Dark Clouds over Oregon NCAA Investigation

university of oregon

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Of all the ongoing NCAA investigations, none is more vexing than the Oregon case. Miami is a basic extra benefits case, as far reaching as it appears to be. UNC’s smoldering academic scandal is a bit tougher for the NCAA to deal with given the greater deference to institutional autonomy in that area, but the case is only one or two key findings away from getting very simple.

Oregon’s Case is Different

If you forgot, Oregon’s case involves the purchase of a $25,000 recruiting service subscription by the football team from Willie Lyles, who was connected to a number of prospects, a couple of which eventually enrolled at Oregon. Lyles then allegedly only sent profiles of recruits long after the fact at the request of Oregon’s coaches to justify the payments.

Oregon’s case is the first major investigation involving a relatively new version of NCAA bylaw 13.14.3. The bylaw defines which recruiting services schools may subscribe to. To be permissible, a recruiting or scouting service must:

  1. Be publicly available to all institutions at the same published price;
  2. Publish information at least four times per year;
  3. Identify the geographic scope and provide broad-based coverage of that geographic area;
  4. Provide individual analysis beyond demographic information or rankings; and
  5. Provide access to samples or previews of the information.

The changes to Bylaw 13.4.3 were originally started for basketball. The scam was that someone connected to a prospect, like a coach or handler, would offer a “recruiting service” which was normally little more than rankings, heights and weights, or even edited or copied information from legitimate recruiting services. To get access to the prospect(s), coaches would have to buy a copy of the recruiting service, which may run into the thousands of dollars. Better access or more favorable influence could sometimes be bought by purchasing (or having boosters purchase) multiple copies of the services.

The rule was expanded to all sports for a while but now applies just to football and basketball. It is an odd rule because it does not prohibit exactly what it is trying to combat: institutions buying subscriptions to recruiting services to gain access to prospects. Instead, the rule attempts to separate legitimate recruiting services from faux ones designed as a front for payoffs from coaches. It is a highly detailed and technical rule aimed at a fuzzier problem.

What it means for Oregon is that even if the NCAA never proves that Oregon’s coaching staff intended the purchase of Lyles’ recruiting service to get them access to prospects or had much contact with Lyles, the school could still face severe penalties. All the enforcement staff might need to prove is that Oregon paid for a recruiting service that did not meet the requirements. The fact that prospects connected to the owner of the recruiting service enrolled at Oregon would be an aggravating factor.

Legally, the Case Sets up Poorly for Oregon. Politically, the Case Sets up Even Worse

Oregon’s alleged violation can easily be cast as something most people want to stop: paying off a third party in order to secure a recruit’s enrollment. There’s an increasingly vicious debate about where that money should go (nowhere vs. to the athlete himself) but almost no one wants much or any of it to go to some adult who latches on.

Severe penalties based on no evidence of Oregon’s intention in the case would be a form of strict liability. Except the arguments against strict liability do not apply in this case because the NCAA changed the rules once again. Now the NCAA approves all football and basketball recruiting services. It would not settle all potential issues with recruiting services, but it certainly gives schools a much clearer charge than finding out and monitoring whether recruiting services are compliant.

On the flip side, letting Oregon off with a slap on the wrist would potentially gut a needed rule (albeit one that could be improved upon) in an area where regulation is needed. It would provide arguments to both schools who check the NCAA database and never anything else as well as schools who “accidentally” subscribe to services not approved by the NCAA. The message sent by severe sanctions on Oregon plus the new rule changes would be “We are serious about this type of violation, but we are trying to help you out.” It’s a good mix of vengeance (on Oregon) and mercy (on everyone else).

More importantly, a harsh punishment for Oregon continues what should be seen as the bigger lasting impact of the Penn State sanctions. For a long time, many have argued and the NCAA has often entertained the idea that no one should be the first or last one to be punished for anything. Hence in the Penn State the solution that many argued of letting Penn State off the hook but changing the rules for the next time. Too much of this creates a continual case of always claiming that this time will be the last free ride, that next time we have to get serious. Until the next time becomes this time, except with just enough difference to justify waiting until the next next time.

