Coach's Corner

The Pac-12 Conference was less than 12 hours old before Yahoo! Sports joined forces with the NCAA to fan the flames of the first scandal of the newly-formed league. It was directed at none other than the conference's reigning football champions, the Oregon Ducks. Duh!

There is a price for success, and everyone at USC and The Ohio State University are watching with interest, and vise-versa. In Oregon's case, the charges actually relate to the recruiting process, as opposed to violations after kids enroll, which is what happened at those two schools.

It doesn't look like a slap on the wrist is going to be the only punishment for those on the Duck Pond. Scouting guru turned street agent Will Lyles, confessed to Yahoo! Sports that he, Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly, and two of Kelly's assistants, were all aware of his involvement in getting kids to sign with the Ducks.

They promised and paid him $25,000 for his services in 2010-2011, and then refused to send the same amount for his 2011-12 package. Lyles got pissed and spilled the beans on the Ducks.

He said he lost his business, his reputation, and his good name. He said there had been a specific request from the Oregon coaches for a "cover up" orchestrated by Kelly and his staff to scramble together a recruiting packet to prove he was a legit scouting service. If they could do that, they could justify the $25,000 price tag.

Simply put, there is a reason why some of the best skill players Oregon has recently signed are from Texas. The reason is Will Lyles - a man who befriended kids and became their agent-in-waiting, advisor/counselor, mentor, father figure and promoter.

All the kids Lyles took under his wing just happen to be good football players, and some of the best ones just happened to end up at Oregon.

It's not a coincidence either, especially after what Lyles told Yahoo! Sports, and many others shortly after his side of the story became public.

After reading the whole Yahoo! story (and I encourage everyone to read it HERE), and realizing all the potential violations involved, there is little doubt the NCAA won't have to dig deep to really dunk the Ducks.

Because of the number of personnel involved, that alone could blow this up into a major case. The NCAA investigators spent six hours grilling Lyles, and he confirmed to John Canzano of the Oregonian Monday that he's been contacted by the NCAA about another possible meeting, presumably to go into detail his association with the Oregon coaches and what he knew about the recruitment of Texas players to UO, like LaMichael James, Lache Seastrunk, and Dontae Williams.

We all know how incredibly slow the NCAA investigative process works; this probably won't go down until after next season anyway. By then Oregon will appeal so they can stockpile a recruiting class before any possible sanctions go into effect. Sound familiar? It could go into well into 2012.

However long it takes the NCAA to dispense their brand of justice, it just means that sooner or later the hammer is almost sure to fall. I believe it's a case of obvious cheating in recruiting, with an attempted cover up that reaches all the way to Kelly - just as the Ohio State mess did with their head coach, Jim Tressel.

After Lyles' five-hour interview with Yahoo!, it appears that Kelly was a direct player in Lyles becoming a representative of Oregon's athletics interests. Kelly's phone records indicate he talked regularly to Lyles, and that he directly authorized the 25K payment for services rendered. What exactly those services were will be one of the key points of the NCAA's investigation.

Kelly had even thanked Lyle with a personal card for orchestrating a trip that brought four top Texas prospects to a Duck game against USC (two of the kids ended up with Oregon).

Two of Kelly's assistants - Josh Gibson, Assistant Director of Football Operations, and Tom Osborne, an assistant coach with a strong recruiting reputation as being a heavy hitter, have been implicated by Lyles.

Gibson, in particular, got caught with his hand in the cookie jar after it was revealed he allegedly knew about Seastrunk's mom and the fact that she didn't want her son signing with Oregon. They provided Lyles with information that eventually helped Seastrunk sign a letter of intent with the Ducks by using the signature of his grandmother.

In a nutshell, what Lyles is saying now is that he was paid by Oregon for his access and influence with certain prospects.

Yahoo! Sports and their investigative team jumped on this case when the $25K figure came to light, which was right after Seastrunk's signing in February.

The fact of the matter is Lyles did run a "recruiting service", and Oregon had been his first client. He scouted for them and gave them over the phone scouting reports and insider information and was conveniently paid right after he delivered the goods.

Now Oregon wasn't the only school Lyles had contact with. LSU, California, and Oregon State are three other programs that indirectly dealt with him in the past, and he claims to have sent players from Texas to play for the Beavers. The difference between Oregon and these other schools is that they paid a substantial sum for the full package of Lyles' 'services'.

According to the Yahoo! story, Kelly personally told him to go out and find out what the highest paid services got, and then approved it himself.

Oregon's administration has repeatedly stated that they believe they did nothing wrong, presumably justifying their actions through the NCAA bylaw that allows programs to hire outside recruiting services.

I believe it's obvious Lyles was working outside the jurisdiction of a legitimate 'recruiting service', and he helped steer kids to Oregon by providing them key personal information and access.

Any way you look at it, this recent news can't be good for the Ducks. It won't affect them this year, unless of course, Kelly is forced to resign because of his involvement, but I don't see that happening.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the list of infractions continue to grow the longer the investigation goes on. When you open your door to the NCAA, nothing is off-limits. Right now, Oregon is in the top seat, and that usually draws extra attention when it comes to rule-breaking.

As a side note, I want to point out that when I took the fall for providing fruit baskets to Washington recruits two decades ago, Oregon was doing the same thing on their visits. I hope the NCAA finds fruit baskets this time, because what goes around, comes around.

I want the Huskies to beat the Ducks straight up this fall, so there can be no excuse-making about sanctions.

From a competitive standpoint, the timing of this story has become a positive for everyone in the conference. It may have become a distraction for the Ducks, but you can bet Kelly will also be using it as a motivational tool.

Where there is a Will, there is a way - only this time the 'Will' was Will Lyles. He is not happy with the Oregon Ducks, and he is spilling his guts.

Let's hope it wasn't from a bad apple.


Dawgman.com Top Stories