Oregon’s financial ties to recruiting services questioned

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And now it’s all starting to take on some semblance of sense.

With speculation swirling that “a major publication is about to unseat a major college football power on recruiting violations“, both Yahoo! and ESPN.com have released reports this evening that call into question the financial relationship between Oregon and a pair of so-called recruiting services.

Each websites obtained financial documents that showed Oregon paid $25,000 to Will Lyles of Complete Scouting Services in Houston, and $3,745 to Baron Flenory of New Level Athletics.  The money was reportedly paid by the school for recruiting services.

At issue, however, is whether either Lyles or Flenory steered players under their direction to the Ducks.  In particular, the NCAA is very interested in the former individual.

Lyles has a close relationship with Lache Seastrunk, one of the top high school running backs in the country in 2009 and a 2010 Oregon signee.  Seastrunk’s recruitment, ESPN.com reports, is something the NCAA is taking a closer look at, in part because Lyles received his $25,000 from Oregon shortly after Seastrunk signed his Letter of Intent with the school.

Additionally, the NCAA is examining Lyles’ relationship with Seastrunk’s teammate and 2010 Heisman runner-up LaMichael James.  Lyles described himself as James’ trainer and advisor when he was a guest of the back at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show last December.

Oregon has confirmed the payment was made to Lyles, but says everything they’ve done regarding utilizing that particular service was above-board.

Yeah, we made the payment,” UO spokesman Dave Williford told The Oregonian. “Everybody does it. This all has been run through our compliance office. We have nothing to hide.”

“Most programs purchase recruiting services,” head coach Chip Kelly told ESPN.com Thursday. “Our compliance office is aware of it. Will has a recruiting service that met NCAA rules and we used him in 2010.”

To offer perspective on the amount of money involved, ESPN.com wrote that recruiting services typically charge $5,000 or less per season for video footage and information about high school prospects.  In offering further context, the same website writes that the $25,000 payment exceeded the $16,500 Oregon paid the recruiting service for its work during the previous two years combined.

Yahoo! notes the ramifications for Oregon if its found that Lyles or Flenory were paid money in exchange for steering recruits to the school.

If Lyles and Flenory aided in or were involved in any way in the recruitment of student athletes to Oregon, they would be classified as boosters by the NCAA, and any payment to them from the school would be considered a violation of Bylaw 13. Bylaw 13 prohibits boosters from directing a recruit to a school.

Oregon might not be alone in this Lyles boat, however.  According to ESPN.com, Lyles has ties to players who eventually signed with schools such as Auburn, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma State, USC and Texas A&M.  Of those schools mentioned, Auburn may have the most reason for concern.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that NCAA investigators were dispatched to Louisiana to speak to individuals regarding the recruitment of two players who ultimately signed with the Tigers.  Specifically, the reports stated, the NCAA is interested in the involvement of Sean Nelson, who accompanied the then-recruits on unofficial visits to the school on multiple occasions.

Per ESPN.com, the NCAA is examining Lyles’ relationship with Nelson.

With all that said, the fact that Oregon has been very upfront and forthright with the media regarding the payments would make a reasonable person think there’s a whole helluva lot of smoke but very little fire here.  However, once the NCAA starts digging, they normally don’t stop until they find something.

For all of the schools involved, and based on the word on the street, they’d better hope that the rumored skeletons in one individual’s closet are cleaned out before the NCAA opens that particular door.

UPDATED 9:52 p.m. ET: Oregon has released an official statement in response to this evening’s reports.  Here it is, in its entirety.

The athletics department paid for services rendered by a pair of scouting services that were processed through the athletics department business office to Complete Scouting Services and New Level Athletics. This is no different than services purchased by a number of colleges and universities throughout the country.

This is something we remain confident that is within the acceptable guidelines allowed by the NCAA and occurred with the knowledge of the department’s compliance office.

We have previously stated that we have not been in contact with anyone from the NCAA or Pacific-10 Conference in regards to these practices and that situation remains unchanged.

Mississippi State mourns passing of De’Runnya Wilson, 25, whose death is being investigated as a homicide

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The extended Mississippi State football family is morning the tragic loss of one of its own.

According to the Associated Press, De’Runnya Wilson was found unresponsive inside of a Birmingham, Ala., home Tuesday evening by a relative.  The 25-year-old was subsequently pronounced dead of unknown causes.

The Birmingham Police Department, however, is investigating Wilson’s death as a homicide.

Wilson was a Mississippi State football player from 2013-15. Coming to the Bulldogs as a three-star wide receiver, Wilson, who had one minor off-field incident during his time in Starkville, totaled 1,936 yards and 22 touchdowns on 132 receptions.  The touchdowns are second all-time at the school.  In 2015, Wilson set career-highs in catches (60), yards (918) and touchdowns (10).

Following that 2015 season, Wilson, who was also Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama as a high school senior, left his remaining eligibility on the table and entered the 2016 NFL Draft.  Wilson went undrafted, and subsequently spent time on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad.  He was also attached to the Arena Football League’s Albany franchise.

On Twitter Tuesday evening, the Mississippi State football program mourned Wilson’s passing.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” the school tweeted. “Thanks for the many memories you gave us, “Bear.”