With Penn State the NCAA (both the members and the national office) said “no more.” There would be an effort to impose sanctions on Penn State, either by consent or unilaterally. If that meant using extraordinary measures, then extraordinary measures would be used. The process of figuring out regular processes for dealing with such a scandal was still going to happen, but not at the expense of letting Penn State escape without punishment.

One of the constant themes in NCAA enforcement has been that the NCAA is always playing catch-up. In reality, the NCAA has closed a big portion of that gap in recent years. Witness this summer’s action against four AAU teams before violations jeopardized the eligibility of prospects as an example.

All of this is not to say that Oregon’s case will be decided by how big of a message the Committee on Infractions would like to send. Rather, it addresses the fact that regular people who work on campuses or in conference offices make these judgments. And in this case, there will be little fear of a public backlash or setting an unworkable standard in the backs of their minds.

That means the case largely comes back to whether there is evidence about some other motive for the payments beyond buying recruiting profiles and whether that even matters if the school is found to have paid a large sum of money for an impermissible service. And while the NCAA cannot simply rely on media reports, what has been reported does not look good for Oregon.

What do you think? Where do Oregon’s violations stack up in the scope of other recruiting violations? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

How does a college coach evaluate the potential of a prospective student-athlete?

What are the important steps I should take to get recruited?

College Recruiting timeline, what actually happens during the college recruiting process?

NCAA Eligibility requirements for a home-schooled student-athlete.

NCAA Eligibility requirements for international student-athletes. Academic and athletic standards.

66 Responses to “Dark Clouds over Oregon NCAA Investigation”

  1. What about the fact that 3rd party recruiting began as corruption fighting corruption? Without it, schools outside of, let’s say TEXAS, wouldn’t stand a chance. 3rd party recruiting is a byproduct of an even bigger problem. Something you’re mind is too small to understand or you’re just simply too biased to admit.

    Either way, your opinion is utterly worthless and of no consequence.

    Now get back to your day job and finish dipping my ice cream cone in that vat of butterscotch.

      • Emmert (ex UW President) vs. Phil… Hmmmm hahhaha its hilarious to see ducks argue and squirm. Who cares? USC got through sanctions pretty well, Oregon will probably be the same way if it came down to that.

    • laughingatlittlequacks

      Phil is a one percenter…criminal tax avoider, child labor exploiter,….. the $1 lease he got from Oregon to build the “Matt” Center was an intentional avoidance of Oregon labor laws which require paying prevailing wages on government contracts and otherwise not a legitimate use of property owned by the State of Oregon.

      Spying on city commissioners to get exemptions from paying property taxes on his “island” property at Nike Headquarters….thus denying funds to local schools. He’s beauty.

  2. brdcstr

    If nothing else, Oregon received the benefits of having an extra recruiter when Lyles assisted LMJ AND Seastrunk in attending Oregon. The bylaws are clear on that being a forbidden practice.

    We have the e-mails that show he collaborated with the Oregon athletic department in circumventing his mother having to sign the LOI in lieu of Seastrunks grandmother’s signature.

    Oregon’s intent to circumvent the rules prohibiting this type of thing seems clear. Since those who will be standing in judgment of them can’t be taken seriously to administer justice equally, why should anyone expect a fair ruling from the NCAA?

    • pdxsiskiyou

      What else are you going to make up? According to Deanna Carter ,Temple High School Guidence Councelor, this is what transpired.
      “Lache came to me one day,” Carter says, “which he would stop by my office several times every day to run all of his thoughts by me, and he was clearly upset. He said he found out you had to be 21 in order to sign your own LOI and he was afraid his mom wasn’t going to sign his to go to Oregon. He asked me if I know if anyone else could sign it. I told him to let me do some checking and I would let him know, which was basically my answer to everything all the time because I was not going to steer him wrong.”
      Later in the article, Carter continues, “…contacted the NLI board to see what other info they needed. Lache wrote the letter, he and his grandma signed it, and per the instructions I submitted it to the U of O for Lache so that it could be submitted for review.”
      Later in the article Carter continues, “…contacted the NLI board to see what other info they needed. Lache wrote the letter, he and his grandma signed it, and per the instructions I submitted it to the U of O for Lache so that it could be submitted for review.”
      Where are these emails that show Oregon circumventing his mother?

