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Reports that the NCAA was preparing to hand down penalties to Oregon football were premature, it appears.
The Oregon Ducks have not yet received a Notice of Allegations regarding the NCAA investigation into their football team.
Saturdays are normally sacred, but today it was announced that Oregon has received an NCAA Notice of Inquiry. This is the next step in formally investigating the university in the wake of the controversial use of Willie Lyles, the owner of a scouting service.
In case you've forgotten, Lyles was paid $25,000 by the University of Oregon for scouting information. The NCAA has reason to believe that the school was actually paying for assistance in bringing top recruits to Eugene, an accusation that both Oregon and Lyles deny.
From CBS Sports:
"This notice has been anticipated and is simply the next stage of the process," said Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens in the statement. "The University of Oregon football program, from Head Coach Chip Kelly through the entire organization, has tremendous respect for the NCAA's important role in monitoring collegiate athletics and, to this end, continues to fully cooperate with the NCAA ‘s ongoing examination.
"The Athletic Department, Coach Kelly and the entire staff remain committed to operating the athletics program consistent with the highest standards and ensuring our program follows best practices."
This is a logical step in the process, and if Oregon did anything out of compliance, the NCAA will certainly discover it. We are a long way from sanctions or punishment in this matter, though this is a public relations nightmare for an up-and-coming program like Oregon.
Yahoo Sports is starting to get into the podcasting game. Dan Wetzel, one of their main reporters, debuted his first podcast today. One of the most famous (or infamous) names of college football this offseason was his first guest on the show, and a figure central to the Oregon-LSU game and controversies surrounding both college football programs.
Willie Lyles talked to Wetzel, and had some startling revelations about his ties with LSU. Listen to the podcast by going here and finding the relevant link.
Maggie Gray of Sports Illustrated recently interviewed Oregon Ducks and California Golden Bears football head coaches Chip Kelly and Jeff Tedford concurrently at their studios in New York City. The name of Willie Lyles was not broached explicitly; Tedford has made his feelings clear on the matter with Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News and at Pac-12 Media Day that Cal did nothing wrong, and Kelly has already stated he won't (and probably can't) comment on the matter until the NCAA investigation concludes in Eugene. But it was clear why these two coaches were approached for interviews at Sports Illustrated as opposed to anyone else on the Pac-12 East Coast media tour.
The video is below for you to enjoy.
For those who can't view the video, here's the bullet point summary, paraphrased.
In the world of college football recruiting services, $25,000 is quite the price to pay for information. The number is what the Oregon Ducks forked over to Will Lyles, a self-proclaimed recruiting analyst from Texas with ties to Lache Seastrunk and LaMichael James, the latter of which is a star running back at Oregon and the former may be the next star running back. For $25,000, you'd expect Lyles to hand over a comprehensive, broad-ranging package that included detailed prospect profiles, video and evaluations. Instead, Oregon received information that was outdated, narrow in its scope and downright laughable in terms of its usefulness, according to a report.
Lyles handed the Ducks a book of 2011 player evaluations, which would be fine and within NCAA rules. The problem, however, comes when looking through the profiles: None of the players belonged to the class of 2011 and many were prospects from two years earlier. Of the players listed, almost all were from Texas and few were major-conference prospects.
The profiles were so sloppily put together that they included the same name twice, a player Oregon faced in the BCS National Championship and another player who had tragically passed away in Sept. 2010 (via The Oregonian)
Two profiles appear of the same player. One profile was a redacted bio page for privacy reasons, presumably a recruit who wound up at Oregon.
Tragically, another listed recruit, wide receiver Josh Rake out of Southlake Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, died in a car accident in on Sept. 30, 2010 during his freshman year at the University of North Texas.
The recruiting profiles were only part of the package and the Ducks have yet to release any video that may have been provided by Lyles. Oregon has said it's been unable to differentiate which video came from Lyles and which came from other scouting services. But for $25,000, the volume of videos better be substantial, especially considering the lack of information in the written reports.
The NCAA has been on the Oregon campus to investigate whether any wrongdoings occurred involving the Ducks relationship with Lyles and his relationship with a few high-profile recruits out of Texas. There's been no word on when the investigation will wrap-up and what Oregon may face because of it.
The Oregon Ducks say they have nothing to hide, and confirmed paying Will Lyles $25,000 after Yahoo! released a report connecting the school to recruiting services on Thursday. Lyles and Baron Flenory are reportedly at the center of investigation into scouting services and their relationship with some of the top college recruits in the nation. According to the report, Lyles and Flenory have ties to recent Oregon recruits, including Lache Seastrunk, LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas and others.
