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Oregon's possible trouble a warning for the good of the game


In terms of a scandal, it isn't. Not quite yet. Maybe not ever in terms of Oregon's really bad day on Thursday.

The school paying $28,000 to two men tied to several Ducks recruits seems fishy, but the school can't be that stupid, can it? There it was for everyone to see in an expenditure report (link courtesy of Either Oregon has you-know-whats the size of Portland or, like its statement said Thursday night, the athletic department legitimately "paid for services rendered."

Yeah, but how much is too much and what, exactly, were the services rendered? It might be up to the NCAA decide. This report says investigators will be on the Eugene campus on Friday.

Highly touted Lache Seastrunk reportedly has a relationship with a recruiting serviceman Will Lyles. (US Presswire)  
Highly touted Lache Seastrunk reportedly has a relationship with a recruiting serviceman Will Lyles. (US Presswire)  
For now, in a world where we're still processing premarital sex's effect on the NCAA tournament and players gone wild, this story is way inside baseball, complicated, layered. It was the subject of industry buzz for days, if not weeks. It contains names with which we're just now becoming familiar. One BCS-level coach told that the $25,000 paid by Oregon to Houston-based Will Lyles was "extremely excessive" for a recruiting service. Lyles reportedly has a relationship with 2010 Oregon prize recruit Lache Seastrunk.

Earlier in the evening, Oregon coach Chip Kelly told, "Most programs purchase recruiting services. Our compliance office is aware of it. Will has a recruiting service that met NCAA rules and we used him in 2010."

If Oregon is truly in deep doo-doo for what could one day be determined as paying street agents to funnel it talent, at least we've being warned. That's good. That means college football has a chance.

Thursday's story isn't so much about Oregon, it's about what the story potentially represents. We long ago kissed college basketball's reputation goodbye. Off the court the game was, and is, a morass of bottom feeders and opportunists, who recruiters have to fight through to land a player. The NCAA probably won't admit it, but it lost control of college basketball recruiting a while ago. It's so bad that no one, except the Association, seems to care. That includes us. As long as everyone gets paid, who cares? We still have our Jimmer, No. 1 seed debates, office pools and Bob Knight's dry-erase breakdowns.

Football, though, still has a hint of innocence. The NCAA formed the Basketball Focus Group less than three years ago to investigate a recruiting environment described as -- its words in a Power Point presentation -- a "cesspool." It might be too late for hoops. But the NCAA is at least somewhat out front on football. It has committed seven enforcement folks to investigating football recruiting over the next several months.

Once again, this is good. The football phenomenon that has metastasized into a cancer eating away at the sport is only a few years old. We started getting hints of it when the advisor of Wichita, Kan., tailback Bryce Brown became a national story. The NCAA began taking a football interest in "trainers" and "advisors" getting involved in a player's recruiting. It's not a new scam, just newer in football.

There is much concern about the seven-on-seven summer circuit which, in many ways, is beginning to resemble AAU basketball. A man who runs a respected West Coast clinic told me this week he was approached by an official who runs a major high-school all-star game. The official told the clinician that they should get into business together. Here's the money shot: The official told the clinician that he should charge players $500 a head.

Guess who was going to get a cut of that? Once the clinician figured out that the hustle was on, he declined.

A small victory. Another sign that college football still has a chance.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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