      • The emails are in the Yahoo story entitled ” Scout Details Relationship with Oregon, Kelly.”

        Here are the lowlights:

        On Jan. 12, 6:52 p.m.: Josh Gibson ( Oregon’s assistant
        director of football operations )
        forwarded Lyles an email from Bill Clever, Oregon’s assistant athletic
        director for compliance with the subject line “Grandparent signing NLI with
        PSA” (Prospective Student Athlete). Attached was an email from Clever from 3:36
        p.m. that detailed the NLI’s procedure for petitioning a change in guardianship
        and encouraged Gibson to keep Clever updated for further assistance. “The
        sooner this gets put together the better …” it read.

        17: The letter Seastrunk and his grandmother wrote to the NLI office is
        forwarded via email by Temple High School administrator Deanna Carter to both
        Lyles and Gibson.

        • pdxsiskiyou

          Exactly, Carter is asking Oregon NLI guidllines so she can assist Lache. Oregon did not contact Carter or ask her to have the grandmother sign. There is no email from Oregon asking Carter or Lyles to circumvent the mother, only a reply to Carter on the NLI guidlines she asked for. She has stated several times she contacted Oregon and Oregon only provided her with the information she requested and a contact at the NLI board. She has also stated that the first she heard of Oregon was when Lache asked for her assistance and that she believed it was in Lache’s best interest to have the grandmother who raised him sign the LOI.

  3. Hoopfan5

    Keep in mind that Oregon cheated in basketball too. They used handlers to get the Chicago trio and all of them transferred. Michael Dunigan never would have signed with Oregon on his own.

  4. ThisIsDumb

    Blablabla Big words… Oregons screwed.. Texas hates other schools getting their recruits.. Mack Brown angry… This prediction that Oregon will receive major sanctions through everyones magic NCAA crystal ball is pretty entertaining. I know its in the job description to write about what you know nothing about, but maybe a google search, but to think that Oregon is some big bad street agent loving guy is half retarded. The Lyles dude was purchased by a large group of other schools including LSU, CAL, AUBURN and the only reason any of this came to light is because Mack Brown was losing his prized “backyard recruits”, to the likes of UO LSU and CAL. He couldnt stand to get off his @$$ anymore. Anyway, if you can see Oregon getting harsher penalties than UNC or Miami and classy them both as minor, you might want to reconsider a new day job. 2 year probabtion, loss of recruiter for one year and a few schollie losses sounds more fitting for the crime, not the damned death penalty.

    • Its always Mack Brown. He is the one who reported the Papadakis Tavern (owner grad of USC and son played football there) annual dinner for recruits as an unfair advantage when he was at the RoseBowl facing USC, even though the recruits spent less then the allowable recruit per diem, yet still the menu price at the restaurant.

    • Is there any mention of the death penalty in his column? Guess I need to read again, as I missed that statement, nor did I get the feeling he was insinuating that level of penalties.

  5. scottsf

    Great. Another update but with no update and no facts.
    Oregon didn’t do anything wrong here other than pay a bit more than CAL and LSU did for a recruiting service. Also, they paid this through their AD department with a check from the university. How could anyone think they were intentionally skirting NCAA rules with a check that says UofO on it? Doesn’t make sense. I’m sure they’ll get hit (being in the NCAA sites makes it almost a certainty) but it will be minor. Besides, the NCAA has poster children for “lack of institutional control” in Miami and PSU which they have and will continue to make examples of. I’m thinking a slap on the wrist with a reduction in recruiting days/visits – maybe a scholarship or two.

    • MarcolaDuck

      UO has had a history of self reporting violations to the NCAA and has been a relativity clean program (despite the Massoli era antics). I can’t see this ending with vacating wins, post season bans, or anything much more than what you mentioned.

      • laughingatlittlequacks

        Your “clean” program had department dedicated to getting around the rules….breaking the spirit of NCAA regulations…..not to mention, Oregon got more Fulmer Cup points in a single season..than Washington has total in the history of that dubious cup.

