Willie Lyles strikes again: NCAA investigating Vols

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The “scouting services” of Willie Lyles (pictured, middle) has already landed Oregon a Letter of Inquiry from the NCAA and significant scrutiny from the same organization for LSU.  Now, Tennessee has reportedly become the latest to be Willie’d as well.

According to Yahoo! Sports, Lyles paid nearly $1,500 for airplane tickets for then-recruit Lache Seastrunk (pictured, right) and his mother to take an unofficial visit to Tennessee in June of 2009.  Lyles alleges he was then reimbursed by Willie Mack Garza, who was an assistant on Lane Kiffin‘s UT staff at the time and the man responsible for setting up the visit by Seastrunk according to Lyles.

Garza joined Kiffin at USC when the coach left the Vols after just one season for the Trojans job.  Two days before the start of the 2011 season, Garza abruptly resigned his job as USC’s secondary coach, saying in a statement that he had “some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address.”

Two days prior to Garza’s announcement, Lyles had met with NCAA investigators and provided them with receipts that showed he had been reimbursed by Garza.  Lyles also told Yahoo! that this latest NCAA investigation into the UT football program is “a wide-ranging look into Tennessee recruiting practices” under Kiffin.

“We are aware of the situation as is the conference office,” UT associate athletic director for communications Jimmy Stanton said in a statement. “We’ve been verbally contacted by the NCAA enforcement staff regarding a recruiting issue in 2009 related to the former coaching staff and a student-athlete who never attended Tennessee.”

School’s are permitted under NCAA bylaws to provide airfare for potential recruits for official visits, provided those visits occur after the player has started his senior year of high school.  Paying for unofficial visits prior to the start of a recruit’s senior year would be considered a major NCAA violation.

Seastrunk ultimately signed with Oregon in February of 2010, but transferred to Baylor earlier this year.  The NCAA’s LOI to the Ducks pertains to $25,000 the program paid Lyles, the owner of Houston-based Complete Scouting Services, for outdated recruiting material.  Lyles has claimed the UO program paid him for his influence on recruits, including Seastrunk, a native of Temple, Tex.

Lyles said Seastrunk was granted immunity by the NCAA and has already spoken to The Association regarding the Garza allegations.

“I’m so sick and tired of this ‘Willie Lyles said this and Willie Lyles said that,’” Evelyn Seastrunk told Yahoo!. “I don’t care what Willie Lyles says. I don’t care as long as my son is OK.

“Whatever undercover dirty stuff that they’re doing, I’m pretty sure that Willie Lyles is not the only person. He’s just the only one that’s been caught. This is something that they’ve been doing forever.”

Just last month, the NCAA announced that it had accepted UT’s self-imposed sanctions for violations committed by the football program during Kiffin’s brief stay in Knoxville.  The school said in its statement to Yahoo! that “[w]e believe, as does the conference office, that this matter is not subject to the repeat offender provision.”

The school placed itself on probation from August 24, 2011, through August 23,  2013.  Because this alleged violation occurred prior to the 24th of last month, UT will likely not be in danger of being labeled a repeat offender, which would have put the program in jeopardy of facing significant sanctions from the NCAA.

New Mexico AD Paul Krebs in hot water for Scotland golf trip

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New Mexico AD Paul Krebs (right) had it all figured out. He wanted to go to Scotland to play golf (who doesn’t) but he didn’t want to pay for it (who does?). So he came up with a solution: he’d turn it into a UNM fundraising trip and make the school pay for it.

The school sold 23 packages to travel across the pond for a getaway of luxurious accommodations and bucket-list golf, but put the bills of himself, two UNM executives and a handful of local businessmen on the school’s dime. Lots of dimes, in fact. The trip cost the Lobos nearly $65,000.

“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs told KRQE-TV earlier this month.

Despite his attempt at justification, it appeared Krebs knew from the start the trip was an ethical no-no. The $65,000 bill was classified as a basketball tournament on UNM’s accounting paperwork, and Krebs failed to disclose the nature of the June 2015 trip to acting president Chaouki Abdallah until last week.

“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” Abdallah told KRQE. “I was not happy.”

It is not clear why the UNM Foundation or the Lobo Club,  non-profits that handles the school’s and the athletics department’s fundraising efforts, respectively, did not cover the cost of the trip, especially since Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey was one of the UNM officials who was on the trip. Putting the bill on the university’s ledger also appears to be a violation of the state’s anti-donation laws. The $24,000 cost to take the Albuquerque businessmen has since been refunded by an anonymous donor.

“(Krebs) told me about it in no uncertain terms,” Abdallah told said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”

 

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.