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Oregon’s financial ties to recruiting services questioned

Oregon v Oregon State Getty Images

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.

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25 Responses to “Oregon’s financial ties to recruiting services questioned”
  1. jaggedmark says: Mar 3, 2011 9:21 PM

    Recruiting Violations: If it waddles like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

  2. jaggedmark says: Mar 3, 2011 9:22 PM

    Recruiting violations is the only explanation for 4/5 star recruits being willing to wear those ugly ass uniforms.

  3. jaggedmark says: Mar 3, 2011 9:24 PM

    Put up your O’s now Duck fans. As in: It’s Over.

  4. schexyoung says: Mar 3, 2011 9:32 PM

    A Few things:

    1. In reference to the sentence below, please state the Auburn Tigers. When you have Louisiana and Tigers in the same sentence people tend to go with LSU.

    2. The two players in question in La. are Trovon Reed and Greg Robinson. The later showed up at high school with a wad of cash and an brand new iphone that his mom knew nothing about the Monday after his verbal commitment to AU.

    3. Texas and LSU fans were wondering why each school all of sudden laid off of recruiting Seastrunk. Many expected foul play and it appears the fire is visible through the smoke.

  5. schexyoung says: Mar 3, 2011 9:34 PM

    Sentence referenced in #1:

    “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.”

  6. gatorprof says: Mar 3, 2011 9:45 PM

    Not looking good for the Ducks…

  7. schexyoung says: Mar 3, 2011 9:45 PM

    How many push-ups equal $28,745? Get to work duck.

  8. thefiesty1 says: Mar 3, 2011 9:55 PM

    It seems to be a little clearer now. It amazes me that everyone speculating which rival school was guilty when it now appears to be caused by a recruiting service. Aren’t these services all basically agents?

    Why would any school pay a recruiting service to provide video tapes of recruits and then sign them to a scholarship when they have free access to their high school coaches during recruiting? That seems to be a conflict of interest on both the school and the recruiting service. That’s just dumb. If this is true, they deserve whatever punishment they get.

  9. soflatrojan says: Mar 3, 2011 10:03 PM

    It was well publicized last year that Seastrunk was a pay for play kid. Seastrunk was a heavy USC lean if not silent while Pete Carroll was coach. In fact a picture circulated of Carroll with the street agent who was linked to Lache.

    One of the first things Kiffin when he got the job was to pull the offer from Lache. What coach pulls a scholarship from a 5* rb who is a heavy lean to their school unless something else is going on.

    I also wouldn’t doubt if Kiffin is the one who alerted the NCAA to the Mamba recruitment by Oregon. Very good sources very close to USC claimed hi flop to Oregon was based solely off Nike and what they offered.

  10. noaxetogrind says: Mar 3, 2011 10:19 PM

    I am the biggest “wait until all the facts come out” guy there is but this stinks early. $25,000 to a relatively unknown recruiting service like this is definitely a little unusual to say the least. The biggest & oldest recruiting services out there are LRS Sports, Collegiate Sports Data, Sunshine Preps, Forbes Report and a several others. Some offer only data and some like LRS offer both data and video. You have to really load up with a national player offering data & video to spend $25,000 and it would still be hard. Will be curious to see the itemized invoice Oregon paid.

  11. schexyoung says: Mar 3, 2011 10:50 PM

    The timing of the payment is the most damning part of this. I assume like most business who provide a product (in this case recruiting data) would want the money up front. Oregon made the payment after National Signing Day when LS signed the LOI. Seems to me you wouldn’t pay for the recruiting data AFTER Nation Signing Day.

  12. gatorprof says: Mar 3, 2011 10:59 PM

    The Ducks just don’t know how to play the game…rookies!!!! How in the world do you leave a paper trail right to your athletic department?

  13. oregontrash says: Mar 4, 2011 2:57 AM

    Hmmm, Baron Flenory…. Baron Flenory. Where have I heard that name before? Oh yeah, Baron Flenory played football at the University of New Hampshire. I wonder if Chip Kelly was coaching at New Hampshire when Flenory played there?….. Doh!