        • scottsf

          Sound like you have absolutely no basis for that comment and no idea what you are talking about. But you can keep lobbing that crap over our fence, that’s fine, we’ll just keep dropping bombs on you like we have for the last 9 years. Enjoy this years drubbing… oh, and Baylor just scored again.

    • laughingatlittlequacks

      Do you really think $25,000 is all Oregon paid for these recruits. That’s just the amount the Oregon Athletic Department wrote a check for thinking it could be “justified”…..the boosters (including Nike Corp) are smarter than chip Kelly….they paid cash.

      • scottsf

        You really will throw anything out there, won’t you? Don’t worry about the facts at all – just throw anything out there that supports your dream the UW will ever match the Ducks again. Also, your logic is ridiculous – makes a lot of sense that Phil Night would jeopardize the millions he’s given to the school by floating cash to recruits. I think its time to go put on your Barney-like purple clown suit and make sure you wear that stupid hat with the fuzzy dog on it and settle in to watch another 6 win season. Have fun with that.

  6. surfer4321

    What Oregon did was in the grey area. Coach Campbell will get cut from recruiting, Oregon will lose 1-3 scholarships and probation for 5 years. Unless there is something we don’t know, that is all. Please stop puting Penn State in the same breath as Oregon. I see the banner on this site is purple, makes sense.

    • laughingatlittlequacks

      What’s not in a “grey” area is that Oregon coaches visited high schools WITH Willie Lyles, Willie’s went far beyond acting as an impartial recruiting service…arranging transfers to avoid Texas graduation requirements, getting a grandmother’s signature on an LOI when the mother refused to sign, arranging transportation to visit Oregon, etc etc. Oregon coaches, including Chip “I don’t know Willie Lyies” kelly had over 400 phone calls to Lyles when a 2004 rule specified no “verbal” information about recruits can be provided and that such information be in writing and be the same provided to each school at a published price; not withstanding Oregon’s attempt to deceive the NCAA with the fake written “scouting” report shortly after they were called to ask for commentary prior publication of the first national stories.

  7. WOW! A recruiting service writing a scathing warning about another recruiting service and the pitfalls of associating with other services. Toot your own horn in order to proclaim that “We do it the right way!” At least by using Oregon as your target subject, you are sure to get plenty of eyeballs from all the haters and re-tweeters. Stay Classy.

    • anotherDuck

      I am a Duck fan and I am compelled to post that you are clearly lacking skills in information literacy. This is the NCAA Bylaw Blog, a column penned by a compliance officer at an NCAA member institution and what John Infante offers in the way of analysis is far from an attempt to legitimize a competing “recruiting service.” This is an NCAA publication, for all intents and purposes.

      • Reality Check

        Pfft.. yeah, sure you’re just “anotherDuck” fan. Go back to your Huskie boards, dawg face. This site is in no way shape or form affiliated with the NCAA. Stop spewing BS as fact. You call this site an “NCAA publication” – just how naive are you? Or is it just that trying to legitimize this OPINION piece in your eyes makes you feel better as a Husky fan?

        Seriously, I have never seen so many poor sports as I have of other fans hoping OR gets hit hard because they cannot beat them on the field. Clearly, none of these same people every played competitive sports or they’d rater win on the field.

        • anotherDuck

          Point of order, I apologize for saying this was an NCAA publication, and that the site is not home to a “recruiting service.” The Bylaw Blog until recently was hosted, in point of fact, on NCAA.com, before this latest incarnation as a part of “AthNet.”
          That said, it is absurd to suggest that this piece represents an attempt to gain some sort of ‘market share’ at the expense of competing recruiting services because this service is FREE to parents and athletes and set up to inform them.

          And I assure you, I am not a bitter rival. I am a Duck fan who hates seeing a piece of critical analysis from somebody who is actually INFORMED on the ins and outs of the NCAA enforcement apparatus being torn up under some suspicion of ‘bias’ or hunger to see our AD crumble and burn. This most certainly is opinion, and it argues why it *might* be that Oregon is punished severely. But not even the author, who has real-world experience with NCAA compliance, is suggesting that he knows exactly what is going to happen. Relax.

      • Reality Check

        Ha! The moderators deleted my message because it didn’t jive with their motivations. The fact is, this site is as much affiliated with the actual NCAA as you are an actual Duck Fan = Zero percent.

