There are many reasons to love college football. Today’s allegations are not one of them. It’s one of the few sports where wins and the opportunity to compete can be taken away by the interpretation of the by-laws. Oregon didn’t get outblocked or out-tackled today. They got outsnitched.
This is what I wrote on Lyles on March 4th and March 14th. I think it’s still true:
Then too, here is another brute truth: a character of this caliber, caught in the squeeze of a nationwide investigation by a powerful governing body, there is virtually no limit to how quickly and enthusiastically he would give everyone else up (coaches, players, schools) to save himself or reduce his damage. Will Lyles is not a stand-up guy. He’s the kind who changes his story until he’s impossibly found out. Cornered, he’ll sing. And when he opens his mouth, Mighty Oregon might go silent for a long time.
Regardless of the outcome of NCAA investigations, Oregon made a grievous mistake in soliciting the aid of Will Lyles in their Texas recruiting efforts. He has brought the program 90 yards of the wrong kind of attention.
On Fox Sports News.com former New York Times reporter Thayer Evans has written a four-part series on street agents and 7-on-7 camps and their growing influence in college football, and Oregon, Lyles and Brian Flenory are heavily featured.
Insightful writing has a power all its own. There’s a direct line from Thomas Paine to Upton Sinclair to Woodward and Bernstein, and dogged reporters and impassioned wordsmiths who follow a story relentlessly change things. The NCAA can’t let go of this, because several talented people are hot on the trail and unlikely to let them.
Lyles is a bad guy. He ingratiated himself with athletes and families for profit, leaving a trail of disgust and distrust among high school coaches, and the persistent stench of corruption on every recruiting deal he ever brokered. He charmed the kids, and sometimes their parents and relatives, and got them scholarships, but always managed to take a chunk of something for himself.
Yesterday’s story from Evans included the revelation that Lyles accompanied Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell on recruiting trips to Houston-area high schools. Gary Campbell is a very good man, but Lyles isn’t. Duck fans cannot imagine a more unfortunate association.
There are two immutable laws of human behavior. We become what we think about, and we tend to become like the people we’re around. Will Lyles is a corrupt opportunist who promotes himself by any means necessary. He capitalized on the trust of impressionable kids, taking credit for the attention their talent had earned them, taking a commission on scholarships their abilities made a virtual certainty to begin with. Lache Seastrunk had dazzling speed and elusiveness. Five minutes of video would have convinced any coach to make him an offer. Lyles had the audacity to move in with his mother, oversee the boy’s recruiting, and pocket 25 grand for his trouble. He ran a variation of the same play with Trevon Randle and a host of other Houston-area prep stars, collecting fees from several of the nation’s foremost football schools in the process. A sweet gig for slick guy with the uncanny instincts of a pimp.
Sinclair brought a wave of change to the American meat-packing industry, partly because Teddy Roosevelt was reading him over his breakfast sausage. The revelations regarding Oregon’s partner in Texas ought make college football fans similarly nauseous, and spark an analogous progressive movement in the sport.