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Did Oregon Buy a Bridge or a Running Back?

Back in March word came out that Oregon paid $25,000 for a recruiting package from Complete Scouting Services, a scouting company run by Will Lyles out of Houston. Lyles is a notorious name around college football, as he's often accused of being a "street agent." That's a loaded term, but it's generally used to describe people who get involved between universities and high profile recruits.

It looked bad. It wasn't just the matter of $25,000 being "an exorbitant amount of money" to pay for a recruiting package, according to a long time video provider. It wasn't just that CSS didn't even have a website until weeks after it invoiced Oregon (among other suspicious circumstances).

It also was that Lyles had a relationship with LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk. The former you know. The latter was a highly touted running back from Texas in the class of 2010 who ended up at Oregon. Lyles got so close to Seastrunk's mother that he even moved in with the family for a while. He's been involved with other recruits, but he was clearly closest to Seastrunk. On top of all that, Lyles and Chip Kelly had differing stories as to what the school got for its money.

This evening, we found out what $25,000 bought Oregon in March of 2010: a package of information on 140 recruits purportedly for the 2011 recruiting class. One problem: most of the recruits in it graduated in 2009. Some even graduated in 2008, and this "national" package was almost entirely made up of recruits from Texas. In other words, it was completely useless and inaccurately labeled.

One possible explanation is that Oregon got taken for a ride and sold the recruiting equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge. While that is technically possible, I highly doubt that's the real explanation. Lyles has sold materials to plenty of schools in the past, and he started CSS ostensibly as a business to exist going forward. If he was a pure swindler, word probably would have gotten out by now and his CSS business would be sunk. Plus, for $25,000 Oregon likely could have gotten a refund if everything turned out to be garbage.

To me, the more plausible explanation is that Oregon paid the money in exchange for access to Seastrunk. I hesitate to say that Oregon outright bought him, as there's no evidence right now to prove that. There's also no evidence to suggest that Seastrunk himself got any of that $25,000. However, Oregon had to have gotten something good for that money, because no athletics program would just throw that kind of money for no reason. Oregon very easily could have gotten extra access to Seastrunk and some steering action from Lyles with this bogus recruiting package acting as a technicality to justify the expenditure.

Lyles has been linked to SEC players, and the NCAA is reportedly sending investigators to South Florida to interview street agents (among others) in connection with the recruiting of three SEC schools and Ohio State. While this particular issue is Oregon's, street agents are very much a problem down this way. Oregon happened to be pretty stupid in the way it handled this one, but if you think this case will be the last we hear of street agents, you're out of your mind.