        Stop trying to say this site is an NCAA publication – because it isn’t. This article is the exact same thing we see all over the net – OPINION.

        What appalls me is how many fans of other teams want to see OR hit with the death penalty simply out of jealousy because their team cannot beat them on the field! Its really pathetic.

      • Reality Check

        The fact is, this site is as much affiliated with the
        actual NCAA as you are an actual Duck Fan = Zero percent.

        Stop trying to say this site is an NCAA publication – because it
        isn’t. This article is the exact same thing we see all over the net –

        What appalls me is how many fans of other teams want to see OR hit
        with the death penalty simply out of jealousy because their team cannot
        beat them on the field! Its really pathetic.

  8. DuckTails

    My biggest concern is that Gary Campbell (our RB coach) was put on probation (I think) in 2004 because of the JJ Arrington / forged signature incident…scares the heck out of me that the NCAA could decide that Campbell/Oregon was still under the 5 year probation rule if they also decide we had an extra recruiter (Lyles or someone else) on the staff…would that lead to Lack of Institutional Control?
    The NCAA needs to get this over with and move on to the next school because all of these articles and internet rumors may be starting to hurt recruiting. Just give me my pain rather than having it dangling over my head!

  9. The story is more than just football related here, the basketball program is also under review of committing infractions. Oregon’s athletic Dept. at first decided to balk at requests by the NCAA for info related to the Lyle’s case. Not a smooth move and since then did an about face and been very cooperative. Also there is more than one story hinting at a story, the Eugene Register Guard is sitting on, waiting for the NCAA to present the official notice of infractions to UO. The story involves Eugene/Springfield PD investigating sex/drug rings involving football/basketball athletes and recruits. This isn’t just one single infraction anymore.

        • anotherDuck

          You are an idiot, whether or not you are a Dawg. The Register-Guard staffers have more than once denied that ridiculous rumor, including during an on-air appearance with Softy on KJR in Seattle.

          • Who is Softy? Why would a news source not deny the story? What do you think they should say… “Yeah we have a blockbuster story on UO athletics and just wanted to table it for a few months and slowly leak out that we do indeed have a story”. Nope they are waiting to drop it once Oregon and its athletic program is slapped for multiple infractions and failure to monitor. Btw you Duck fans are exactly the same in blogs and response as your conduct in Autzen, just horrid. Worst college football environment in the states bar none.

          • conscientiousobserver

            Soooo, the RG is sitting on a story that makes the UO AD look like a glorified brothel and drug cartel, but they’re sitting on it to hear how this whole “street agent” thing turns out. Uh huh.

          • Media Source

            First of all, you probably have not had contact with LSU fans who were absolutely horrid.

            And second, no respectable news provider, be it a newspaper or magazine or television news source is going to sit on a story waiting for the NCAA to announce sanctions. I have talked to all of the reporters at the Guard and,m if they had a blockbuster story, they would have released it as soon as they had all of their factual content verified.

          • Ahh but here is the kicker Media, Baton Rouge is a great place for a college football game. Eugene is a great place for a Greatful Dead concert and hemp festival. Big difference in environment, plus every SEC game I’ve attended has been hospitable even downright welcoming in the tailgating areas even. Not so much in Eugene, bottles being thrown, spitting on you,swearing at my kids, obviously its a zoo for a reason I’m assuming, except the fans take it way out of control. as far as the RG story goes maybe there is a different reason for the delay, don’t know and you could be right on the rumor part, I just don’t see it though. Eugene is too small to keep a secret.

          • crazyduckfan13

            Well that comment certainly adds to your credibility…not! We shut down Husky Stadium in style last year and can’t wait to open the ‘new’ Husky Stadium next year. What will that be? #10? Sweeeeet!

