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.
(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):
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:
(a) Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program;
(b) Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;
(d) Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or
(e) Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution’s athletics program.
Once an individual, independent agency, corporate entity or other organization is identified as such a representative, the person, independent agency, corporate entity or other organization retains that identity indefinitely. (PDF link)
To confirm the nature of Lyles’ relationship with the Oregon football program, Evans talked to current Oregon running back LaMichael James, current quarterback Darron Thomas and current Oregon assistant football coach Gary Campbell.
Evans reported on the germination of the relationship between Lyles and current Oregon running back Seastrunk in an article titled, “Texas to Oregon: Divinely inspired journey?”
A reputed Houston-based “street agent,” Lyles met Seastrunk at a Texas A&M camp the summer before the player’s junior year of high school. Shortly thereafter, the two attended a summer football camp at LSU with Seastrunk’s mother, Evelyn Seastrunk.
Soon, Lyles was staying several days a week at a house where Seastrunk and his mother lived.
From that it’s also important to note that until Seastrunk was known as a high school football prospect, Lyles had no prior relationship with him or his family.
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.”
In an article titled “Is Lyles most powerful street agent?“, Evans reported that Lyles accompanied Oregon assistant coach Gary Campbell to at least two Texas High Schools - Clear Springs High School and Andy 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.
From the comments of current Oregon players Thomas and James and the nature of Lyles’ relationship to Seastrunk and Oregon assistant coach Campbell, it’s hard not to conclude that Lyles doesn’t fit what the NCAA defines as a “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” in bylaw 13.02.14.
In other words, a booster.