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Duck and Cover: Money may be downfall of Oregon football

LaMichael James (21) and Lache Seastrunk (19)LaMichael James (21) and Lache Seastrunk (19)Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The late, great Notorious B.I.G. once said, "Mo money, Mo problems."

The fans in Eugene can understand exactly where "Biggie" was coming from, as the team's meteoric rise to elite status in the college football world could end in the blink of an eye, and all it cost Oregon was twenty-five thousand dollars.

At first glance, Oregon's payment to Willie Lyles of Complete Scouting Services for recruiting information looked to be legitimate. Many of the top schools in the nation pay for this type of information to get a better grasp of the new recruits. However, when digging deeper it appears that the NCAA's next crusade could be in the Pacific Northwest.

The first thing that jumps out is the amount of money Oregon gave Lyles for the recruiting documents, because $25,000 is obviously a steep price. To make matters more troublesome is the fact that the 2010 National High School Evaluation Booklet that was sent to Eugene looks like a waste of 143 pages of paper.

Notice the word "national" in the title of the booklet. Ironically though, out of the 140 players on that illustrious list, 133 of them were located in Texas, and the majority of those players had already graduated high school and were by that time enrolled in various colleges.

This could be a case of coach Chip Kelly and his football program being bamboozled by a con artist, because this isn't the first time Lyles has been in the middle of a controversy concerning a football program. Lyles, who is a Texas-based football trainer, was once accused of soliciting Texas A&M for $80,000 if the program wanted Patrick Peterson in an Aggies' uniform. Peterson, who also hails from Texas, ended up at LSU and was just recently drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.

Obviously the Ducks were not paying Lyles for a fraudulent recruiting list of players that have already graduated, so what exactly did the school get for its $25,000?

The answer could be LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk, running backs at Oregon.

James, who is from Texarkana, Texas, led the nation in rushing last year, was a Heisman finalist, and helped the Ducks to their first-ever National Championship game. However, what does James, an elite running back in college football, and some red-shirt running back have in common? They are both from the state of Texas. More importantly, they both have ties to Lyles.

Lyles was James' personal trainer and adviser when he was in high school, and even made the trip to the College Football Awards to support James. Lyles was also a "mentor" to Seastrunk, who is from Temple, Texas. Three weeks after Seastrunk made the somewhat shocking decision to make Eugene his home for the next few years, Lyles received the payment of $25,000.

Furthermore, if all Oregon wanted from Lyles was a recruiting booklet, than why were there numerous text messages and phone calls between Lyles, coach Kelly and running backs coach Gary Campbell?

Even coach Campbell has an unsettling past with recruiting issues. Campbell, who is entering his 28th season at Oregon, committed conduct that was deemed "unethical" by the NCAA back in 2004, and his inability to follow the laws of the NCAA led to a two-year probation for the football program.

However, regardless of Lyles' or Campbell's past the blame will likely land on the shoulders of coach Kelly, who insists that Oregon has been playing by the rules.

"Most programs purchase recruiting services," Oregon coach Chip Kelly told ESPN. "Our compliance office is aware of it. Will has a recruiting service that met NCAA rules and we used him in 2010."

Kelly could be playing dumb, but before he continues down that path he should take note as to how it worked out in Columbus. Jim Tressel decided to withhold information from the NCAA and it eventually cost him his job. The same fate may befall Butch Davis in Chapel Hill when all is said and done.

At the end of the day the NCAA will find out the truth, and when they do it is plausible coach Kelly will end up on what could be a long unemployment line for former standout coaches.

The biggest loser in this entire controversy will be Oregon.

Ohio State and USC have been powerhouses for decades and will overcome any thing the NCAA throws at them, but it's a little different in Eugene. There is no track record of sustained success for Oregon to fall back on if the NCAA comes down hard.

The Ducks may just be a shooting star across the college football landscape, brilliant for a brief moment, but burning out far too early.

 
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