Oregon v Oregon State

Oregon’s financial ties to recruiting services questioned

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And now it’s all starting to take on some semblance of sense.

With speculation swirling that “a major publication is about to unseat a major college football power on recruiting violations“, both Yahoo! and ESPN.com have released reports this evening that call into question the financial relationship between Oregon and a pair of so-called recruiting services.

Each websites obtained financial documents that showed Oregon paid $25,000 to Will Lyles of Complete Scouting Services in Houston, and $3,745 to Baron Flenory of New Level Athletics.  The money was reportedly paid by the school for recruiting services.

At issue, however, is whether either Lyles or Flenory steered players under their direction to the Ducks.  In particular, the NCAA is very interested in the former individual.

Lyles has a close relationship with Lache Seastrunk, one of the top high school running backs in the country in 2009 and a 2010 Oregon signee.  Seastrunk’s recruitment, ESPN.com reports, is something the NCAA is taking a closer look at, in part because Lyles received his $25,000 from Oregon shortly after Seastrunk signed his Letter of Intent with the school.

Additionally, the NCAA is examining Lyles’ relationship with Seastrunk’s teammate and 2010 Heisman runner-up LaMichael James.  Lyles described himself as James’ trainer and advisor when he was a guest of the back at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show last December.

Oregon has confirmed the payment was made to Lyles, but says everything they’ve done regarding utilizing that particular service was above-board.

Yeah, we made the payment,” UO spokesman Dave Williford told The Oregonian. “Everybody does it. This all has been run through our compliance office. We have nothing to hide.”

“Most programs purchase recruiting services,” head coach Chip Kelly told ESPN.com Thursday. “Our compliance office is aware of it. Will has a recruiting service that met NCAA rules and we used him in 2010.”

To offer perspective on the amount of money involved, ESPN.com wrote that recruiting services typically charge $5,000 or less per season for video footage and information about high school prospects.  In offering further context, the same website writes that the $25,000 payment exceeded the $16,500 Oregon paid the recruiting service for its work during the previous two years combined.

Yahoo! notes the ramifications for Oregon if its found that Lyles or Flenory were paid money in exchange for steering recruits to the school.

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.

Oregon might not be alone in this Lyles boat, however.  According to ESPN.com, Lyles has ties to players who eventually signed with schools such as Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma State, USC and Texas A&M.  Of those schools mentioned, Auburn may have the most reason for concern.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that NCAA investigators were dispatched to Louisiana to speak to individuals regarding the recruitment of two players who ultimately signed with the Tigers.  Specifically, the reports stated, the NCAA is interested in the involvement of Sean Nelson, who accompanied the then-recruits on unofficial visits to the school on multiple occasions.

Per ESPN.com, the NCAA is examining Lyles’ relationship with Nelson.

With all that said, the fact that Oregon has been very upfront and forthright with the media regarding the payments would make a reasonable person think there’s a whole helluva lot of smoke but very little fire here.  However, once the NCAA starts digging, they normally don’t stop until they find something.

For all of the schools involved, and based on the word on the street, they’d better hope that the rumored skeletons in one individual’s closet are cleaned out before the NCAA opens that particular door.

UPDATED 9:52 p.m. ET: Oregon has released an official statement in response to this evening’s reports.  Here it is, in its entirety.

The athletics department paid for services rendered by a pair of scouting services that were processed through the athletics department business office to Complete Scouting Services and New Level Athletics. This is no different than services purchased by a number of colleges and universities throughout the country.

This is something we remain confident that is within the acceptable guidelines allowed by the NCAA and occurred with the knowledge of the department’s compliance office.

We have previously stated that we have not been in contact with anyone from the NCAA or Pacific-10 Conference in regards to these practices and that situation remains unchanged.

Vandy assistant Osia Lewis battling liver cancer

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Derek Mason of the Vanderbilt Commodores speaks to an official regarding a play that was called a non-fumble on the opening kickoff against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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A serious medical event has caused a shakeup on Derek Mason‘s Vanderbilt coaching staff.

