, “around here, we call him ‘Will.’

“We’ve already distanced ourselves from him, trust me.”

Kelly’s deceit somehow gets even deeper.

Kelly’s incredible denial to Canzano about not knowing Lyles took place the evening of March 3.

But only hours before Kelly claimed to have “distanced” himself and the program from Lyles, Oregon recently confirmed Kelly’s football program received spreadsheets containing names and phone numbers of high school football recruits from Lyles - on March 3.

Names and phone numbers Lyles told Yahoo last week were a result of Kelly and Oregon “scrambling” to account for their $25,000 payment to him 11+ months earlier.

Canzano also noted of his March 3 exchange with Kelly  in the Portland Oregonian:

A purchase order obtained by The Oregonian details that Lyles billed them for “Game films, Highlight film” from 22 states. And if you ask Kelly what was provided he’ll tell you the Ducks received contact information for players — “names and phone numbers.”

Names and phone numbers” Kelly had acquired from Lyles the same day he talked to Canzano!

So why would Lyles wait over 11 months after Oregon’s $25,000 check arrived to suddenly rush those names and phone numbers to Kelly?

Because the Oregon coach had been tipped off to the March 3 Yahoo story by reporter Charles Robinson “immediately” before it was published.

From Robinson on March 3:

A message left on the cell phone of Oregon coach Chip Kelly was not immediately returned, and there was no answer on a number listed for Lyles. 

Then, nearly four months to the day that Kelly told Canzano he had “distanced” himself and the program from Lyles, phone records obtained by Yahoo showed that Oregon’s assistant director of football operations, Josh Gibson, spent 94 minutes on the phone with Lyles on June 2.

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