Willie Lyles: “I know Les Miles And He Knows Me”

The man at the center of an NCAA investigation into football recruiting impropriety by the University of Oregon, Houston-based recruiting service operator Willie Lyles, appeared on Portland radio on Tuesday to talk about his role with the Ducks while providing new information to host and PORTLAND OREGONIAN columnist John Canzano about his relationship to the LSU, Cal and Texas A&M football programs.

Willie Lyles on Sideline at LSU with Lache Seastrunk 2009 LSU-Florida game

(Audio of Canzano’s Lyles interview is below)

During an hour-long interview with Canzano on 750 The Game in Portland, Lyles talked at length about his ties to Oregon and head football coach Chip Kelly. But when Canzano broached his role with LSU, for which Lyles has confirmed he was most-recently paid $6,000 by the Tigers, Lyles at first refused to divulge any details of his now-documented connection to the Tigers. Read more…

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. Read more…

What Lies Behind Lyles Settling Oregon Score?

Today Will Lyles delivered a devastating, surgical strike on Chip Kelly and the Oregon football program, leveling allegations against the coach and the school’s football program that may lead to crippling NCAA penalties - and Kelly losing his job.

Will Lyles and Lache Seastrunk

In a meticulous Yahoo Sports report authored by Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel, Lyles cited varying forms of damning documentation in an obvious bid to ignite an already-smoldering Oregon football program kindled by a current NCAA investigation.

But while Lyles unloaded on Kelly and Oregon, he did nothing of the sort to his other documented clients: LSU and Cal. (Along with multiple high profile football schools he’s rumored to have provided services.)

Lyles provided the following justification to Yahoo for his doing the Ducks the way he did:

Lyles said the past four months have provided clarity on the situation. While he said he never thought he was acting improperly, he understands lines may have been crossed. Whether any NCAA rules were broken that could affect Oregon hardly matters to him. Lyles has lost his business and reputation.

“But those aren’t my rules,” Lyles said. “Those are the NCAA’s rules. Those are Oregon’s rules.”

Lyles said his chief regret is not studying the NCAA bylaws to avoid mistakes that created this scandal. That and trusting that Oregon was chiefly interested in his role as a talent scout, not a recruiting facilitator.

In absolving himself of all blame Lyles, in part, pleaded ignorance when it came to knowledge of NCAA rules.

Perhaps that’s true, but in Yahoo’s same report Lyles said that it was him, not Oregon, who used an intimate knowledge of Texas and Arkansas high school graduation rules - as they pertained to NCAA eligibilty - to enable LaMichael James to sign with Oregon out of high school.

And when Lache Seastrunk’s mother didn’t want her son to attend Oregon, it was Lyles who engineered Seastrunk’s grandmother signing his National Letter of Intent to Oregon - circumventing the desires of Evelyn Seastrunk while still satisfying NCAA rules.

So thanks to Lyles’ awareness of rules governing high school and NCAA student-athletes, Oregon was able to sign Seastrunk and James - which obviously contributed to Lyles getting paid $25,000 by the school.

But Lyles was at his disingenuous best in the latter grafs of today’s Yahoo story:

“I’m very disappointed in the way the situation was handled,” Lyles said. “If people would just be honest about the things that are going on and what they’re doing – or what their intentions might be – it would have made a huge difference. It’s tough to feel like you’ve been used and you’ve been thrown away.

“I felt like my throat was cut and I was left to bleed to death. I felt that there would be some sense of loyalty to me, because I felt I provided a great [recruiting] service.

“In retrospect, it might have never been about the service.”

Let’s recap what happened after Lyles went out of his way to help Kelly and Oregon land the then-highly recruited Seastrunk:

1) Seastrunk ended up at a school where he was unexpectedly redshirted and subsequently - repeatedly - told a reporter on the record at a BCS Championship Game press conference that he wished he had gone to Auburn instead of Oregon.

2) Seastrunk’s mother had no say in where her son attended school.

3) Lyles was paid $25,000.

Lyles was “used and thrown away” by Oregon?

That leads us to why Lyles, in my opinion, threw Oregon - and not his other client schools - under the bus:

Lyles spoke to Kelly on Feb. 28 for nine minutes, according to Lyles’ phone records. On March 3, Yahoo! Sports printed its original report about the school’s payments to scouting services. The two haven’t talked since, Lyles said.

