Lyles Seastrunk

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LOI to the Ducks pertains to $25,000 the program paid Lyles, the owner of Houston-based Complete Scouting Services, for outdated recruiting material.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.

NCAA Division 1 Council turns down proposed June signing period

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 05:  A detail of giant NCAA logo is seen outside of the stadium on the practice day prior to the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on April 5, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The fight for an early signing period will continue, but a proposed rule to open up a signing period in the month of June has been rejected by the NCAA’s Division 1 Council.

According to the Associated Press, the council modified the proposal for flexibility of the recruiting calendar. The June signing day proposal was removed after a recommendation from the NCAA’s football oversight committee. The stripping of the June signing period proposal was not to be unexpected, and the overall push for an early signing day continues with the focus shifting more to a period after the regular season but still before the typical February signing period.

While the proposed summer signing day may have been eliminated, the council will continue to leave the option of a possible December signing period on the table. A final vote on the December signing period is scheduled for April. The Collegiate Commissioners Association must approve the change before it can go into action. If the April vote allows for an early signing period, it could potentially be put in place for the Class of 2018, meaning high school players could begin signing with their desired college programs this December.

As a reminder, national signing day is the first Wednesday of each February, with this year’s signing day falling on February 1.

Northern Michigan OL Anthony Herbert passes away

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Northern Michigan offensive lineman Anthony Herbert has passed away following a workout Tuesday, the school has confirmed. He was 20.

Herbert is the second college football player to pass away in less than a week. His passing comes as Oregon has come under fire with three players hospitalized after a grueling workout, for which the Ducks’ strength coach has been suspended without pay for one month.

“Anthony’s passing is felt deeply by many,” NMU athletic director Forrest Karr said in a statement. “He made a positive impact on our campus and was everything we hope for in a student-athlete. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates, and we are focused on supporting them during this difficult time.”

Officials cited by ESPN state Herbert participated in a Tuesday workout, ate breakfast and returned to his dorm room, where he passed out. EMTs unsuccessfully attempted to revive him, and he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

“In my brief time with Anthony, I could tell that he was a great young man,” head coach Kyle Nystrom said. “He was well respected by his coaches and teammates and was a leader on the offensive line. We are devastated by this tragedy, and we are keeping his family in our prayers.”

A native of Lapeer, Mich., Herbert started every game at left guard as a redshirt sophomore in 2016. He was a member of the All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.

Pac-12 announces 2017 schedule

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans scrambles prior to throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Pac-12 announced its 2017 schedule on Wednesday, beginning with a New Mexico State-Arizona State/North Dakota-Utah double-header and ending with the conference title game, once again set for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on the first weekend of December.

The headliner is USC, the league’s presumed champion and best shot at snapping its 12-year streak without a national title, playing 12 consecutive games without a bye week. The Trojans open with home games against Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas, and play straight through their Nov. 18 finale against UCLA at the LA Coliseum.

Speaking of UCLA road games, the Bruins have a lot of them — and they’re all tough. They’ll go on the road to face Memphis, Stanford, Arizona, Washington and Utah (over a 6-day stretch) before their finale at USC. The Bruins also host Texas A&M and Oregon.

Washington’s title defense will begin with a trip to Colorado (after another pillow-soft non-conference schedule of Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State) along with a key stretch that requires a home game with Oregon followed by a trip to Stanford six days later.

For the full schedule, click here.

Washington QB Jake Browning reportedly undergoes surgery on throwing shoulder

PULLMAN, WA - NOVEMBER 25:  Jake Browning #3 of the Washington Huskies looks to pass against the Washington State Cougars in the first half of the 109th Apple Cup at Martin Stadium on November 25, 2016 in Pullman, Washington.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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Washington quarterback Jake Browning has undergone surgery on his throwing shoulder, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

The Times reports Browning injured his right shoulder during a 44-18 win over Arizona State on Nov. 18, though the exact nature of the injury is unknown. Washington kept the injury hidden during the season’s final stretch, as the Huskies claimed the Pac-12 championship and reached the College Football Playoff.

Browning played through the injury, hitting 21-of-29 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 45-17 drubbing of Washington State just six days later. Browning’s performance suffered from there, though. He hit only 9-of-24 passes for 118 yards (with two touchdowns and no picks) in a Pac-12 Championship win over Colorado, then completed 20-of-38 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and two picks in a 24-7 loss to Alabama.

How much those subpar performances were caused by the injury or by the opponent — or, most likely, a combination of the two — will be left to mystery.

Browning was the nation’s second-most efficient passer in the month of September, No. 3 in October, No. 16 in November and No. 66 in December. He finished the year ranked seventh, hitting 62.1 percent of his tosses for 8.8 yards per attempt with 43 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

Huskies head coach Chris Petersen has a policy of not discussing injuries, but he let on to Brock Huard’s radio show earlier this month that Browning did not finish the season 100 percent.

“I do think he was fighting through some things as the season went on because he’s a tough guy,” Petersen told the show, via The Seattle Times. “We had to do some things. Let me say this: We’ve got some tough kids on our team. Those kids, they fight through some things, and we don’t talk about who’s hurt and all this stuff, but Jake’s a tough kid and I’ll just say that. He fought through some stuff.”

Browning’s recovery time is expected to be six weeks, the paper reports.