The football program revealed in an article posted to its official website Tuesday night that outside linebackers coach Osia Lewis is battling cholangiocarcinoma, a form of liver cancer.  The 54-year-old coach was diagnosed in mid-January after undergoing a battery of tests the last couple of months.

Lewis, who is married with two children, has already started chemotherapy, although the school writes that, “[f]or now, the tumor is inoperable due to its location, but doctors are hopeful treatment will make an impact.”

As Lewis continues to battle, he will move from his on-field role to what the program describes as the chief consultant to the head coach and senior defensive assistant. “But as soon as I’m ready to go, I’ll be back,” the coach said.

“Osia is family,” Mason said. “Some people run from these things, but we’ve chosen to run to it. I believe Osia and Darlene, with what they’ve poured into this program, their journey is a testament to what it means to be family. They’ve given everything they have to this program, moving from San Diego to Nashville because I asked them to. I truly believe it’s important for us to take the journey with them.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

WRs coach Zach Azzanni leaving Vols for job with Chicago Bears

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15:  A general view of the play during the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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An NFL team has once again cost a Power Five program an assistant coach.

Tennessee announced in a press release Wednesday that Zach Azzanni has stepped down from his job with the Volunteers in order to take the job as wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears.  Azzanni had spent the past four seasons as UT’s receivers coach.

He also carried the title of passing-game coordinator the last two years.

“We are really excited for Zach and his family,” said head coach Butch Jones in a statement. “I have known Zach for a long time and this is a path he has wanted to pursue for some time. We can’t thank him enough for his loyalty, dedication and hard work over the past four years to our football program.

“We will begin the process of filling this position immediately. It’s a position we want to fill as quickly as we can, but we also want to go through the detailed process, which we will.”

This will mark Azzanni’s first job in the NFL as his previous 18 years in the profession have come at the collegiate level.

Clemson transfer Scott Pagano sets his five official visits

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass under pressure from Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Not long after Scott Pagano decided to transfer from Clemson, three dozen or so teams expressed interest in the defensive tackle.  A short time later, that list had been whittled down to seven by the lineman.

Just a couple of days later, Pagano has a list of teams he will officially visit.  From Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.com:

Pagano… said he will officially visit Notre Dame March 24, Oklahoma March 31 and Arkansas April 7.

Pagano has completed his official visit plan by lining up a trip to Texas for April 14 and Oregon April 21.

The graduate transfer also listed Cal and Nebraska as two of his seven finalists.  He could still “unofficially” visit those programs, or any others for that matter, even as they are not part of his current official visits schedule.

Pagano is expected to make a final decision that would allow him to enroll in his new school in May.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Jim Harbaugh confirms TE Devin Asiasi will transfer from Michigan

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 29: Devin Asiasi #2 of the Michigan Wolverines tries to outrun the tackles of Riley Bullough #30 and Ed Davis #43 of the Michigan State Spartans during a first quarter run at Spartan Stadium on October 29, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The reports of a couple of weeks ago have indeed come to fruition.

Earlier this month, speculation had Devin Asiasi considering a transfer from Michigan back closer to his home on the West Coast. Tuesday night, the tight end’s head coach confirmed the transfer part of the equation.

“Yeah, he’s moving on, transferring,” Jim Harbaugh said according to mlive.com. “He leaves in great status. He was doing great in school, doing great in football, really popular and well-liked by his teammates.

“We wish him well.”

USC and UCLA are currently rumored to be among Asiasi’s potential landing spots. One of Asiasi’s former high school teammates, Boss Tagaloa, plays defensive tackle for the Bruins and the two players had talked of going to the same school when they were recruits. The Trojans were a finalist before Asiasi opted for the Wolverines as well.

As a 6-3, 287-pound true freshman last season, Asiasi played in all 13 games. He caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.

A four-star recruit in last year’s class coming out of high school at Concord De La Salle High School, Asiasi was rated as the No. 3 tight end in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of California. In addition to UM, USC and UCLA, Asiasi held offers from, among others, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.