In a statement from Dave Williford, released by the Oregon athletic department, the school confirmed the payments, but denied wrongdoing, saying the compliance office was aware money changed hands and it was within NCAA rules (via Oregon Live).
“Yeah, we made the payment,” Williford said. “Everybody does it. This all has been run through our compliance office. We have nothing to hide.”
Williford did not know if the Ducks had paid Flenory, but said the school was looking into the matter.
Simultaneous reports from Yahoo! and ESPN revealed the NCAA has opened an investigation into Flenory, Lyles and the scouting services and 7-on-7 passing camps the two organized. Oregon reportedly paid Flenory for his services, which included organizing a database of recruits for the Ducks. At the time, payment for the service was, apparently, legal and within NCAA rules. Since then, Flenory has been told such a process was no longer allowed after the NCAA closed the “loophole,” if you will, allowing schools to pay scouting services.
The NCAA has reportedly opened an investigation into Will Lyles and Baron Flenory, two men who run recruiting services with ties to recruits that landed at Oregon and other schools in the last few years. The investigation does not formally encompass Oregon or any of the other football programs, but instead is centered on Lyles and Flenory, along with the scouting services they were tied to. An earlier report by Yahoo! indicated the two men were paid upwards of $25,000 by the University of Oregon for services rendered and recruits the two had ties two ended up signing letters of intent with the Ducks.
According to a report by ESPN’s Joe Schad and Mark Schlabach, the NCAA is looking deeper into scouting services and how they charge institutions.
The NCAA has been exploring the involvement of third-parties in the football recruiting process, specifically in regard to coaches and others who affiliate themselves with 7-on-7 camps and also people who work for recruiting services that charge programs, according to sources.
The men have ties to players from Oregon, including Lache Seastrunk and LaMicahel James, as well as Auburn, Baylor, USC and other programs spanning the country.
The NCAA is looking to crack down on scouting services and 7-on-7 camps that charge schools for the service while showcasing recruits. NCAA president Mark Emmert said the NCAA is looking to close loopholes and develop rules to deal with those associated with scouting services, including advisors and agents.
While the investigation isn’t focusing on the schools themselves right now, it’s possible it heads that direction if it’s found Lyles, Flenory or others established an improper relationship.
The University of Oregon paid two men associated with multiple football recruits who signed with Ducks in the last few years, according to a report released on Thursday. The two men -- Will Lyles and Baron Flenory -- run scouting services and camps with ties to Lache Seastrunk, Tacoi Sumler, DeAnthony Thomas, Cliff Harris and Dior Mathis. All five players ended up signing with the Ducks.
According to Yahoo!'s Charles Robinson, the payments would constitute a recruiting if the two men were involved in the recruitment of the players.
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 has confirmed the payment did, in fact, happen, but added it was within the NCAA rules.
When contacted, Flenory said his company, New Level Athletics, had been in contact with Oregon and the payments were related for a recruiting program he set up for the Ducks. He maintained the company stopped when the NCAA informed him recruiting services were no longer allowed and Oregon was the only school to ever receive the service.
The news comes after whispers of an investigation involving Oregon surfaced after ESPN's Colin Cowherd discussed it on air. It's unknown whether the Yahoo! report is related, but the charges detailed in it are serious, and could be trouble for the Ducks.
On Thursday, DeAnthony Thomas reportedly spoke with NCAA investigators, posting a message on a Twitter account that's been linked to him. He added the meeting was about USC in a later message. Thomas then denied the account was his, but his Facebook account touted the Twitter account just one week ago. There's been no details about what the meeting related to, but the NCAA regularly speaks with incoming recruits as part of the process.
While the news appears bad on the surface, there may be nothing here. From the report, it appears paying scouting services and organizers of camps was within the rules at the time, but the NCAA has since closed the loophole. If the payments took place while the loophole was open, there's nothing for the NCAA to go after.
College football recruiting is a game of gray areas and programs -- not just a few, but every program -- plays in shades of gray. Oregon is under increased scrutiny after rising to national prominence, and investigations like these will pop up. It comes with the territory of recruiting high-profile and highly-touted athletes. So while we can be quick to wag a finger, exercising caution in this case is warranted.
For the latest, stay with our StoryStream as more becomes available. For more on the Ducks, check out SB Nation's Addicted To Quack.