Monday, March 14, 2011

The Blur Socks Scandal

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 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.


  1. You are hopeless.

  2. A little late to the game here, but where are you getting the characterizations of Lyles? There are a couple coaches in the story that don't like him (and also don't know him), but the recruits think he's ok? Those coaches may have a vested interest in tearing the guy down, and any like him, after all they are all middle-men standing between the talent and the spotlight. It does seem that Lyles has a negative reputation, but is there any proof? Can you point me to more information about the guy?

  3. Duckluck--

    You are fair to point out that I don't know Lyles personally. I've read perhaps twenty articles on the guy and his methods, and coaches and writers universally deplore him and the street agent phenomenon he represents.

    I don't have the resources or time to report on these stories personally. I wish I did. I work 5:30-2:00 every day and write in my spare time. I try to digest everything that's out there and react to it as honestly as I can.

    In Lyle's case, he's been variously described as shady, sleazy and skirting the rules, and the NCAA is likely to shut him down. Oregon, unfortunately, is on record for paying him a pretty big finder's fee for one player, and that's bringing the investigators into town to turn everything upside down. I hope nothing shakes out when they do. Ivan Maisel commented in his podcast that most major college programs operate in the gray areas, and an investigation is bound to turn up something.

    The NCAA could very well rule that Lyles violated rule 13. If he delivered certain players to certain schools, those schools are likely to be penalized, probably with at least a loss of some scholarships.

    Lyles peddled young athletes from poor backgrounds to colleges for his own gain, and that calls his character into question. If he's exonerated and turns out to be a champion of the people I'll retract every bad word I've said about him.

    Thank you for reading DL, and your comments. I hope you are right and this all blows over. Nothing I've read so far leads me to believe it will.

    As for you, anonymous, I put absolutely no stock in anonymous personal attacks.


  4. Gary Campbell a "great guy"??? JJ Arrington ring a bell?

    Campbell will do whatever it takes to win and undoubtedly was aware of Lyles rep. There's a link between these two that stinks to high heaven.

  5. Hey Dale -
    Thank you mightily for the dirt, and it does indeed look like dirt. Oregon appears to be playing to win, in a game with many rules and no referees. Thanks again, I read you regularly, and will continue to do so! And FYI: WordPress, my wife uses it for her real estate blogs. Open source, huge community and free. We like for the hosting.

  6. Duckluck,

    Appreciate it very much. Honestly, I think Oregon runs a fairly clean program, and runs a program that cares for its athletes, before and after they complete their eligibility. I think the sport of college football needs reevaluation and widespread reform, rather than this recurring cycle of scapegoating successful programs.

    Best wishes, and thanks again,


  7. Anon--

    Gary Campbell IS a fine man, a man of integrity, a dedicated family man, who has served Oregon football for about 25 years. He made a mistake in the Arrington situation, a mistake he admitted and expressed remorse for. It is not the measure of his career.

    I have great respect for the direction, guidance and leadership Coach Campbell has provided for an entire generation of great Oregon running backs. It's a real cheap shot for you to call him out anonymously.