Published March 16, 2011 - 8:40am
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I’m not a major college football coach, but I’d hate recruiting if I were.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It’s probably fun to sit around with some of the best minds in the game and break down film to figure out which players will end up being the best prospect. I’m sure it’s great to sell what your program offers to prospective athletes. And I’d love to be able to give kids a chance to better their futures by playing the sport they love.
But in today’s recruiting world, there’s a much darker side: handlers, street agents, managers, mentors and anyone else standing to make a profit off of high school kids who have grown to trust them. In today’s world, those kinds of people have become big players in the college football world, and that’s not a good thing.
For years, teams have used scouting services to scour states, regions, and the entire nation to find the best athletes. Those services provide things like contact information, highlight videos, game films, and a horde of other things that college coaches would be interested in knowing about prospective players. Basically. Coaches can pay a scouting service to do a lot of the recruiting legwork for them. Coaches can then take the information and begin building relationships with the athletes they want to recruit. And there’s not a thing wrong with that.
But under the façade of legitimate scouting or recruiting services, a few seemingly shady guys might have found a way to make a few bucks. At this point, most everything we know about these guys is unconfirmed, but there’s definitely smoke. And if there’s smoke, it usually stinks – and there might be a fire somewhere.
To better understand what might be happening in college football, think about what happens in college basketball. The same recruiting services are in play for basketball coaches. They promise to provide film, prospect lists, measureable numbers, and plenty of other things for a fee. And, supposedly, that fee is only to cover the scouting service. But what happens when that “scout” is an AAU coach with some of the country’s top players on his team? What happens when Team A pays for his “scouting service” while Team B elects to go with another “service?” Does anyone really thing that both teams would receive equal love from the AAU coach/scout? You see the problem there? One team would be getting all the help from the coach, and the other team would be left out to dry.
For years, this has been a problem in major college basketball, and now it’s making an entrance into the football world. Actually, it might have been like this for a while, but recent allegations have brought the issue to a head. And at the forefront of those allegations is a man named Will Lyles.
Lyles runs Complete Scouting Services, a scouting service based in Houston, TX. On the CSS website, Lyles promises to scout the country and build a database of top prospects with phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, GPA, test scores, and comments from high school coaches about the kids. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, Lyles’ impact on recruiting doesn’t stop there.
In February 2010, The University of Oregon signed RB Lache Seastrunk, one of the best running backs in the country that year. Seastrunk was from Temple, TX, and his former high school coach, Bryce Monsen, had this to say to ESPN: “Lyles was hanging around Temple, TX a lot. I was told to stay away from Lache and his mother, as far as recruiting. Lyles and Lache became good friends, and Lache had a lot of trust in him.” So we have one of the best players in the country trusting Mr. Lyles.
For his services during 2010, Oregon paid Will Lyles $25,000. Sound suspicious? Add to that the fact that Oregon star RB LaMichael James had Lyles at ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show as his personal guest and it really gets interesting.
A top high school running back and last year’s Heisman runner-up both connected to Will Lyles and both attending the school that paid Lyles $25,000? Pretty big coincidence, isn’t it?
Too bad it doesn’t stop with Oregon. Recent reports from Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and a host of other news sources have linked other schools like Texas A&M, Clemson, and Oregon State to these recruiting services.
The latest accusation – and the most relevant to this site – is against LSU. Thayer Evans of foxsports.com broke the news earlier this week, and LSU senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent confirmed it Monday. LSU paid 14 different recruiting services last year, and that included a $6,000 payment to Will Lyles in December 2010. A guy connected to Lyles who is now an LSU Tiger? Trevon Randle.
Randle, from League City, TX, met Lyles at the Army All-American Combine in January 2010, and committed to the Tigers a month later. According to Thayer Evans, Randle consulted his parents before the decision, and his dad was “pretty tight” with Lyles.
Another big factor in Randle’s recruitment that was “tight” with Lyles? LSU defensive line coach Brick Haley
And here’s what Trevon Randle told Evans about Will Lyles: “That guy right there, he can eat. He knows about every restaurant in Baton Rouge, and he introduced me to all of them. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t know anything about all the food places down there.”
Not only is Lyles “tight” with Trevon Randle’s father and Brick Haley, he seems to be pretty “tight” with everything in Baton Rouge. Maybe he’s spent a little time there, himself. Again, Lyles is supposedly offering a scouting service for football teams, but it sure sounds like he’s building pretty strong relationships with the kids he’s “scouting.” Anybody see a problem with this?
As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing about this whole situation is that it’s legal. By the letter of the law, it doesn’t seem to me that these schools can be punished for what they’ve done. Unethical and immoral? Yes. But, illegal? Doesn’t look that way.
Schools can pay for scouting services, and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it at this point. So until something changes, Team A can pay $25,000 for a “scouting service” and have the “scout” influence kids’ decisions, while Team B does it the right way and picks up the leftovers.
It’s a flawed system, and as long as schools are allowed to pay guys who can influence the decisions of prospective athletes, it’s going to be flawed.
Am I right?