Ducks' $25K payment to recruiting service comes into question
Oregon claims its payment to Will Lyles' company was within NCAA rules
Lyles is connected to Oregon players LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk
Not a single service offered on the company's Web site is priced at $25,000
The University of Oregon paid $25,000 to a Texas man connected to at least two current Ducks players, according to state of Oregon records posted on the state's Web site.
Oregon contends the payment to Houston-based Will Lyles was for legitimate recruiting video services through his company, Complete Scouting Services. "This is no different than services purchased by a number of colleges and universities throughout the country," a statement released by the school said. But a longtime provider of recruiting video services -- who counted Oregon as a client before his company was absorbed by video giant XOS Digital -- said the $25,000 payment seems high. "For $25,000, it better provide a hell of a lot," Scouting Evaluation Association founder Dick Lascola told SI.com late Thursday. "That's an exorbitant amount of money to pay for something."
Lyles, a speed coach-turned-recruiting service proprietor, received the $25,000 payment for the 2009-10 fiscal year according to a University of Oregon expenditure report on the state of Oregon's Web site. (Records for 2008-09 can be viewed here, and records for 2009-10 can be viewed here.) In February 2010, Oregon signed Temple, Texas, tailback Lache Seastrunk, a player whom Lyles was mentoring. Lyles also attended ESPN's Home Depot College Football Awards Show with Oregon tailback LaMichael James, a Texarkana, Texas, native.
Lyles did not return calls from SI.com. His Web site features a "JUCO price list" that offers videos for a particular state for $3,000. A multi-state region costs $5,000. A "trifecta package" that includes any three states costs $8,000, while a "national package" costs $15,000. No single service is priced at $25,000.
Seastrunk's coach at Temple High, Bryce Monsen, told ESPN.com that he first met Lyles at a camp in 2009. Monsen told the site Lyles "was hanging around Temple, Texas, a lot" during Seastrunk's senior season. "I was told to stay away from Lache and his mother, as far as recruiting," Monsen told ESPN.com. "Lyles and Lache became good friends, and Lache had a lot of trust in him."
Pat Brady, who coached James at Liberty-Eylau High in Texarkana, said that when James was in high school, he had no relationship with Lyles of which Brady was aware. Brady said he sent video of James to Lyles, who worked for a different recruiting service at the time, but that he never met Lyles in person. "He requested tapes," Brady said. "I would send him stuff like I would Rivals or any other service." Brady said he wasn't aware that Lyles attended the awards show in Orlando, Fla., as the guest of James, who led the nation in rushing 2010.
Lascola has worked in the scouting business providing film to schools for more than 30 years, and he said Thursday that he had never heard of Lyles. But Lascola said a service would have to provide a lot of video to justify a $25,000 tab. According to state of Oregon records, the University of Oregon paid Lascola's Fallbrook, Calif., based Scouting Evaluation Association $17,010 in 2008-09 and $2,600 in 2009-10. For those fees, Lascola said, Oregon received video cutups of players in Southern California produced by Lascola, his son and a staff of videographers that canvassed Southern California filming games. Lascola said he sold his service to several Pac-10 schools. Payments for his service also show up in public records from Texas A&M and Clemson. Lascola sold his company to XOS last year and now coordinates videographers in 39 states for the company, which sells prospect video to schools. XOS Digital also provides digital video delivery services for several schools and conferences.
Lascola now works at XOS Digital with Gary Howard, whose NorCal Scouting service also counted Oregon as a client before it was absorbed by XOS. In 2008-09, Oregon paid Howard's company $18,200, according to records. It paid Howard's company $8,000 in 2009-10. Lascola said that before they were taken over by XOS, he and Howard each worked a territory in California. Howard had the northern half of the state, while LaScola worked the southern half. Each would film and produce video of hundreds of players each year and sell that video to colleges.
Lascola said he wouldn't have stayed in business long had he made side deals with schools and said no such deals would be tolerated by XOS. "There are no deals on the side," Lascola said. "If you do something for one school, you'd better do something for every school under the umbrella."
Oregon could also come under scrutiny for a $3,745 payment to New Level Athletics, the Dallas-based company that runs a series of 7-on-7 tournaments that have drawn many of the nation's top skill-position recruits the past few years. New Level co-founder Baron Flenory, who played for Oregon coach Chip Kelly at New Hampshire, told SI.com that he sold information collected from prospects who played in the company's tournaments to Oregon. Flenory said he had hoped to sell the information to other schools before he was told by the NCAA that he couldn't sell information collected at events held on the campuses of member schools. New Level's tournaments have been held at Alabama, Rutgers, UNLV and South Florida, among other schools.
"The NCAA said if you do football camps on a college campus, then you're not allowed to sell a recruiting service," Flenory said Thursday. "We felt that the camps were going to be more lucrative in the long run."