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NCAA Publishes the “Willie Lyles Rule”

After Cam Newton and his father Cecil were found to not have committed a serious NCAA violation, much was made of the NCAA’s efforts to close this loophole. That resulted in the NCAA’s new definition of an agent which took over a year to be adopted and only addressed one aspect of the issues in the Newton case.

The Willie Lyles/Oregon case bears similarities to the Newton/Auburn/Mississippi State case in that what outside observers see as the case distilled down to its essence (school pays $25,000 and gets a recruit, father shops son for payout) was not seen as that serious by the NCAA. Even the NCAA enforcement staff downplayed the significance of the size of the payment to Lyles from Oregon.

But there was some confusion about the recruiting service rules in the Lyles case, which the NCAA has addressed. But it had nothing to do with Oregon’s purchase of Lyles’s services in 2010 for $25,000. The debate was over whether Oregon’s use of Lyles in 2008 and 2009 was permissible because Lyles provided oral evaluations in addition to written reports. Parsing an interp from 1987, the Committee on Infractions ruled:

[The] language of the interpretation reasonably could be read that the interpretation permitted oral communications with recruiting/scouting service providers in conjunction with standardized written/published reports. Therefore, the committee concludes that the manner in which the institution utilized its subscriptions to the two recruiting services in 2008 and 2009 did not violate Bylaw 13.14.3 as it existed during those years.

Now less than three months after the Oregon ruling, the Legislative Review and Interpretations Committee has issued an interpretation which reverses the COI’s determination:

The committee confirmed that an institution is not permitted to subscribe to a recruiting or scouting service that provides oral reports related to prospective student-athletes regardless of whether the service also disseminates information related to prospective student-athletes in any other manner (e.g., published reports, online profiles, video, etc.).

While this will prompt an outcry that the NCAA did not fix the real “loophole” in the Lyles case, the reality is that loophole was addressed before the Lyles case was even heard. The NCAA now approves all recruiting services before institutions can subscribe in football and basketball. So the odds of someone running a sham recruiting services to funnel money in exchange for steering or providing access to prospects are already lower.


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