No sympathetic figures in Duck football controversy
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
I wish I could say Chip Kelly returned my calls asking him to comment on the Willie Lyles situation. He didn't.
I wish I could say the University of Oregon has been forthcoming in presenting its side of the controversy that has launched an NCAA investigation. The Ducks haven't.
It has been a circle-the-wagons mentality in Eugene, with UO authorities standing by the stance that everything they've done is 100 percent legal.
Judging by Lyles' interviews last week with Yahoo.com and the Eugene Register-Guard and Tuesday on 'The Game' (750 AM) and 'The Fan' (1080 AM), Kelly knew he was skirting the rules by dealing with the Houston-based street agent/talent scout.
It's pretty clear Lyles didn't get his $25,000 for producing a scouting report - either the outdated version slapped together in haste at UO's belated request or the up-to-date one not released by the Ducks.
Lyles was asked whether Kelly was aware that he helped facilitate the letter-of-intent signing of recruit Lache Seastrunk through the player's grandmother, since his mother didn't want him to go to Oregon.
'It would be safe to say he knew what was going on,' Lyles said.
Just as bad, of course, is Oregon's apparent cover-up attempt, which proved the undoing of Jim Tressel at Ohio State.
For the first time, I'm wondering if Kelly will survive all of this at Oregon.
That will ultimately be up to school President Richard Lariviere and Athletic Director Rob Mullens, both new to their jobs in the last two years. Welcome to the big-time, boys.
When the NCAA gets involved in an investigation of a school, it generally uncovers new material that could lead to more violations - maybe even at other schools, such as Louisiana State.
Experts, though, say the NCAA rulebook has a great deal of gray area when it comes to recruiting influence by middle men such as Lyles. They question whether the NCAA will hand down serious penalties to Oregon.
Maybe that will save Kelly. But how will he fare in the court of public opinion?
My Duck friends are divided on this. Some are with the Chipster no matter what, arguing that what Oregon did was what 'everyone' does. Others are disgusted, especially by the litany of problems that have happened - not only with legal incidents involving 10 UO football players over the past year and a half, but with the NCAA's investigation of the basketball program for potential extra-benefit violations under ex-coach Ernie Kent.
Writes Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News: 'It's rare that a school has the NCAA poking around its football and men's basketball teams at the same time (on completely separate matters). So congrats on that.'
Lyles tattled on the Ducks because he felt 'I was made to look incompetent.' Oregon's reaction to the initial NCAA inquiry was, 'This guy didn't provide us the service he said he was going to,' Lyles said. 'It's not our fault; it's not our issue.'
'It was used to make me look bad and hold me in a bad light to the public,' Lyles said.
Lyles, 31, does a pretty good job of that all by himself.
His 'scouting service' is finished. His name has been sullied to where he probably will be blacklisted by most schools. Trying to salvage something out of it, he went on his media blitz in an attempt to restore his 'good name.'
He also seems to enjoy the limelight a great deal.
Maybe the guy has his players' best interests at heart, but this is no sympathetic figure.
Lyles said he has been contacted by NCAA officials for a second round of interrogation.
Suffice it to say they'll be visiting with Oregon officials, too, including Kelly.
Looking back, it seems as if Oregon - with Phil Knight's money, Nike's prestige, state-of-the-art facilities and on-the-field momentum - should never have had to bend or break the rules. Or, as one of my colleagues suggests, maybe that's what got them to the pinnacle of college football.
Looking ahead, let's hope they clean up their act so we don't have to go through this kind of charade again.