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LSU Coaches Questioned About Lyles By NCAA

About four days ago, we wrote that LSU should be concerned about its football coaches’ connection to street-agent Willie Lyles.  Not panicked, but concerned.  Lyles is currently at the center of Oregon’s NCAA scandal and he’s not the kind of person any school should want to have ties to at this point.

Due to his issues at Oregon — where it appears he was paid to use his influence to get recruits to sign with the Ducks — the NCAA will have him under the microscope for a while.  That means any school that’s handed Lyles a check in the past will also come under some amount of NCAA scrutiny.

LSU is now under said scrutiny.  An NCAA investigator was in Baton Rouge last week to interview the Tigers’ football staff about Lyles and his company.  Neither Les Miles nor the school has said whether or not the head coach was part of those interviews.

“LSU has cooperated with the NCAA regarding questions about a college scouting service supplying materials and answering questions posed by an NCAA official to several members of the LSU football coaching staff last week,” an LSU press release read.  “The football coaches who participated in the questioning met with the NCAA official on the LSU campus.  Also, LSU has chosen to identify contents of materials supplied to the university’s football coaching staff in 2010 by Complete Scouting Services and its director Willie Lyles.”

The release goes on to say that: “The LSU football coaching staff specifically requested information pertaining to junior college prospects in California and Kansas for evaluation purposes. … The DVDs provided by Complete Scouting Services contain footage of 32 California and Kansas junior college prospects from the 2010-11 recruiting year.”

On the surface that certainly looks better than the thrown together list of names Oregon released to the press as an example of Lyles work for the Ducks.

Since writing our “be concerned” post this week, we at MrSEC.com have been bombarded with emails pointing to the fact that LSU had spent only $6,000 with Lyles as compared to the $25,000 payment Oregon gave to the man.  The thought being — the less money paid, the less likely the Tigers cheated.

But according to Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana, LSU has paid Lyles $26,000 since 2008.  The $6,000 payment came last December.

If the school turned over all that money in exchange for DVDs and solid information on prospects, then all should be well.  But just because the Tigers got better info than Oregon, it doesn’t mean that’s all they got in return for their investment in Lyles and his company. 

You can bet the NCAA will continue to sniff around to try to determine if Lyles tried to influence any prospects into attending LSU.  Remember, a former Texas A&M assistant said that Lyles told him the Aggies would have to “beat” an $80,000 offer from other schools to land star cornerback Patrick Peterson.  Peterson signed with LSU, though he has said Lyles had nothing to do with that decision.

The good news — it appears that LSU is being up-front about things. 

The bad news — as we stated on Monday, you never ever want NCAA investigators anywhere near your campus.  And last week, they were smack dab in the middle of LSU’s.

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Writer: Lyles Can’t Be Trusted After Flip-Flop On Oregon

If you’re among the fire-eating LSU fans who become outraged at the mere suggestion that the Tigers and street agent Willie Lyles might have been involved in some out-of-bounds behavior, you might as well stop reading here.  Save yourself the headache and save us the nasty emails.

If, however, you’re among the many, many rationale Tiger fans who are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst, we suggest you keep reading.

This much we know: Lyles — who has turned into a one-man nightmare for the Oregon football program — was also paid $6,000 by LSU for work he did for Les Miles’ staff.  Lyles says that work was legit.  LSU says that work was legit.

But as John DeShazier of The New Orleans Times-Picayune points out, that’s what Lyles said about Oregon, too… intially:


“But if he now is telling the truth about his relationship with Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Kelly’s assistants (and he seems to have documentation proving Oregon’s gratefulness for him wielding influence), we know his previous attempt to cover for himself and Oregon isn’t true.  So you’ll have to forgive me if, given the way scandal has erupted throughout college sports — and, specifically, the way smut is leaking from big-time football in the BCS conferences — in the last calendar year along, I’m more inclined to presume guilt rather than innocence right now.

‘In eight years of working in scouting and working for bigger companies and doing different things in scouting, you get a chance to see a lot and do a lot,’ Lyles said Tuesday during an interview with a Portland, Oregon radio station.  ‘You see a lot of things that go on.

