Senior Writer

Ducks' dated recruiting data: Honest mistake or mischief?


EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon can't be this dumb. It just can't.

In documents released Monday, it looks like Oregon ordered a recruiting service with more filler than cut-rate cat food. Will Lyles' $25,000 tab for his celebrated national recruiting service in 2010 could be the college football equivalent of Capone's vault.

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That would be merely negligent if Lyles weren't the face of the non-scholarship, third-party influence that the NCAA is attempting to put out of business. It would be easy to ignore if the media's Freedom of Information Act requests of Oregon documents lately weren't the legal equivalent of LaMichael James -- swift and prolific.

None of it would mean much if Lyles weren't the mentor of Oregon tailback Lache Seastrunk, who was purported to be the next big thing when he signed with the Ducks last year. Now Lyles is toxic. LSU coach Les Miles had to go out of his way to disassociate himself from the Houston-based trainer in April.

Less than a month after RB Lache Seastrunk signed with the Ducks, his mentor received $25,000 from Oregon. (US Presswire)  
Less than a month after RB Lache Seastrunk signed with the Ducks, his mentor received $25,000 from Oregon. (US Presswire)  
That five-figure payment for Lyles' recruiting service came less than a month after Seastrunk signed. See why the NCAA is interested? With the hottest, fastest rising football program in the country already under NCAA scrutiny, it seems clear there is more negativity coming for Ducks football.

You don't even have to look close at the recruiting service. Of the 140 profiles in the "national" package, 134 players are from Texas. Everything's big in Texas, but not that big. A lot of the prospects are dated, from 2009, according to the Portland Oregonian. One player signed with Auburn and played against Oregon in January's BCS title game.

(You can see the entire package here.)

Judging by the service's quality, a skeptic could conclude that it was hastily cut, pasted and shipped just so Oregon had something in hand to show for its $25,000.

But, again, Oregon can't possibly be that dumb.

It's entirely possible that Oregon merely overpaid for an inferior product. That would be nothing more than a mistake. But reasonable people could logically assume that Oregon has gotten into the sordid business of buying players. Seastrunk was one of the best tailbacks in the 2010 recruiting class. Lyles was Seastrunk's mentor in Temple, Texas. One report said Lyles lived with Seastrunk's mother during the athlete's senior year.

Until the NCAA examines the (alleged) crime scene here, there's a long way to go. There's really no hard and fast rule to determine how much is too much to pay for a recruiting service. Oregon could admit that mistake on Tuesday by saying it bought a dated service package.

Case closed? In his two short years as head coach, Chip Kelly has built a powerhouse program that plays by the rules. But clean doesn't seem to equal winning these days. Look around the national landscape. Veteran Ducks running backs coach Gary Campbell was asked Monday if it's possible, in general, to win a national championship these days without cheating.

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"I think it is if you're doing things the right way," he told "We want to do it the right way. That's one of Chip's things."

That's why Oregon can't be this dumb. It can't have knowingly bought what looks like a bogus recruiting package and then released it to the world. The only thing worse at this point is if Seastrunk never pans out. Campbell says the kid needs to prove he can run between the tackles and has had trouble picking up the offense.

"And all the sudden," Campbell added, "he's got a fumbling problem."

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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