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.
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