  10. WeAreOregon

    I would love to read ONE article about the Oregon/NCAA investigation that actually contains FACTS and NOT OPINIONS. The truth is, NO ONE knows what is going to happen except for the NCAA and the Oregon Athletic Department. With this said, I am not too worried about what will transpire with the NCAA’s decision. Afterall, those close to the Oregon Athletic Department aren’t too worried. Chip decided to stay instead f leaving for a high paying Tampa job, the Oregon Athletics PR guy had a series of tweets making fun of internet rumors (he would NOT do this if it were that serious….).
    So many fans of other schools would love to see Oregon go down because of the success they have had over the past decade.
    So those hoping for an Oregon demise — we all know that your focus is on Oregon because of pure jelousy. Oregon is more interesting than your team – Afterall, that’s why you aren’t focused on YOUR team 2 weeks from start of season.
    Oregon is focused on this season. Not this rumor mill junk! When Oregon gets away with almost nothing – those envious of Oregon will be left with empty hopes. Oregon is not going away — no matter what happens.

    • laughingatlittlequacks

      chip decided to stay because Tampa wouldn’t agree to pay his salary if he was found in violation of NCAA rules and as such would have faced suspension by the NFL. Yes, the NFL does not let a coach violate NCAA rules then flee to the NFL without recourse.

    • TrojansAllDay

      Not this fan. This fan wants to see Oregon burn because of all the trash-talking after we got unduly punished. This fan wouldn’t consider losing to the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl, then losing to Auburn in the National Championship Game, then winning a fake PAC-12 Championship Game to be gifted a chance to FINALLY win a big game as success. So remind me again, what exactly have you succeeded at “over the past decade”?

      Trust me, I have PLENTY to focus on regarding my team. We’ve got something to prove, and our storyline is a hell of a lot more interesting than whatever goofy costumes Uncle Phil cooked up for you this year. I’m just here like everyone else: to find out how the NCAA is going to befuddle America yet again with (probably) a nonsensical decision.

      BTW, Reality Check said earlier that he hadn’t seen so many haters hoping to see a team trashed just because they couldn’t be beat on the field. How quickly you forget how USC got treated when the NCAA brought down the hammer. Life at the top of the PAC-12 ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, eh? Didja think everyone was going to hoist you up on their shoulders or something? Let me give you a little tip, one Trojan to a Duck: establish a tradition of winning before puffing out your chest. Until then, you just look like you’re ruffling up your feathers.

  11. I’ll say this about Cal and LSU since a lot of people have asked. Yes, Cal and LSU bought scouting services from Lyles. And yes, Lyles took a visit to Cal with Seastrunk. But Cal and LSU have three things going for them:

    – They paid a lot less to Lyles.
    – It looks like Lyles provided better information to Cal and LSU than to Oregon (Oregon’s info was outdated).
    – And the players at the center of the controversy didn’t sign with Cal and LSU.

    if Oregon is guilty of anything, then there’s a good chance Cal and LSU (and Auburn too) might be in trouble as well. But there are a number of reasons they might be in less trouble. Anything changes though (other players that Lyles steered to the other schools, other payments made, anything sketchy found when the NCAA reviewed what Lyles provided) would make things a lot worse for the other schools.

    • you don’t know many facts about this story… LSU intentionally falsified what reports Lyles gave them, specifically to avoid NCAA rules. He was supposed to provide some sort of “JC” package for a state other then Texas. It was intentional fraud on LSU’s part to get around a rule forbidding two scouting services covering the same geographic area. Lyles has stated as fact that he did not provide information of any kind about Juco services for the state listed on his invoice to LSU.

      So to say he provided better info to LSU is flat out false.

  12. Roadster997

    The Ncaa rule for football recruiting services referred to in this article, including Ncaa certification of such services, only went into effect august 1,2012 (delayed from original may 1, 2012 date). The ncaa cannot retroactively apply the new rules to Oregon. That being said, the more vague old rules are still enough to nail Oregon.

  13. Turd Ferguson

    There are delays by the NCAA because Lyles is not credible and is a weasel. Lyles tried to make his ‘service’ more than what it legally could be to enrich his fledgling business jump, now his recounting of events is breaking down under NCAA scrutiny. Oregon and the other schools have some responsibility for not doing due dilligence on Lyles, but it was Lyles who took things into the grey area because he did not understand or purposely did not follow NCAA guidelines for his ‘service’. The example needs to be made of Lyles, and the schools involved need repremanding and training to prevent this from occuring again.

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