‘That’s just stuff that I don’t want to even touch at this point and that’s about it.  I haven’t decided on what information I do want to talk about at this point as far as dealing with them.  I don’t want to say anything that’s out of line and out of turn as far as my dealings with LSU.’

Actually, it’s a little late in the game for Lyles to dummy up, given that he has given up Oregon via the claim that he believes Oregon paid him to steer players to Eugene.

So, to think Lyles and LSU would be incapable of doing what Lyles and Oregon apparently did would be beyond naive.”


Yes, it would.  As DeShazier points out, there’s no reason to think that Miles and LSU did pay Lyles to steer prospects toward Baton Rouge — not yet anyway — but there’s also no reason to rule out that possibility.  Even though many on The Bayou would definitely to do so.

First, LSU got itself mixed up with a guy who clearly walks outside the lines and has no problem — in Oregon’s case at least — being a rat.  That’s not good.  Whether he did anything improper for LSU or not, Lyles is trouble.  That’s why the NCAA is likely to keep digging on Lyles and on all of his dealings with various schools.

Second, no school should ever want the NCAA snooping around its campus and that’s especially true right now.  Mark Emmert and crew currently have their antennae up and their general mood suggests rule-breakers will be taken to the woodshed.

For those reasons, the wise fan clad in purple and gold will admit to being a little nervous over the Lyles situation.  Not panicking, mind you, but nervous.  And the wise fan is certainly not confident.  With Lyles rolling over on the Oregon, how could he be?

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SEC Headlines 7/8/2011

1. One month into the search, Tennessee has yet to interview an AD candidate.

2. Vanderbilt is getting a new grass field - courtesy of U2.

3. A review of Gene Chizik’s new memoir: “(T)he book seems to be missing some central figures in Auburn’s two-year turnaround and Chizik’s ascent from 5-19 coach to national champion — the assistant coaches.”

4. A key to success for any SEC team this fall - the schedule.

5. More on Willie Lyles and the LSU connection.

6. Two newcomers have yet to enroll at Alabama.

7. He was the top rusher and receiver for Ole Miss last year and now Brandon Bolden has a new role – leader.

8. Alabama won exactly 10 games last year. The previous four times that happened, the next season was a losing one.

9. Big changes - key word big – along the Georgia defensive line coming this year.

10. Top 25 countdowns: The player - Courtney Upshaw. The game – Arkansas vs. Texas A&M.

11. Trial for four former Auburn players accused of armed robbery gets pushed back to late October.

12. Robbie Andreu peruses the new Florida football media guide.

13. Incoming Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis is talking national championship. Kentucky releases its 2011-2012 roster. Breakout candidates.

14. New Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin is on a recruiting blitz.

15. Former Vol player Wayne Chism gets a $73-grand award from his former Turkish team.

Extra

16. American sports take a beating in the British press.

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SEC Headlines 7/7/2011

1. Jon Solomon on Dee Hart’s injury: “It’s impossible to say what impact Hart would have had in 2011. But make no mistake: He would have gotten the chance, possibly as a third-down back and returner.”

2. Depth dwindling in Bama backfield.

3. Who is the best running back in the SEC?

4. So does Les Miles know Willie Lyles or not?

5. Janzen Jackson will be a “full participant” when practice begins in August. “Fans should hold their applause.”

6. Which SEC school “comes closest to bucking the four-cupcakes lineup?”

7. Without A.J. Green around, how will Aaron Murray perform?

8. Hasn’t played or practiced yet at Alabama, but he’s on the Biletnikoff Award watch list.

9. Top 25 countdowns.  The player - Florida’s Sharrif Floyd.  The game – Florida at South Carolina.

10. Auburn’s new indoor football facility is almost complete.

11. The magazine fix for college football fans.

12. Bruce Pearl: “Do you want me to write the book about how do you lose $10 million jobs? I can write the book.”

Extra

13. Is ESPN colluding with Fox over Texas football?

 

 

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A Few Outside The League Headlines

There’s some news outside the conference today that we believe you will — or should — have some interest in… and those nuggets are as follows:


1.  Consider this a small tremor on an active fault line.  The Big East is still considering expansion and there’s talk that the league might reach out to Army and Navy with an invitation to join as footbally-only members.  While that likely wouldn’t set off a full-scale expansion-quake across the country, when things are as shaky as they proved to be last summer, fans had best pay attention to any potential movements.