Lyles has maintained contact with Gibson, including a 94-minute call on June 2, according to phone records. Lyles said he asked Gibson about receiving the $25,000 for the 2011-12 service that Kelly had promised. Gibson wouldn’t commit. He later called Clever, the compliance director, about the same issue. Lyles now doubts Oregon will pay.

“I spoke with Josh and I asked him about [the next payment], and he was saying that, ‘Well, you know, we can’t do anything right now,’” Lyles said. “Basically, they pushed me off. I would ask, like, you know, when am I going to get paid? I asked those questions and they just kind of just kept pushing me back, pushing me back, pushing me back.

“Until I called [Assistant Athletic Director of Compliance] Bill Clever on the phone and asked him. I said, ‘I sent the invoice to the football office.’ And he didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Without a client and his name now “mud,” Lyles considers Complete Scouting Services and his professional role in college football to be over.

“It’s a dead business,” he said.

From earlier in the Yahoo story:

Lyles said he spoke with NCAA enforcement staffers for six hours in early May as part of their ongoing investigation. He said he didn’t reveal the stories concerning Kelly, James and Seastrunk to investigators because the specific topics never came up in questioning.

A six-hour interview between the NCAA and Lyles and Kelly, James and Seastrunk “stories” never came up?

If that’s the case, it appears that even after Lyles was unable to procure - despite a 94-minute(!) phone call to Oregon football staffer Josh Gibson - the $25,000 he claims he was owed by the school, he still hadn’t ratted out Kelly and the Ducks until .. now.

But why napalm Oregon today, and not during what Lyles claimed to Yahoo was a six-hour NCAA interview in early May?

Might Oregon’s disastrous document dump earlier this month - which presented Lyles as providing Oregon fraudulent recruiting documents in exchange for $25,000 - have something to do with Lyles suddenly deciding to sing?

From today’s Yahoo report:

Lyles said the past four months have provided clarity on the situation. While he said he never thought he was acting improperly, he understands lines may have been crossed. Whether any NCAA rules were broken that could affect Oregon hardly matters to him. Lyles has lost his business and reputation.

Translation: Had Oregon paid Lyles June 2, 2011, the additional $25,000 he claims Kelly promised him, Lyles wouldn’t have nuked the Oregon program - and possibly Kelly’s coaching career with the Ducks.

So four months after the NCAA launched an investigation of the Oregon football program solely because of Yahoo report that outed Lyles’ dubious relationship with Oregon, and just 18 days before Oregon released the laughable Lyles recruiting documents, Lyles was still trying to score the $25K from Oregon he claims Kelly promised him!

But after the Ducks, at least in Lyles’ brazen, entitled mind, threw him under the bus in more ways than one, it was time for Lyles to settle his personal score with Oregon.

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Ducks Dare NCAA With Seastrunk, Opposite Day

Spring Practice got underway this week in Eugene.

Willie Lyles, Lache Seastrunk, Oregon Invoice To Lyles for $25,000

(What, Chip Can’t Afford To Cash Out?)

The good news for Oregon is that - as Ken Goe of the PORTLAND OREGONIAN reported Tuesday - after a disappointing freshman redshirt, Lache Seastrunk has been impressive this week during drills.

Or is that bad news? (That is, that Seastrunk is even on the field.)

According to Oregon Coach Chip Kelly it’s definitely the former.

On March 3, the same day Oregon confirmed it had paid $25,000 to the one-person “recruiting service” run by Seastrunk “mentor” Willie Lyles, Kelly told John Canzano of the Oregonian: We’ve done nothing wrong.”

So why then did Kelly and Oregon fork over $25,000 to Lyles, who went from not knowing Seastrunk before he became a college football prospect to reportedly living with Seastrunk?

The above invoice for the transaction confirmed Oregon was to receive “Game Film and Highlight Film” from 22 states - including Oregon.

But when Kelly was asked by Canzano what Oregon got for its 25 large, Kelly said, “names and phone numbers.”

The payment to Lyles, subsequent discrepancy over services rendered and Lyles’ “Complete Scouting Service” falling well short of NCAA “recruiting service” guidelines soon drew a visit from NCAA investigators to Eugene.

That visit though may now be an extended NCAA stay after a March 13 FOXSports.com piece by Thayer Evans detailing longtime Oregon assistant coach Gary Campbell’s relationship with Lyles in Texas.

