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.

Virginia Tech defends decision to put Michael Vick in Hokies Hall of Fame

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Athletically, there is no question Michael Vick belongs in Virginia Tech’s athletics hall of fame. Heck, the Hokies might as well name the thing after him.

In his two seasons on campus, Vick (pictured, left) threw for 3,299 yards and 21 touchdowns — averaging 9.6 yards per attempt on 56 percent completions, in an era where anything over 50 was considered above-average — while adding an electrifying 1,299 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Vick led the Hokies to a 22-2 record, a Big East championship and appearance in the BCS national title game as a redshirt freshman in 1999, a campaign that saw him finish third in Heisman Trophy voting.

He was essentially a combination of Vince YoungJohnny Manziel and Allen Iverson, in a time when the I-formation and pocket passers still ruled college football.

But there is, of course, the non-football side of Vick’s life.

In the prime of his career — he came 26 passing yards short of a 2,500/1,000 season in 2007 — Vick’s NFL career essentially ended when he was convicted of running a dogfighting ring and served 21 months in federal prison. And all throughout that time, Virginia Tech was tangentially related to the biggest villain in sports.

Still, Virginia Tech announced earlier this month that Vick was a member of its 5-person 2017 Sports Hall of Fame class, to be inducted on Friday, Sept. 22. Vick’s inclusion generation a petition that has drawn more than 2,500 signatures protesting the decision.

“You know one of my friends volunteered to go down to his residence where all of this took place at the aftermath to help with the cleanup, if you want to put it that way,” Virginia Tech graduate and petition creator Jennifer Breeden told Collegiate Times. “It’s just kind of an embarrassment that (Virginia Tech) would want to honor someone like that.”

Arguing that Vick has paid his debt to society and shown remorse for his actions, Virginia Tech on Friday released the following statement saying that Vick will remain in the 2017 class.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports hall of fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete—who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university.

We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports hall of fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction, and time he served for his crime were also considered.

And it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives.

This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted.

The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

It’ll be interesting to see the reaction Vick gets at the Hokies’ Sept. 23 home game against Old Dominion.

Michigan pulls recruiting director away from former Michigan coach’s staff

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Michigan is set to add Arizona recruiting czar Matt Dudek as its new director of recruiting, according to a report from FootballScoop on Saturday.

CBS Sports’s Dennis Dodd confirmed the report, adding that Michigan is expected to formally announce the move at Big Ten media days on Monday.

The irony, of course, is that Dudek will leave the staff of former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

Dudek had been with Rodriguez shortly after his late 2011 hiring, first as on-campus recruiting coordinator and player personnel director before being named college football’s first general manager after the 2015 season. He helped the Wildcats win the 2014 Pac-12 South championship and was named a finalist for FootballScoop‘s Player Personnel Director of the Year award multiple times. (Disclaimer: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Prior to Arizona, Dudek worked as director of football branding and events at Rutgers and as assistant director of football operations and recruiting coordinator at Pittsburgh.

At Michigan, Dudek will join a staff that already recruits quite capably under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have finished eighth and fifth nationally in 247Sports‘s composite team rankings in Harbaugh’s two full cycles as Michigan’s head coach.

Dudek’s departure will be viewed by some as an anti-show of faith in Rodriguez’s tenure at Arizona. Since that 10-4, top-20 season in 2014, the Wildcats have slipped to 7-6 in 2015 and 3-9 last fall.

WATCH: Mark Richt takes annual backflip off the high dive

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It’s been quite the summer for Mark Richt. His 2018 recruiting class is one of the best in the nation, he taught the nation the most efficient way to eat a sandwich, and on Friday he executed his annual high-dive backflip at a Hurricanes pool party.

(In case you haven’t seen the sandwich bit, watch it below. It’ll change your life.)

As SB Nation catalogues, Richt has made these backflips an annual thing since he was at Georgia in 2015. It was a skill he learned, he says, to impress the ladies after watching Greg Louganis (yes, that Greg Louganis) do it while they were students at Miami.

Richt and Louganis both enrolled at the University of Miami in 1978, and the future Hurricanes’ coach and his teammates would hang out at the university’s pool, where Louganis and the diving team would practice.

“We would watch him,” Richt said. “You’d go to the pool, because that’s where the girls were, right? So we’d watch the divers work out and say, that guy’s pretty good. Turns out he was the best in the world, like, ever. I had a lot of respect for him.”

Here’s this year’s effort.

Not bad for a guy pushing 60.

Nick Saban thinks skipping bowl games could lead to recruits doing same thing in high school

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Grand Poobah of college football and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has had some interesting ideas about the sport over the years that conflict with the general consensus of his peers. The latest subject to fit that mold? How players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipping their bowl games could filter down to the high school level with recruits.

“Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season,” Saban told CBS Sports. “It will take a few years, then some kid will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame. I’m not playing my senior year.'”

The Crimson Tide coach is referencing not only the two tailbacks skipping bowl games but also the possibility that upcoming December signing date could be moved up on the calendar. Big 12 commissioner (and chairman of the Football Oversight Committee) Bob Bowlsby said at his conference media days that the date for signing could be changed or even extended to a longer signing period as part of ongoing discussions about the recruiting process.

Talk of players signing with a college prior to their senior season in high school has not been broadly talked about by coaches or administrators but it does seem like everything is on the table when it comes to NCAA reforms in this area. It remains to be seen if any recruit will actually go as far as sitting out a full year in order to protect himself from injury in order to play in college… just as it remains questionable as to whether Fournette and McCaffrey’s decisions will develop into a broader trend at the college level.

Coaches are no fans of dramatically altering the status quo and it seems Saban is among the group who want to stem the postseason defection of players before things turn into a regular occurrence at any level of football.