In an unsettling era — when arbitrary decisions are often rendered by college athletics’ governing body, unintended consequences tend to emerge.
In 2006, the NCAA implemented a new bylaw originally enacted to allow it to exercise greater control over college football recruiting.
Specifically, bylaw 18.104.22.168.4 prevents Football Bowl Subdivision coaches from attending any independent football camps or combines showcasing prospective student athletes at any location at any time.
Coaches may only be present at “scholastic” activities such as games and practices. Even then, they must be permitted by the respective high school athletic association.
In response to such restrictions, college football programs have resorted to soliciting the assistance of various scouting services such as XOS Digital, which in turn, can provide programs with film and analysis of various high school prospects.
Think a $99.95 annual subscription to Rivals.com on steroids.
With coaches grounded, an increased need for data and information about potential prospects has emerged.
USC uses multiple scouting services, as do the majority of major FBS programs. It seems customary these days.
But because the NCAA has forced schools to increase reliance on such independent scouting programs, there has simultaneously been an effort made by some schools’ to push the envelope in their payment of “scouts.”
Despite helping to foster this climate, the NCAA eventually will want to take action against these rogue scouts.
Based on recent events, it appears Oregon is going to allow the NCAA to clean up after it.
To clarify: Last week, multiple media outlets reported NCAA officials have begun investigating a $25,000 payment made by the university to Will Lyles of Complete Scouting Services in Houston, according to the State of Oregon expenditure records.
“This is no different than services purchased by a number of colleges and universities throughout the country,” read a statement issued by the school.
But then again, there are some differences. For starters, Lyles, a former athletic trainer, is alleged to have had a “mentoring relationship” with current Ducks freshman running back Lache Seastrunk, who coincidently was a highly-rated recruit coming out of Texas in 2010.
And the $25,000 price tag is also significantly higher than most scouts charge.
“For $25,000, it better provide a hell of a lot,” said Scouting Evaluation Association founder Dick Lascola in a story published on SI.com on Friday. “That’s an exorbitant amount of money to pay for something.”
In fact, the $25,000 package was not even made available on Lyles’ website until Friday, one day after allegations surfaced.
Previously, the site listed a “JUCO price list” for $3,000, a multi-state region package for $5,000, a “trifecta package” including any three states for $8,000 and a “national package” for $15,000.
That Lyles’ $25,000 package was unavailable insinuates the service was offered only to Oregon, raising questions as to the legitimacy of his scouting.
If, in fact, Lyles was used to recruit Seastrunk to Eugene, Ore., it would constitute an NCAA violation, since Lyles would be deemed a booster, as noted by Yahoo! Sports.
And considering Lyles’ payments came shortly after Seastrunk signed his national letter of intent in February 2010, such a scenario appears all the more likely.
But regardless of Oregon’s guilt, it’s going to get hammered, because the NCAA needs to make a statement regarding this issue.
It’s a problem the organization helped create, but, it’s going to send a message regardless.
In recent years, the NCAA’s decisions have been largely motivated by a desire to address certain issues it deems unsuitable for the sport.
When the topic of student athletes looking to profit off their own images (see: Reggie Bush, Terrelle Pryor), it took action. In essence, it made an example of USC, and, to a much lesser extent, Ohio State.
The same goes for the recent developments in Oregon. Despite helping to cultivate this culture, the NCAA is on the warpath and looking to punish Lyles and his top client.
At this point, Oregon’s relationship with Lyles is suspicious. On paper, they look guilty.
But until conclusive facts emerge, it’s still a relative unknown.
Regardless, an activist NCAA is looking to drop the hammer and address the issue of street agents in college sports. And when the NCAA wants to do something, whether right or wrong, it usually does it.
We’ve seen this movie before.
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