In an article titled “Is Lyles most powerful street agent?“, Evans reported that Lyles accompanied Ducks assistant Campbell to at least two Texas High Schools - Clear Springs High School and Dekaney High School - while Campbell was recruiting football players for the Ducks in 2010. Evans:

Campbell said he did visit high schools with Lyles, but doesn’t recall how often.

Campbell on Lyles:

“I just don’t understand what the big deal about this scouting service and paying Will is all about.

“I don’t think Will did anything wrong. I mean, I know he didn’t do anything wrong with us because he knew that we weren’t going to do anything outside of the rules.”

Apparently Campbell is unaware of the NCAA’s criteria for a booster, or “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” (NCAA bylaw 13.02.14):

an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to:

(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;

Again, keep in mind that before Seastrunk was known as a high school football prospect, Lyles had no prior relationship with him or his family.

If Campbell isn’t aware of the rules governing recruiting, it wouldn’t be the first time. The Oregonian reported last January:

The lone blemish on Campbell’s reputation was his 2003 interaction with junior-college running back J.J. Arrington, who had committed to California but was wavering back toward Oregon. In Campbell’s presence, Arrington signed with the Ducks after the midnight deadline, forging his father’s signature. The NCAA gave Oregon two years’ probation.

“It was a mistake,” Campbell said.

But Oregon stood by him, as he had the Ducks for so long. He so appreciates his coworkers’ longevity that if the Ducks’ coaching staff ever fractures or moves to another program, Campbell said, he might just retire.

The verification of the forgery caused Arrington to subsequently sign with Cal and landed Oregon in hot water with the NCAA.

Speaking of (in this case, alleged) undue influence over recruits, Oregon starting quarterback Darron Thomas said of Lyles in another FOXSports.com piece:

“He brings a lot of Texas to this team — a guy that Coach Chip Kelly and them out there now recruiting in Texas a lot. Like I said, he’s a big recruiting guy just leading guys.”

Oregon star LaMichael James on Lyles in the same story:

He’s very influential to me and I know to Lache and just different players.”

For all we know Lyles is a good egg who had no design on personal gain when he struck up a relationship with Seastrunk and his mother. The fact that those relationships happened only after Seastrunk became a major college football prospect, and that Lyles has subsequently moved out of the Seastrunk home and cut off his relationship with Seastrunk’s mother after her son signed with Oregon may be complete coincidence.

Like the $25,000 from Oregon to Lyles right after Seastrunk signed with the school was only for “Game Film and Highlight Film.” (Or was it “names and phone numbers“?)

But as Lyles visited multiple Texas high schools with Campbell, by NCAA rules he’s defined as a booster who is forbidden any contact with Oregon recruits.

NCAA bylaw 13.1.2 (Page 96) on what constitutes a “Permissible Recruiter”:

All in-person correspondence on and off campus recruiting contacts with prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians shall be made only by authorized institutional staff members. Such contact, as well as correspondence and telephone calls, by representatives of an institution’s athletics interests is prohibited.

There are some exceptions to that rule, but Lyles doesn’t fulfill any of them.

Lyles and Oregon have already violated the booster-contact rule thanks to Lyles’ relationship with both Seastrunk and assistant coach Campbell. Campbell confirmed the violation himself to FOXSports.com with his comments to Thayer Evans.

That violation would not, unto itself, render Seastrunk ineligible. But we’re now to the point with Oregon where the circumstantial evidence is impossible to ignore: Read more…

UO Players, Coach Paint Lyles As Oregon Booster

Over the weekend Thayer Evans of FOXSports.com revealed more about the relationship between Houston-based street agent Willie Lyles and the University of Oregon football program.

Willie Lyles, Lache Seastrunk, Oregon Invoice To Lyles for $25,000

(NCAA violation if Lyles also determined to be Oregon booster)

In a series of meticulously-detailed articles backed by what I’ve since confirmed to be taped interviews, Evans followed up on recent reports from Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports and Joe Schad and Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com that the University of Oregon in its 2010 school budget cut a $25,000 check to Lyles for “recruiting services” under the auspices of a newly-formed, one-person company called “Complete Scouting Services.”

The check to Lyles was processed less than two months after Oregon landed Texas high school football recruit and current Duck running back Lache Seastrunk. Lyles was known to have a close association with Seastrunk and Oregon throughout the recruiting process.

The UO invoice to Lyles showed the Ducks football program received videos of recruits from 22 states from Lyles though the school has yet to produce those videos to the media and/or the public.

