There have been rumors over the past few weeks that the NCAA was investigating a top program for possible recruiting violations. Then it comes out that Oregon's been cutting checks to recruiters/trainers/scouts/mentors of prospects who eventually committed to the Ducks. That sounds bad. It isn't.
Yahoo was on this first, but it looks like ESPN had their story in the works, so credit both for that most basic and often most revealing of investigative journalism tactics: looking at public records. Since Oregon's a public school, it's expenditure records are public, and they show more than $28,000 going to two men who have ties to recent Ducks recruits.
Will Lyles of Complete Scouting Services received $25,000 last year, the same year his client and mentee, highly touted running back Lache Seastrunk picked Oregon. Baron Flenory runs a 7-on-7 camp, and many of his clients have chosen Oregon in recent years. He got nearly $4,000 from the school last year. These facts are quite interesting without context, but they're far from incriminating.
Scouting services like Lyles's put together video packages and compile information on prep athletes, and sell them to the schools. Football camps like Flenory's showcase prep prospects for college scouts and recruiters. Neither of these are new ideas, and they're perfectly legal as far as the NCAA's concerned.
The only way this becomes a problem is if Lyles or Flenory were involved with their charges' recruitments by Oregon, familiar old NCAA Bylaw 13. It's clear that Oregon didn't think it was doing anything illegal: straight cash payments to recruiters are funneled via boosters, rather than put on the accessible-to-anyone budget.
"Most programs purchase recruiting services," said Chip Kelly. "Our compliance office is aware of it. Will has a recruiting service that met NCAA rules and we used him in 2010."
The NCAA is reportedly looking into the matter, but unless Lyles or Seastrunk straight up tell investigators the former steered the latter to Oregon because Oregon paid him, I'm not sure what they'll find. This isn't damning for Oregon — but if the NCAA all of a sudden decided to put its foot down on scouting services and 7-on-7 camps, every major program should be shaking in their boots right now.
In the end, and this one is still a long way from the end, the story isn't about all the illegal scummy things that go on in recruiting. It's about all the scummy things that are perfectly legal.