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to the Ducks pertains to $25,000 the program paid Lyles, the owner of Houston-based Complete Scouting Services, for outdated recruiting material.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

Florida State planning new facility to catch up with Clemson

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Florida State completed a major facility overhaul not even three years ago. But the thing about arms races is that when someone pulls ahead of you it means you are behind.

And Clemson officially pulled ahead earlier this year with the opening of its glistening, slide-equipped new home.

As such, Jimbo Fisher told reporters Friday that Florida State now has plans to construct its own standalone facility, going as far as meeting with an architect.

“We need room. We need meeting space, player development areas. You’ve got to have those areas and also to show off your history. That’s what Florida State is known for, being a great football program,” Fisher told ESPN. “You can never stand still. If you’re not evolving and moving, people are going to bypass you. You’ve got to keep going. The great programs never settle. We’re always looking for that edge. It’s going to help recruiting. It’s going to help player development. We get a lot of guys that are three-and-out, so we’ve got to have space for them to get them developed as quickly as we can so we can get production out of them.”

While saying that it’s a “competitive” race and not an arms race, Fisher also tried to sell that the plans for the ‘Noles’ new home were unrelated to Clemson’s new facility.

“I don’t care what they’ve got,” Fisher said. “I’m worried about what we’ve got. If I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in our program for these kids to develop as people, students and players, I won’t ask. I didn’t grow up with a lot. I was taught if you need it, do what you’ve got to do to be successful but don’t waste. I’m not going to do that. But there’s things you’ve got to have to be successful and that’s the next step, in my opinion.”

Former Michigan TE Jake Butt says college players should be able to cash in on likenesses

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For the record, Jake Butt shouldn’t “be paid” in the strictest sense of the term — to receive a paycheck for services rendered. Rather, the former Michigan tight end believes players should be able to profit from their statuses as college athletes when the NCAA, its conferences and member schools are already doing the same.

(Having an extremely marketable last name probably contributed to the forming of this opinion.)

“Something needs to change,” Butt told ESPN.com at Michigan’s pro day. “I don’t want a check from the NCAA. I don’t know if that’s something that’s likely. But the big thing is they say you can’t use your name to benefit. I can’t go into my favorite breakfast spot, Benny’s, I can’t go in there and get a free breakfast because I’m only getting that because of my name.

“That’s not to say I can’t make friends with the owner because of the person I am. I’m a good guy, a really good guy — sociable guy, made a lot of friends. I can’t accept anything free for that. They said I can’t go down the street, the example one of them gave us is you can’t go to [get] tires and negotiate your price from $600 to $500 because that’s only because of your name. But Joe Schmo can go down the street and he can negotiate his price. It’s kind of ridiculous to me.”

Butt was a victim of the cruelest twist in circumstances possible for a college athlete — a season-ending injury at the end of his final season. A senior, Butt was one of the top tight ends on the draft board before suffering a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. The Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end will be drafted next month, but the damage to his bank account resulting from the injuries is significant. Being able to profit from his own name and image would have served as insurance against the loss of value he suffered due to the injury.

“I should be the example of why college athletes should be getting paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.

“Why can I see ‘I Like Jake Butt and I Cannot Lie,’ I see those shirts and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in college. Who knows? Heaven forbid something happens in the NFL, can I really benefit off of it when it was at the most? No, I can’t.”

Baylor strength coach apparently no longer with the program

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It seems every bit of news related to Baylor football nowadays has to do with the school’s on-going sexual assault scandal but it appears there is one bit of information coming out of the program that doesn’t have something to do with that.

A school spokesperson told ESPN on Friday that football strength coach Kaz Kazadi has been “reassigned to a role outside the athletic performance staff.” A report from the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Waco indicates that the move will eventually have the coach leaving the school altogether.

Kazadi spent nearly a decade with the Bears and played a big role in the team’s on-field turnaround under the former coaching staff. Several former players took to Twitter on Friday to express their shock over the loss of one of the cornerstones of the team in recent years.

After the hire of Matt Rhule this offseason, it isn’t too surprising to see some turnover among those staff members connected to the previous regime. Baylor’s new head coach brought most of his strength staff with him from Temple so it was probably only a matter of time before Kazadi moved on, though the timing of the quasi-announcement (the Bears started spring football last weekend) is somewhat interesting.

Either way, it appears Baylor will have a new direction in the weight room going forward.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has ditched his Dockers for another

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Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Batman and Robin. Maize and blue. Jim Harbaugh and khakis.

All are iconic combinations, but it appears the latter is undergoing a few changes right now.

The Michigan head coach’s affinity for a pair of khakis has been so strong over the years that it’s become almost comical how much he likes the style of pant. Heck, he even got a commercial out of it a few years ago when he specifically started getting outfitted with Dockers brand khakis.

Despite being a paid endorser though, it appears that Harbaugh has dropped the famous Levi’s brand version of khakis to attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in another pair of pants.

Not only is the switch from Dockers to Lululemon result in a lot more comfort for the Wolverines coach, it’s probably a bit more of a hit to the ol’ wallet than dropping by Walmart for a pair of khakis off the shelf. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference for Harbaugh though given that he’s the highest paid coach in the country but it might result in a few more trips to the mall.

Either way, what it does mean is that now we demand a new commercial featuring Harbaugh and khakis. After all, if you’re upping the clothing game, you’ve got to up the ad game as well.