LSU may have thought it got what it paid for when it wrote that check in December for $6,000 to Willie Lyles.
For all the pain it’s caused the school since, though, it couldn’t have been worth it. No cut-rate, brother-in-law discount, 2-for-1 closeout sale could have been worth it.
Lyles has been accused of steering recruits to Oregon, namely two top-notch running backs from his home state of Texas: LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk. Oregon paid him $25,000 for recruiting services, sparking a brushfire of speculation the Ducks have been unable to stamp out.
LSU recruited Seastrunk heavily, and according to a Yahoo! Sports story on Lyles, Seastrunk’s mother wanted him to be a Tiger. Why Oregon won out is a matter of endless conjecture.
As far as LSU’s relationship with Lyles, there are hot spots. The high school coach of a 2011 LSU signee, linebacker Trovon Randle of League City, Texas, said Lyles accompanied LSU assistant coach Brick Haley on a visit to see Randle at his high school, a potential violation. One imagines this was one of the questions an NCAA official had for LSU coaches during their on-campus meeting last week.
According to information supplied by LSU on Friday, last year’s $6,000 check to Lyles was the only time he or his firm, Complete Scouting Services, have been paid by the school since 2007-08. LSU has contracted with a host of other recruiting services for much larger amounts during that time. Example: LSU used a company called Collegiate Sports Data four times, paying a total of $46,118.
Is Lyles a power broker or patsy? One thing is plain: His recruiting service was pretty lousy. If it wasn’t, he would have had a bigger list of clients than LSU, Oregon and California. If he had more of a knack for unearthing diamonds in the recruiting rough, he would have known better than to send Oregon a list of 140 supposed 2010 prospects earlier this year, most of whom had been recruited in 2009. One of them had already died.
According to LSU, Lyles provided the school with DVDs and 91 pages of data on recruits, most from junior colleges in California and Kansas. Most of the recruits named in the typewritten pages had already signed with other schools by the time LSU received the info from Lyles, the school says.
LSU signed just one junior college player this year: Zach Mettenberger, who did play in Kansas. It signed two players from Texas, Lyles’ stomping grounds: Randle and punter James Hairston from Dallas. Both were solid recruits, but neither are superstars on the level of past Texas signees like Russell Shepard or Craig Loston.
In the Yahoo! Sports story on Lyles, there’s a photo of him on the field at Tiger Stadium for the 2009 Florida game with three prospects: Seastrunk, Thibodaux’s Trovon Reed and Cassius Marsh. Reed went to Auburn, Marsh to UCLA.
Again, if LSU tried to use Lyles’ influence with recruits, it didn’t apparently get much in return.
But it certainly got burned.