Former USC secondary coach Willie Mack Garza wired $1,500 to Houston-based talent scout Willie Lyles in July 2009 while he was an assistant under USC coach Lane Kiffin at the University of Tennessee, Yahoo! Sports reported Monday night.
The money, which was wired via MoneyGram to Lyles, was used to pay for plane tickets for an unofficial recruiting made by five-star running back recruit Lache Seastrunk, who was mentored by Lyles, and his mother, Evelyn, to Knoxville, Tenn., June 20-to-21, 2009.
An additional $76 processing fee was also charged to Lyles, according to the report.
Garza, who served on Kiffin’s staff at USC during the 2010 season, resigned as the team’s secondary coach Sept. 1, citing personal issues.
“I have some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address,” Garza said in a statement at the time. “I wish the Trojans the best and I am sorry I won’t be with them in what I know will be a very successful season.”
Lyles spoke with NCAA investigators Aug. 30 in Los Angeles, where he disclosed his relationship with Lyles, according to reports appearing in CBS Sports and SportsbyBrooks at the time.
Under NCAA rules, players are required to pay for all transportation costs while on unofficial visits, and Garza’s actions constituted a violation as a result. Players are barred from making any “official” visits until they begin their senior academic year of high school, and Seastrunk, at the time, had just completed his junior year at Temple High School in Temple, Texas.
Yahoo! Sports obtained an independent receipt of the transaction, which lists “Willie Garza” as the sender and “Will Lyles” as the recipient.
Tennessee wrapped up a case with the NCAA last month after it upheld the program’s self-imposed sanctions after the conclusion of a 22-month investigation into the football program under Kiffin and men’s basketball program under Bruce Pearl. The athletic department is currently one month into its two-year probationary period.
“We are aware of the situation as is the conference office,” Tennessee associate athletic director for communications Jimmy Stanton said in a statement released Monday. “We’ve been verbally contacted by the NCAA enforcement staff regarding a recruiting issue in 2009 related to the former coaching staff and a student-athlete who never attended Tennessee.”
A repeat offense, however, could carry stiffer penalties.
When speaking with Yahoo!, Lyles detailed how the incident with Garza came about.
“[Garza called] and he says ‘Hey, how are you doing. I’m Coach Garza. I recruit the state of Texas for Tennessee. We need to talk about Lache Seastrunk getting here on an unofficial visit,’” Lyles said. “And I said ‘OK.’ I told them that I would let Evelyn [Seastrunk] know. When I told her about it, she said ‘That’s cool.’”
Kiffin’s involvement was not mentioned in the report. Whether there will be any further repercussions is unknown.