In the aftermath of Willie Lyles going thermonuclear on the Oregon football program — and tossing head coach Chip Kelly under the bus, throwing it into reverse, then running him over again — it wasn’t expected that the university would have much if anything to say about the latest accusations lobbed in their general direction.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the school did issue a “response”. Just as expected, it was a whole bunch of words tossed together that neither meant a whole helluva lot or addressed any of the specifics broached by Lyles.
“The University of Oregon athletic department has and will continue to fully cooperate with the NCAA inquiry,” athletic director Rob Mullens said in a statement. “Our department is committed to helping the NCAA in any way possible and until their work is complete, we are unable to comment further.
“Oregon athletics remains committed to operating a program of integrity.”
During the course of many conversations with Yahoo! Sports over the past couple of weeks, Lyles accused the UO football program in general and Kelly specifically of, in essence, paying for the “recruiting service” owner’s “access and influence with recruits” in exchange for $25,000 that was ostensibly intended for a “2011 National Recruiting Package”. Lyles also accused the football program of demanding retroactive player profiles from him when they caught wind in late February of an impending Yahoo! report detailing UO’s financial ties to recruiting services; the profiles Lyles hurriedly provided, intended to be part of the 2010-2011 recruiting cycle, were mainly of players who were members of the 2009 recruiting class, including one player who had passed away.
Of the 140 “recruiting profiles” UO offered up as proof in June of what they received as part of the “national package” in exchange for $25,000, 135 of the recruits were from the state of Texas. A whopping total of six states were represented in that “national package”.
Prior to Yahoo!’s March piece and the program’s scramble to acquire them, Lyles had provided no written profiles of any potential recruits, which would have accounted for a sizable percentage of the “service” for which UO paid $25,000.
Lyles further alleged that Kelly personally approved the $25,000 figure, despite the fact that no written material on recruits was requested for the 11 months prior to the scandal becoming public knowledge and very few videos of potential recruits — Lyles recalls sending 50 videos of players he received from high school coaches to UO; the school could not comply with a previous open-records request to see the videos, apparently due to a “technological issue” — were included in the “national package.
As a point of reference, Yahoo! detailed what legitimate scouting services include in the products they sell to schools.
…national packages that range in the tens of thousands of dollars, but that price tag includes a multitude of materials. Some of the resources offered include large caches of cutups filmed and edited by crews of videographers, quarterly prospect reports numbering in the several hundreds, verbal consulting, biographical information and contact numbers.
As far as Kelly and his relationship with Lyles is concerned, John Canzano of The Oregonian relays a brief conversation he had with the head coach (for now) that is illuminating on a couple of different fronts.
I spoke with University of Oregon football coach Chip Kelly in early March, amid reports that a Texas man named Willie Lyles was involved in a recruiting scandal that could bring down the Ducks program.
Kelly told me he didn’t know who Willie Lyles was.
I believed him.
That same evening, a Yahoo Sports story reported that Lyles was paid $25,000 by Oregon. So I texted Kelly, asking him why he lied to me, and we ended up on the telephone, where Kelly insisted I’d confused him by asking about “Willie Lyles.” He said, “around here, we call him ‘Will.’ We’ve already distanced ourselves from him, trust me.”
First of all, if Kelly is parsing words and playing the semantics game with the NCAA the way he did with Canzano, the football program and its coach have dug itself a far deeper hole than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Secondly, Kelly talked in March of having “already distanced ourselves from [Lyles], trust me”; on June 2, three months after Kelly spoke of distancing themselves and per yesterday’s Yahoo! report, UO assistant director of football operations Josh Gibson engaged in a 94-minute phone conversation with Lyles.
Additionally, on March 3, the same day the initial Yahoo! report came out and Kelly spun the whole distancing yarn to Canzano, The Oregonian reports a total of 18 phone calls were made/received by Lyles to/from Kelly and running backs coach Gary Campbell.
“Trust me”? Not a chance.