If you are a parent of a high school student athlete who has aspirations to play in college, you may want to pay attention to what's going on at the University of Oregon.
Friday, Oregon admitted it has been contacted by the NCAA regarding its use of a paid recruiting service. Earlier last week, Yahoo first reported that Oregon had paid $25,000 to Lyles of Complete Scouting Services based in Houston. The owner of the service, Willie Lyles, is connected to Ducks running backs Lache Seastrunk and LaMichael James, who happened to be the Heisman Trophy runner up in 2010. Both players are from Texas and knew Lyles when they were in high school.
So why would Oregon write a check that size to Lyles after both players committed to play? That's why the NCAA is sniffing around. Although the use of recruiting services is not illegal, a "scout" cannot be compensated based on placing a player at a school. The size of the payment and the visibility of the program -- Oregon lost to Auburn in the BCS Championship game--has given this story legs. Throw in the Cam Newton and Reggie Bush cases and it's been quite a year for scandal in college football.
Let's be clear -- I'm not writing this post to beat the drum for NCAA reform. No, this is meant as a warning for parents. Be careful before you lose the grip of influence on your child.
The comments of Lache Seastrunk's mother illuminates this point. This is what Evelyn Seastrunk told ESPN.com: "Willie (Lyles) said he was a trainer. Now Oregon says he's a scout? Is he on Oregon's payroll? If Willie Lyles collected $25,000 off my son he needs to be held accountable. The NCAA must find out for me. I don't know how to digest someone cashing in on my son."
We need to be clear -- the NCAA has just begun their inquiry. We don't know if Oregon and Lyles engaged in illegal activity. Ms. Seastrunk implying anyone "cashed in on my son" is a bit premature. But her protective instincts -- what mother wouldn't say what she said? -- shines a light on how parents can be left in the dark when it comes to their child's recruiting.
Lyles was a sprint trainer after all, operating his "scouting service" out of his home, selling videos to colleges for a fee (which is perfectly legal). We also know he had a relationship with Seastrunk and James. What we don't know is whether Lyles leveraged this relationship with these athletes to get paid. And based on Evelyn Seastrunk's comments, we also know Lyles was not very transparent about everything he was doing for her son. And that's a problem.
Regardless of what the NCAA concludes in this case, parents should be paying attention. If you have a son or daughter who wants to play college sports, get the facts before you get help. If your child is seeking advice from anyone outside of their high school coach -- training, conditioning, mentoring -- know exactly who that person is. Ask questions, then ask more.
Use Evelyn Seastrunk's comments as a cautionary tale. You never want to rely on the NCAA to "find out" anything. No, rather, find out yourself.