In the weeks leading up to the BCS Championship Game between Auburn and Oregon back in January, a lot of the game-related chit-chat centered on the controversy swirling around Auburn and the "pay for play" scheme that Cecil Newton, the father of the Tigers' Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton, had tried to execute allegedly without Cam's knowledge.
Also allegedly, Auburn didn't bite on Newton's reported six-figure price tag (although the NCAA still has its "pay for play"-sniffing dogs blanketing Auburn, for the time being). Who knew when it came down to both teams paying that night that, come July 2011, we would be more inclined to bet on Oregon getting slapped with sanctions than Auburn?
Well, I am, at least.
In the months following the national championship game, we learned (or at least learned more about) the following:
1. Willie Lyles is (and now was) the owner of a scouting service based out of the Houston area.
2. Willie Lyles clients included LSU, Cal, and, yes, Oregon.
Will Lyles' mentoring days may be over
4. Willie Lyles also had a mentor-type relationship with Texarkana running back LaMichael James, also an Oregon Duck now and also one of the top players in the country.
5. Willie Lyles admittedly provided all sorts of inside information on both kids to Chip Kelly that presumably would help seal the deal with either one to bring them to Oregon.
6. Willie Lyles was paid $25,000 by Oregon for his "scouting services." According to Lyles, this price was arrived at by Kelly via the highly scientific method of "Hey Will, find out what the highest paid scouting service charges and send me an invoice for that amount." (Seriously, why didn't Kelly just go all Al Czervik from Caddyshack and tell him to "Add a little extra to throw you and the boys a party. WHOA!")
7. When Yahoo! began investigating the relationship between Lyles and Oregon, Kelly asked for some sort of retroactive document that would serve as a de facto "scouting report" for the 2011 recruiting season. Kelly wound up with 140 pages that looked like they were assembled by a third grader and actually included at least one player who was deceased.
Clearly, $25,000 doesn't go as far as it used to.
Now, Willie Lyles is left without a scouting business (although I'm not sure what portion "scouting" comprised of his business), he is working a local deli (literally), and the NCAA now has "pay for play"-sniffing dogs bumping around Eugene, OR.
At Pac-12 Media Day today, Chip Kelly was the main event, the one everyone was waiting for. The keynote speaker. Not surprisingly, the media left disappointed (from the Associated Press):
Chip Kelly refuses to discuss the Ducks' use of Texas-based recruiting service until the school and the NCAA finish an extensive review of the program's dealings with the service's owner.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens acknowledged the review Tuesday before Pac-12 media day, and Kelly provided little new information in his first comments to reporters about an association threatening to tarnish the Ducks' run to the national championship game last season.
"I would love to talk about it, and when we have a chance after the report comes out, I will be able to clear up any questions that anyone has about the whole situation," Kelly said.
I've interviewed Chip Kelly a couple times at the Bear Bryant Award under considerably happier circumstances than the ones he was facing in today's press conference. He comes across as a normal guy's guy who is a hardcore "all ball" football coach. Not much politician nor entertainer in him.
If I had the chance to ask him some of those post-NCAA report questions, I would ask him the following: 1. Did you really tell John Canzano of the Oregonian that you didn't know who Willie Lyles was, then later in the day when asked again by Canzano say that you did know him but "Around here, we call him 'Will"? Because if you did, that breaks unprecedented ground in the "I don't even know who you're talking about" realm. We can mistake "Michaels" for "Mikes" and "Peters" for "Petes"? Awesome.
2. Were you angry when the scouting report Lyles sent you looked like something my 12-year-old son would have put together six years ago with some glue, an X-acto knife, and Microsoft Word?
3. Did you at least have an intern or somebody double check the status of the 140 players in the report before submitting it as evidence?
4. Is there so much wealth in the state of Oregon that you can just arrive at a price for these "services" by telling Lyles to charge you the highest price in the market, and if so, can I have a job and just tell you what my cost of services would be? Or can you take a job running a radio network somewhere? Please?
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SHOW ME HOW
5. Why did you agree to another year of services with Lyles and then, when the Yahoo! report became of knowledge to you, you refused to pay him and acted like you didn't know him?
I guess it boils down to the sixth and final question...
6. Chip, if you're not guilty of doing something bad, why did you reportedly act like you were?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Sirius 94/XM 208 and 1560 The Game from noon to 3PM Central Time weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.