Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011
Two weeks ago, I wrote a story titled "Did Will Lyles Help or Hurt Players?" In the article I mentioned that a source inside the athletic department had confirmed that Lache Seastrunk had received impermissible benefits through Will Lyles. Today, Yahoo Sports confirms with a specific example of an unofficial trip to Tennessee which was paid for by Tennessee coach Willie Mack Garza through Lyles.

This was not the only trip funded by Lyles. If you read through the recruiting stories you will note that Evelyn Seastrunk also visited USC and LSU on unofficial visits. In addition to those visits, she was present for the official visit to the University of California at Berkley.

In questioning whether Lyles helped or hurt, the fair point was brought up about the impact that this might have on the players. To his credit, Lyles attempted to minimize the impact on Seastrunk by asking that Seastrunk be given immunity from any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, Oregon officials were aware of the extra benefits received through Lyles and were advising him to pay back the amount he received two-fold.

It should be further telling that the NCAA has not yet ruled on the hardship waiver after the transfer.

In the past few months we have seen several cases where athletes received money through mentors, specifically Sharif Floyd of Florida and Damiere Byrd of South Carolina. Due to extenuating circumstances, Floyd had a four game suspension reduced to two games while Byrd served a full four game suspension. And that appears to be the magic number; four games.

Lache Seastrunk transferred to Baylor after one season in Eugene. He arrived on campus the week of Baylor's first game. After his arrival on campus and admission into Baylor University, paperwork was submitted to the NCAA asking for a hardship waiver of the NCAA transfer rule that would have allowed Seastrunk to play this season. There were some insiders who thought there would be news of the waiver request last week, but as of this moment nothing has been determined by the NCAA.

Late last week, in private conversations, the possibility was raised that there would be no "official" word of the hardship waiver until after Baylor's fourth game; that there was a four game suspension in place and that the waiver would likely be granted after the four game suspension was completed. That may still be the case; time will tell.

But this brings us back to the intent of the original article; did Lyles help or hurt the players with whom he was working? All along, Lyles has professed he simply did not understand all of the rules and that he had good intent. Now, however, there can be no doubt that Lyles knew this was a violation. Even the least knowledgeable on NCAA bylaws knows that schools cannot wire money to "mentors" to pay for unofficial visits.

The innocent "dupe" label must now be stripped away from Lyles. He was never innocent in this and his intent was never pure. Lyles admits he kept the extra $53 from this transaction. What else did he receive and keep? That is a fair question to ask now.

How did Lyles pay for the trips to LSU, Auburn (three unofficial visits), USC and the official visit to Cal? How did Lyles pay for the trip he took to Hawaii to watch Seastrunk play in an All-Star game? As a scout, he received just $36,000 for his own scouting service. Where did he get the rest of his income? These are all fair questions now.

This also brings new light back to Gary Campbell's statement when Evelyn found out Oregon would not pay for her to visit during Seastrunk's official visit.

Evelyn Seastrunk was very high on LSU for Lache; he had a cousin that attended LSU and the family was from Louisiana. There is no word how they afforded a trip for Evelyn, Lache and Lyles to go to the LSU camp. But we know that she later became contentious with Oregon Running Back Coach, Gary Campbell, when he would not fly her to Oregon for Lache's visit.

I don’t know how he got there, but I know Lache’s mom didn’t come to Oregon and she was pissed at me because we didn’t bring her up here and everything. We couldn’t do it and we told her there was no way that we could bring her in. We didn’t do that and I don’t know what other people did.” Campbell said.

There are still a LOT of layers to uncover with this story. Will Lyles has a new story every time someone asks for more information. At this point in time, what I have been told is that Oregon did not pay for any trips for Lache Seastrunk or his family. Time will tell, though, the real truth. One thing I think can be said for certain, Will Lyles knew he was violating NCAA rules when he accepted money from a coach for an unofficial visit.

To smugly say he was only trying to help these young men is now a joke. To blatantly violate NCAA rules knowing that if caught, those very players would be ineligible in no way helps anyone but Will Lyles. When this is all over, Will Lyles does not have to give anything back. Will Lyles is not suspended. Will Lyles took away the dreams of young men for one reason: money.

It is time for the NCAA to re-write the rule book regarding scouting services. This time, there should be a department created responsible for overseeing recruiting and scouting services. As part of their responsibility, the department should create a registry of acceptable services. No university should be permitted to purchase services from any provider not on the list.

It is time to clean up the mess. Will Lyles says he didn't know the rules. This incident proves he most certainly did know the rules. Will Lyles did not care about any of the players he "mentored." If he cared, he would never have put them in this position. He would have done the research and made sure to keep them away from NCAA violations.

Sadly, it looks like Lyles cared about no one other than Will Lyles


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