2.  From the looks of the info released by Oregon yesterday, the Ducks’ athletic department was either fleeced by Willie Lyles’ recruiting service or Oregon is in the midst of a cover-up.  For other schools — including those in the SEC — who’ve used Lyles’ service in the past, anything making Lyles look more questionable is a bad thing.  If the NCAA finds dirt in Eugene regarding Lyles, it will likely start tracking his past dealings on other campuses.

3.  It’s being reported that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles found no wrongdoing in its investigation into 25 vehicle sales involving Ohio State football players and a Columbus car dealer.  However, the BMV was looking only for violations of state lawIt was not looking into possible NCAA violations.  In other words, when the BMV says it found no improprieties, that means the dealer wasn’t giving cars away.  It does not mean the dealer wasn’t providing special deals for OSU players, which would be against NCAA rules.  So while ESPN is suggesting this closes the door on the car purchase part of the OSU scandal, we’ll quote ESPN’s Lee Corso instead: “Not so fast.”

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LSU Players Not Worried About NCAA Issues

The NCAA has yet to weigh in on rules violations from 2009 that LSU self-reported.  Last week, a former Texas A&M assistant coach claimed that a reputed street agent named Willie Lyles requested $80,000 from A&M for the signature of Patrick Peterson… who wound up signing with and starring at LSU.

In other words, there’s smoke on the Baton Rouge campus.  Whether there’s actual fire or not, well, it doesn’t sound like the current Tigers are concerned.

“I guess the NCAA is really trying to crack down on its policies,” safety Eric Reid said.  “But as far as LSU, we haven’t done anything wrong and our name stays clean.”

That may be true, but it’s certainly not a surprise to hear a current player make such a claim.  I can’t recall many sophomores saying, “Yeah, they’re paying us pretty well.”

Still, the NCAA issues appear to be off most players’ radar.  “We really don’t know anything,” receiver Russell Shepard told The Daily Reveille.  “We just worry about the journey to New Orleans. … We just want ot win games and play football.”



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Barnhart Has Five Tips To Fix College Football

From one end of the country to the other it’s been a scandalous start to College Football 2011.  Cam Newton, Willie Lyles, Jim Tressel, John Junker and Stanley McClover have all become household names… and not for the right reasons.

Longtime college football writer Tony Barnhart — who has now taken up residence at CBSSports.com — believes college football has reached a point of no return when it comes to cheating, lying, and swindling.  In his learned view, there are five steps that should be taken to clean up the sport before it’s too late.

You can read his recommendations in full right here, but we’ll give you the gist below along with our own views:


1.  “Find a way for the top 60 to 70 schools that play major college football to work independently from the NCAA.”

Barnhart feels the sport has become too big for the NCAA to oversee it and, if necessary, the biggest schools should strike out on their own. 

Our view: Such a move would require an awful lot of planning and negotiating.  Everything from money splits to recruiting rules to scheduling would need to be meted out and agreed upon by the trailblazing schools.  It might be easier for the NCAA to simply reorganize itself.  As was shown by HBO’s “Real Sports” last week, several NCAA officers make salaries in the half-million dollar range.  Split up some of that money, hire some enforcement crews who work solely on the college football beat, and create a separate NCAA wing that handles only football 24/7/365 and you might have a quicker fix than an all-out break from the NCAA.  Maybe.


2.  “Create a commissioner of college football.”

Barnhart — who credits fellow CBS’er Tim Brando with the idea — feels only one person with ultimate power can rein in all the cheating that’s going on these days.

Our view: This position could simply go to the head of the new NCAA football wing that we proposed above.  But if there’s a split from the NCAA, obviously, someone will need to be in control.  So we have no problems with the Barnhart/Brando proposal.

