Will Lyles: Oregon ‘paid for… my access and influence with recruits’

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UO?  Try uh-oh.  In all-caps.  With multiple, multiple exclamation points.

And Chip Kelly may want to study up on the fate of Jim Tressel as it’s the same thing currently in his rear-view and gaining fast.

In early March, a Yahoo! Sports article raised many questions regarding Oregon’s financial ties to recruiting services, particularly the $25,000 paid to Will Lyles of Complete Scouting Services for what was described as a “2011 National Package”.  Prompted by open-records requests from multiple media outlets, UO released documents last month pertaining to what they received in Lyles’ national package in exchange for the $25K.  As the package consisted mainly of players from the 2009 recruiting class — and 135 of the 140 profiles were for players from Texas — even more questions were raised.

Unfortunately for the Oregon football program in general and Kelly in particular, those questions may have been answered today in yet another outstanding investigative piece by Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo!.

In extensive on-the-record conversations that took place over the course of several days, Lyles claims he was paid the $25K by the university because of the influence he carried over recruits, particularly high-profile 2010 UO signee Lache Seastrunk.  Additionally, Lyles claimed that Kelly and others contacted him shortly before Yahoo!’s March story was published, saying “they were on my ass” to get the written reports on recruits he had never provided them despite the $25K payment.

Those demands for the written reports on purported members of the 2011 recruiting class came at least three weeks after National Signing Day in February, well beyond their “expiration” date even if the fact that they were for ’09 recruits isn’t factored in.

Lyles said Kelly “scrambled” in late February and asked Lyles to submit retroactive player profiles to justify the $25,000 payment to his company, just days before the transaction was revealed in a March 3 Yahoo! Sports report. …

Lyles insists Oregon did not make a direct request or payment to steer recruits to Eugene. However, he now says Oregon did not pay him for his work as a traditional scout, but for his influence with top recruits and their families and his ability to usher prospects through the signing and eligibility process. That dual role as mentor to prospects and paid contractor to Oregon is believed to be a focus of the NCAA probe.

“I look back at it now and they paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits,” Lyles said. “The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should … I made a mistake and I’m big enough of a man to admit I was wrong.” …

(It should be noted that, in early May, Lyles labeled as “unequivocally false” reports that he steered recruits to universities.)

In the expansive and lengthy piece, which should be read in full and can be accessed again by clicking HERE, Lyles claimed that Kelly personally provided, in essence, a blank check for his “recruiting service”.  And, once again, the conversation turned back around to the appearance that Kelly and the Ducks scrambled to fill in the holes created by the $25K that’s more and more taking on the appearance of a payment for a player.

Lyles said Kelly and Oregon committed to becoming the first client for CSS prior to Lyles aiding Seastrunk with the letter-of-intent issue. Then, just after the guardianship switch, Lyles said Kelly instructed him to “find out what the best paying service is” and to bill Oregon that amount. When Lyles settled on the $25,000 figure, he said he called Kelly and Kelly personally approved it.

Eleven months passed – from March 2010 until February 2011 – before the Ducks requested a single written recruiting profile, Lyles said. And when that moment came, Lyles said the demand for the reports was sudden and emphatic, leading him to believe Oregon was “scrambling” to establish that he’d provided legitimate traditional scouting services because they were aware of a Yahoo! Sports investigation. Previously, Lyles said he had provided scouting reports verbally in frequent calls with Oregon coaches.

“They said they just needed anything,” Lyles said of the embarrassingly thin recruiting profiles that Oregon made public earlier this month. “They asked for last-minute [stuff]. So I gave them last-minute [stuff] … I gave them, like, old stuff that I still had on my computer because I never thought that stuff would see the light of day.”

Lyles added that he spoke to the NCAA for several hours in early May, but “didn’t reveal the stories concerning Kelly, [LaMichael] James and Seastrunk to investigators because the specific topics never came up in questioning.”

We’re guessing that, after this expose’ finds its way to the NCAA and if — if — it has any validity, The Association will want to discuss the specific topics Lyles broached in what could prove to be the most explosive piece of journalism this offseason.  Yes, more so than the Tressel/OSU allegations.  And, yes, it’s that bad.

So much so, in fact, that it would be hard to see Kelly surviving the damning accusations leveled against him.  Or the university standing behind/beside him in the face of the latest round of allegations.

Again, if Lyles can be believed.  And the NCAA can prove he’s to be believed.

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.