Yahoo’s Robinson, who broke the documented payment from the University of Oregon to Lyles, wrote on March 3 of the possible ramification of that transaction:

If Lyles and Flenory aided in or were involved in any way in the recruitment of student athletes to Oregon, they would be classified as boosters by the NCAA, and any payment to them from the school would be considered a violation of Bylaw 13. Bylaw 13 prohibits boosters from directing a recruit to a school.

So when it comes to Lyles and Oregon, what the NCAA wants to know is if Lyles fits the NCAA definition of a booster. If Lyles does, the payment to Lyles would be considered an NCAA violation.

The NCAA’s criteria for a booster, or “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” (NCAA bylaw 13.02.14): Read more…

Billboard Of Ducks Players As Clowns In Eugene

A billboard depicting eight current and former Oregon Ducks football players as clowns has recently gone up in downtown Eugene, Oregon. The local media is all over the display, which includes quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James.

Jeremiah Masoli as a clown billboard up in Eugene photos video

The billboard is a response to the myriad off-field legal issues plaguing the program the last four months, with this likely only the beginning of the backlash. (Just wait until next year’s Civil War game between Oregon State and Oregon.)

But if Oregon Coach Chip Kelly had done the right thing and kicked Masoli off the team after his guilty plea to burglary last week, I highly doubt such ridicule would’ve been heaped on the team. Read more…

Oregon Coach Kelly Suspends Masoli For Season

Oregon football coach Chip Kelly said in announcement from Eugene, Oregon, today that Jeremiah Masoli has been suspended for the entire 2010 season. He will be eligible to return to the team in 2011.

Chip Kelly Suspends Masoli For The Season

Kelly’s announcement came just hours after Masoli pleaded guilty to misdemeanor burglary in a Lane County courtroom. Masoli was sentenced to a year probation, 140 hours of community service and restitution for stolen property.

Kelly added that LaMichael James will be suspended for one game to start the 2010 season. James was also in court today, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge brought by a female friend. Read more…

Oregon’s LaMichael James Gets Ten Days In Jail

George Schroeder of the EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD reports this morning from Lane County Circuit Court that Oregon running back LaMichael James pleaded no contest to one charge of harassment and was sentenced by a judge to 10 days in jail and 24 months probation.

LaMichael James sentenced to 10 days in jail

The other four assault charges against James were dropped.

Jeremiah Masoli’s court appearance will come later this afternoon. He’s facing a felony burglary charges that carries a max prison sentence of five years.

KVAL-TV has details from James’ attorney on why he plead no contest to the harassment charge. Read more…

If Convicted, Masoli Could Face 5 Years In Prison

At 8:30 AM Friday morning, Oregon starting quarterback and current 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Jeremiah Masoli will be arraigned on a charge of second degree burglary in courtroom 305 at Lane County Circuit Court in Eugene, Oregon.

Jeremiah Masoli could face five years in prison if convicted on felony burglary charge

Masoli, who has a criminal past that includes a guilty plea to multiple, strong-armed robberies as a juvenile in 2005, is accused of what the state of Oregon classifies as a Class C felony.

164.215 Burglary in the second degree: a person commits the crime of burglary in the second degree if the person enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein.

(2) Burglary in the second degree is a Class C felony.

If convicted of the felony charge, in lieu of his criminal past, Masoli could face significant jail time.

Read more…

Oregon Duck Changes Plea, Kills Kelly’s Credibility

On February 23, Oregon football coach Chip Kelly did an interview with PORTLAND OREGONIAN columnist and KXTG-FM radio host John Canzano to talk about the Ducks off-field legal problems. (audio link)

ChipKelly Kiko Alonso DUI

(Not the first time Kelly has misjudged his players)

During the visit, Canzano asked Kelly why Oregon backup player Kiko Alonso was suspended for the season after being charged with DUI, while star running back LaMichael James had not been suspended after being charged with strangulation, fourth degree assault and menacing of a female. (James pleaded not guilty at the time. As did Alonso for his DUI charge.)

Kelly responded that he suspended Alonso because he “had all the facts” of the unsettled DUI case while he was not privy to the details of the James investigation.

LaMichael James mugshot

(’No contest‘ = ‘guilty’)

That’s a defensible statement from Kelly. But what he followed with in addressing Canzano’s charge of unequal treatment was not.

Kelly to Canzano:

“When the final truth comes out, put me on the air again and then apologize.”

With today’s development in the James case, I can safely say Kelly won’t be getting that apology. Read more…