Jeff Brohm adds Marty Biagi to Purdue coaching staff

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The Purdue Boilermakers football team is the latest to make an addition to its coaching staff.

Tuesday afternoon, Purdue confirmed the speculation that had surfaced over the past couple of days by announcing the hiring of Marty Biagi by Jeff Brohm.  Biagi will serve as the Boilermakers’ special teams coordinator.  According to the school, he’ll also hold an unspecified, as of yet, role as defensive assistant.

“Marty is one of the leading coaches and brightest minds in the area of special teams,” the Purdue Boilermakers football head coach said in a statement. “We are very excited to have him here.”

Biagi has spent the past three seasons as the special teams coordinator at North Texas.  Twice, the school noted in its release, Biagi was a finalist for the FootballScoop.com Special Teams Coordinator of the Year.

From the school’s release:

The Mean Green scored six special teams touchdowns, blocked nine punts, four kicks and had 10 players recognized with All-Conference USA accolades during Biagi’s tenure. North Texas won nine games in both 2017 and 2018, appearing in the New Orleans Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl, respectively.

Biagi’s special teams unit at UNT finished in the top 20 in the Football Bowl Division in blocked kicks/punts all three seasons in Denton, tying for 11th in 2017 (4), for 19th in 2018 (3) and for sixth in 2019 (4).

One of those six special teams touchdowns came in a 2018 upset of Arkansas on a wild trick play during a punt return.

Prior to his time in Denton, Biagi was a special teams analyst at Notre Dame.  He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arkansas.

UNLV hires Stanford assistant Peter Hansen as DC

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Thanks to the Stanford Cardinal football team, Marcus Arroyo is closing in on filling out his first UNLV coaching staff.

Tuesday, UNLV announced the hiring of Peter Hansen as Arroyo’s defensive coordinator.  The longtime Bay-area coach will also be responsible for the Rebels’ inside linebackers.

Hansen served two different stints as part of the Stanford Cardinal football program over the past decade-plus.

In 2008, Hansen was part of the strength & conditioning staff.  From 2009-10, he was a defensive assistant.  After a stint in the NFL, Hansen returned to the Cardinal in 2013.  The past seven seasons, he was Stanford’s inside linebackers coach.

In between the two Farm stops, Hansen was a defensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers.  He worked with both inside and outside linebackers during his two years with the NFL club.

Hansen, who played his college football and basketball at Arizona, was born in Palo Alto and began his coaching career at a high school in the city.  This will mark the assistant’s first coaching job outside of the Bay area.

Hansen and the rest of the Rebels defensive staff will have their work cut out for them.  At least, based on the campaign they will.

This past season, UNLV was dead last in the Mountain West Conference and 108th nationally as they gave up up 33 points per game.  In total defense, they were 13th in the conference and 105th in the country as they allowed 442.3 yards per game.  In passing defense, they were 13th and 104th.

With the Hansen hiring, Arroyo now has eight of his 10 on-field assistants in place.  The others already on the staff are:

  • Danny Langsdorf, quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator
  • Cameron Norcross, offensive line/running-game coordinator
  • Scott Baumgartner, running backs
  • Jordan Paopao, tight ends/special teams coordinator
  • Kenwick Thompson, linebackers
  • Damon Magazu, safeties
  • Tre Watson, cornerbacks

Boise State ‘weighing our options’ in regards to Mountain West membership

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The Mountain West landed a big TV deal earlier this month, a 6-year deal with FOX and CBS that will pay the conference $270 million in total.

Even better for the conference, it would be the last time Boise State would be treated as separate from the rest of the league.

Which was apparently news to Boise State.

“The Mountain West stated that this was the last time our deal would be negotiated separately,” the school said in its own statement following the conference’s announcement. “However, Boise State’s decision to join the conference was predicated on a number of negotiated provisions, including the right to separately negotiate material terms of media rights relating to our home games. This is stated in our conference agreement and cannot be changed by any vote of the membership or conflicting agreement. We will not support any change to this provision and are in the process of weighing our options to move forward.”

As we all remember, Boise State was set to leave the Mountain West for the Big East before it became clear the Big East they agreed to join was not the Big East they would actually join. That league eventually became the American Athletic Conference, and that league would undoubtedly be happy to have Boise State if this latest spat with the MW cannot be smoothed over.

Six years into the College Football Playoff system, only Boise State and Western Michigan have claimed the Group of 5’s New Years Six bid from the American, and between now and the new MW deal’s expiration in 2025-26, it would be an upset if anyone other than Boise State or the AAC won the bid.

Should the Broncos actually follow through with this threat, their Olympic sports would have numerous options between the WAC, the Big Sky and maybe even the West Coast Conference (which is made up entirely of private schools but may be willing to make an exception for a brand like Boise State’s), but football would have limited options. Boise State would look south to see BYU’s experience as an independent has not gone as planned, and Bryan Harsin is unlikely to find a Pac-12 or Big 12 invitation in the mail, no matter how fun that may be for all of us to watch.

So that pretty much leaves Boise State to try to make life work as the far, far westernmost output of the AAC or smooth things over with the MW.

Of course, none of this would happen until 2026 and who knows if we’ll even have conferences, or college football, or a planet in 2026.