In a perfect world, NCAA president Mark Emmert could act as college football’s czar.  But at present he’s expected to watch over every division of every sport under the NCAA umbrella.  He doesn’t have the time to be Mr. Football.


3.  “Freshmen will be declared ineligible.”

Man, oh, man, some folks just had heart attacks.  Recruiting gurus and their followers just grabbed their chests.  A few coaches just fell over in their chairs. 

In Barnhart’s view, “There is a whole host of pathologies that are created by a recruiting process that tells 18-year-old children they are stars and should be treated (and paid) like one.”

Our view:  While Barnhart admits that “this will never happen” in an 85-scholarship universe, if the biggest football schools broke off from the NCAA as he suggests, there’s nothing to say that schools would have to keep using an 85-man limit.  They could make the limit 100 and then declare freshmen ineligible. 

Our only concern about this proposal would be from a legal standpoint.  Until 1972, freshmen were ineligible.  But the world is much more litigious in 2011 than it was pre-’72.  It’s not hard to imagine someone — or many someones — suing for their child’s right to be eligible as a freshman.


4.  “Football scholarships become five-year commitments by the school.  In exchange for giving up freshman eligibility, the student-athlete will get a five-year guaranteed scholarship if he stays in good academic standing and doesn’t get in trouble with the law.”

Barnhart would also nuke red-shirting, gray-shirting and oversigning.

Our view: Amen and Hallelujah.  College programs make tens of millions of dollars off of football players.  The least they can do is guarantee a scholarship. 

College coaches makes millions of dollars off of football players.  It should be their job to evaluate talent and develop it.  If a coach does a poor job of evaluating a player’s talent — or character — that should be on the coach, not the player.  College coaches should not have the ability to reshape their rosters each offseason like NFL general managers.  They’re not toying with professionals’ lives, they’re impacting the futures of teenagers in many cases. 

Also, if coaches knew they would be locked into the kids they signed for five years, they would likely work harder to find the types of kids who belong on college campuses in the first place.  (As opposed to those who might become involved in an armed burglary ring, for example.)


5.  “Change the scholarship to include the full cost of attendance.”

Barnhart believes a “stipend of several thousand dollars” — like those that go to some top academic scholarship winners — would end the debate over college players needing spending cash.

Our view: If the goal is to actually provide cash for the players, then this suggestion makes sense.  Let them have enough cash to travel home when necessary, to go out on a date, to buy some clothes.  That’s all good.

But for those who believe such a stipend would help cut down on cheating, we strongly disagree.  There will always be boosters — and some coaches — who look to gain an edge by going above and beyond what everyone else is doing.


Whether you agree with all, some or none of Barnhart’s suggestions, it’s clear that the NCAA has reached a point in terms of PR that it must start taking some serious actions.

When stories of pay-for-play schemes, street agents and dishonest coaches overshadow such topics as the BCS championship race, the Heisman Trophy and the All-American team, it’s a sad day for college football.  And that day is already upon us.

Hopefully, some of the people charged with protecting the game — the presidents and athletic directors at the nation’s biggest football powers — are already discussing some of the ideas Barnhart put for today.  It’s time to stop wringing hands over the all the issues facing the game and time to start finding solutions to those problems.

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Patrick Peterson Issues Statement Regarding Willie Lyles

Former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson issued a statement on Thursday regarding allegations that “Texas-based football trainer” Willie Lyles offered to send Peterson to Texas A&M in exchange for cash in 2007.

“I have never had any type of relationship with Willie Lyles and he had no influence on my decision to attend LSU, or any other school for that matter,” Peterson said in his statement. “He had no involvement with my recruiting process and I resent the fact that my name has come up in these allegations. I chose LSU because it’s a great school with a great football program. I never received nor was I offered anything to go to LSU and anyone saying otherwise is being dishonest.”

The allegations were made by former Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Van Malone during an interview with ESPN.com.

“A few days after the kid’s visit (to College Station), Will calls and says, ‘If you want this kid, there are other schools that want this kid as well. They’re willing to pay a certain amount of money, around the $80,000 mark,’” Malone told ESPN.com. “He said that was something we were going to have to beat as a university to be able to obtain the services of this kid.”

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