BERKELEY CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Head coach Jeff Tedford of the California Golden Bears looks on against the Colorado Buffaloes at California Memorial Stadium on September 11 2010 in Berkeley California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
So far, the bulk of the Will Lyles story has centered on Oregon with a little LSU mixed in. There still is one other school that bought from Lyles' now-defunct scouting service, that being Cal. Jeff Tedford opened up with Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News about his dealings with Lyles, and Wilner posted the best nuggets from it yesterday afternoon.
The NCAA asked for information about the school's dealings with Lyles, but it hasn't sent a Notice of Inquiry. Tedford says he has no relationship with Lyles, never communicated with him, and met him only once when Lache Seastrunk was visiting Berkley. Because Cal is a public school, an open records request should be all it requires to find out if that's true.
As for why Cal bought scouting material from Lyles' Complete Scouting Services business, it's simple. Tedford explains that he had purchased stuff from Lyles' former employer Elite Scouting Services for $10,000, but CSS was only charging $5,000. The Mercury News has verified that, at the very least, Cal received a contact list for 2010 prospects in 2009. The only odd thing is that Lyles' invoice for the $5,000 he was paid listed a ship date of March 2010. An unnamed Cal official explained that Lyles should have put a range of dates for the ship date, as the school received materials from him between September of 2009 and March of 2010. The same official said the March 2010 date came from the final information CSS sent the school, which was about the class of 2011.
I did some digging around, and the story checks out as best as I can tell. What I mean by that is, I don't see much to indicate foul play going on.
From 2002 when he arrived through the class of 2006, Tedford signed just one prospect from Texas: Justin Forsett. His was a case of being overlooked by most schools, which caused his high school coach to send out film to as many universities as possible. In other words, Tedford and his staff weren't actively recruiting Texas; film of Forsett just fell into his lap.
Cal only began signing Texas players with regularity in 2007. A month before NSD 2007, Cal hired Kenwick Thompson as linebackers coach. Thompson had been at San Jose State for the six years prior, but he played his college ball at a small school in Arkansas and spent the nine years prior to his work at SJSU coaching either at his alma mater or at Texas Southern. In other words, he has ties to Texas that run deep. Tedford confirmed to Wilner yesterday that Thompson is in fact his recruiter for the state of Texas, and he said that to his knowledge, Lyles never accompanied Thompson during recruiting activities.
Nothing appears fishy here from the outside. The only potential trouble spot is that Lyles did accompany Seastrunk on his official visit to Cal. Someone who the school is paying being involved in the recruitment of a player is a grey area in the NCAA rules, and I'm not well-versed enough in them to say for sure if Cal's in jeopardy of getting hit over this. The fact of the matter though is that Cal got actual, relevant, up-to-date scouting materials from CSS for its relatively modest payment of $5,000. The whole reason Oregon's in trouble is because it paid five times that amount and never received valid written materials.
So let's bring it home to the SEC. How does Cal's situation relate to LSU?
By Lyles' account, LSU also received actual scouting materials for the $6,000 it paid to his CSS business. Putting aside the fanciful stories about Patrick Peterson for now, all LSU is potentially on hook for is Lyles accompanying recruits on visits to Baton Rouge. It's exactly the same thing as with Cal.
Something Wilner astutely pointed out yesterday is this: "If Cal paid Lyles $5,000 and got legitimate scouting info in return, then the program was participating in a venture available to other schools — and it might become difficult to define Lyles as a Cal booster." The fact that Cal and LSU essentially had the same dealings with Lyles and CSS (as far as we know), then yes, CSS was a venture that provided a service available to multiple schools. Plus, there's obviously nothing odd about LSU recruiting Texas players as the two states share a border.
Now, there are plenty of allegations of Lyles engaging in shady business with many recruits if you want to go find them (hint: start with a Texas Longhorns message board or fan site). I don't know if any of them are true and if so, if they can be proven. However by virtue of the public statements made Lyles, people from Cal, and people from LSU, it sounds like Berkley and Baton Rouge got the same deal.
If that's right and Wilner's right, then the two of them might exonerate each other.
UPDATE 7:54 pm
Joe Schad reported that LSU confirmed its coaches were interviewed about Lyles last week.