According to The Oregonian, the University Athletics Department received a notice of inquiry from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for possible recruiting violations. The investigation regards the recruitment of former UO running back Lache Seastrunk and other possible infractions related to the Athletics Department. Texas recruiting analyst Willie Lyles, a longtime mentor to Seastrunk, has been interviewed a number of times by the NCAA about possible recruitment infractions. In response, UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens has been playing damage control, stating that
This notice has been anticipated and is simply the next stage of the process. 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 isn’t the first time this has happened. Lyles, the Texas recruiting analyst who sold the $25,000 recruiting package to the University after Seastrunk signed a college letter of intent with the Ducks, has a former history finagling running back LaMichael James as well as former players Dontae Williams and Marvin Davis onto the team for a hefty fee. While Ducks coach Chip Kelly informed Lyles that the UO would no longer need the services of Elite Scouting in January 2010 (the company Lyles had recently been let go from because of “nonperformance”), Lyles was still paid the $25,00o under the guise of his new recruiting business Complete Scouting Services on March 24, 2010. How much of this money has come from academic departments is currently under investigation.
The sickening twist to the whole story is that Seastrunk never played for the University — he transferred to Baylor instead. Which means that $25,000 of University money that could’ve gone to strengthening academic projects is now safely down the drain. This is yet another strike against the shady funding practices of the Athletics Department, and if their press release tells us anything it’s that some serious penalties could be leveled against the University. Similar cases at USC, Ohio State and North Carolina have led to resignations, leaves of absence and dismissals. “Chip’s job is quite safe,” Lariviere said after Oregon’s 56-7 victory over Missouri State last Saturday.
Besides insulating Kelly’s job to the relief of alumni and fans (who wants to fire a record-setting coach for a few pesky NCAA violations?), Lariviere has also hired the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King to do an “independent investigation” of UO policies. This doesn’t look good for the University, so Lariviere has ceded responsibility to an outside law firm that will cost the University even more money. “We’ve cooperated with the NCAA very extensively and looked at this really, really carefully internally, and I have very high confidence in this group of people,” Lariviere said. “Very high confidence.”
Let’s hope so, Dick. Because as Oregonian sports writer John Canzano pointed out in his Saturday column, “This is not what major college football is about.”
For a more detailed history of Willie Lyles’ involvement in the UO, click here.
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