  14. somebodyknew says: Mar 4, 2011 6:19 AM

    Let’s have a real conversation. These kids got paid and rightly so. They deserve it. College football is a semi-pro league. It’s no different then the farm system in baseball. It’s why some kids decide to go to the minor leagues first, i.e. Ricky Williams, because atleast the money is over the table. The NCAA and Colleges across our great country are cleaning up at the ticket booths and concession stands, not to count jerseys and whatever else they can sell to us at the games. (Do we even want to throw in beer sales to minors?!) So let’s come back to reality. The NCAA needs to come up with a system to compensate the players just as much as they need to come up with a playoff system, but greed keeps getting in the way. The NFL cuts players and refuses to pay the remaining part of the contracts. Where else in the world can you not live up to the obligations of the contract you signed and get away with it. Do you think the NFL would just sign with someone else and leave the money on the table if FOX or CBS just up and suddenly cancel their tv contracts. And the reason they gave was because they didn’t feel they were worth it or just didn’t want to pay the money because of a bad year of ratings? All hell would break loose and we know it. So how much greed can we honestly defend from the NCAA and NFL?! These are crumbs on the table and they need to let it go truly address the issue.

  15. somebodyknew says: Mar 4, 2011 6:22 AM

    * or truly address the issue.

  16. seanmmartin says: Mar 4, 2011 7:36 AM

    huhiu78f57d5f

  17. scardino says: Mar 4, 2011 9:25 AM

    These street agents are the primary method coaches are using to provide improper benefits to the students. There is a sizable list of schools paying these street agents but it isn’t everyone. People who claim “everyone is paying players so just make it legit” are overlooking the simple fact that not everyone is doing it. In fact, though many successful programs are cheating, most NCAA football programs are not paying players or (purposefully) providing illicit benefits.

  18. kurtismae says: Mar 4, 2011 1:40 PM

    Mr. Taylor, your headline is –to say the least–extremely unprofessional. Oregon has not been “outed” for anything; they have been accused.

    And to all of you guys on here here making snide comments… tell the truth – if this particular shoe were on YOUR foot, you would be screaming bloody murder that:
    1. this practice of using recruiting services/street agents is widespread, so why are they singling out MY team?
    2. they paid the guy with a check for Gods sake, and entered it in the accounting books.

    All of you who are insinuating that the Ducks would have to do something underhanded in order to pull a recruit from your glorious school are just homer assholes.

  19. oregontrash says: Mar 4, 2011 2:16 PM

    Kurstine, go sit in the corner until you learn to behave. There’s no crying on collegefootballtalk.com. We’re not changing the rules for the gender minority.

  20. scardino says: Mar 4, 2011 3:12 PM

    I like ESPN’s headline:
    “Man who helps Ducks probed”

    I cringed when I read that.

  21. thefiesty1 says: Mar 4, 2011 3:15 PM

    Quack! Quack! Where is the transparity that all these coaches rave about? Timing of this (signing lot and payment) smells bad. That’s just dumb.

  22. caliguy58 says: Mar 4, 2011 4:18 PM

    This whole business stinks. The appearance of impropriety is manifest and the potential for corruption overwhelming. You read about coaches being gone for long periods of time on the “recruiting trail”. Yet, all they really have to do is pay these services for the information they supposedly put so much time in personally gathering, and then visit the recruit a couple of times to finalize the deal. Of course, it’s entirely proper for recruits to make visits to the colleges they are considering so that they can make an informed decision about where they want to play and go to school. But, the insertion of these so-called “scouting services” into the process makes one wonder what are they are doing for the money paid to them. They operate in the “dark” without having to report to anyone and without being regulated by anyone. This lack of transparency in the process has served as a cover for corruption in so many other areas that one can’t help but believe that corruption is rampant in this field.

  23. kurtismae says: Mar 4, 2011 4:59 PM

    Oregon Trash,

    Your name says it all.

    As to your assertions regarding my gender… transference?

    A qualified psychiatric professional can help, and I’m certain that your — no doubt — bruised wife would thank you for it.

    As for hurting her feelings (instead of her face), believe me, in the long-run she’ll be happier once you’ve both found a good man.

  24. oregontrash says: Mar 4, 2011 6:48 PM

    No need to get personal, Kristine. When and how I beat my wife is none of your business.

    I toured the Oregon campus and athletic facilities last season….. very nice! Had everything but a trophy room.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  25. thepar46 says: Mar 5, 2011 6:01 PM

    oregontrash: Nice name what are you,TRAILER TRASH,YOU LIKE SHEEP,DONT YOU?

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