The next great debate leading up to college football season may just be who was cheating more between last year’s national title contenders, Auburn or Oregon? Rob Mullens, the former deputy director of athletics at UK, has a lot on his plate with the recently surfaced evidence of improper recruiting practices by Oregon coach, Chip Kelly, stemming from his involvement with a well-known Texas scout named, Will Lyles. Lyles said he was paid $25,000 by the Ducks not to directly get recruits to Oregon, but to make sure they qualified and stayed true to their commitment once they had verbally committed to Kelly. One recruit who Lyles built a strong relationship with was LaMichael James, last season’s Heisman trophy runner-up. Lyles pushed for James to transfer from his high school in Texas to a school in Arkansas so he could have avoided a certain standardized test necessary for college admission. Kelly was only an assistant at Oregon at the time, but praised Lyles’ action as a ‘great idea’.
In another instance, Kelly communicated with Lyles extensively through the recruitment of Lache Seastrunk, who almost didn’t make it to Oregon because his mother didn’t want to sign off on his letter of intent to the Ducks. Lyles organized a petition for a change of guardianship for Seastrunk so that his grandmother could sign off on the document, which she did. In addition, Lyles accompanied recruits on a trip to see the Oregon-USC game in 2009, after which Kelly sent Lyles a handwritten note thanking him for attending and bringing the recruits.
This is a pretty serious offense, especially if Lyles is deemed to be a booster recruiting players. It’s rare to see an AD not take at least some of the blame when infractions this big are occurring, but luckily for Mullens, all of this began before his tenure started. There are no guarantees with the insanity that is the NCAA infractions committee, but Chip Kelly should be in quite a bit of trouble. Oregon has gone from the talk of college football to, most likely, a team taking a big hit of sanctions. It’s a real embarrassment for their program. Mullens issued this statement regarding the whole incident:
“The University of Oregon athletic department has and will continue to fully cooperate with the NCAA inquiry. Our department is committed to helping the NCAA in any way possible and until their work is complete, we are unable to comment further. Oregon athletics remains committed to operating a program of integrity.”
Luckily for UK, the only embarrassing thing we have to worry about is Winston Guy’s twitter feed.