Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens sent an email to key supporters Friday, saying the school is still reviewing “the use of outside recruiting services.”
The email comes ahead of the Pac-12 media day in Los Angeles on Tuesday, when football coach Chip Kelly likely will have to answer questions for the first time about the Ducks’ $25,000 payment to a recruiting agency.
The NCAA is investigating the services provided by so-called street agent Willie Lyles of Complete Scouting Services in Houston. At issue is whether Lyles helped steer a highly recruited player to Oregon.
Mullens sent the email to trustees of the University of Oregon Foundation, members of the UO alumni association board and key donors, informing them that Oregon is “still in the midst of an extensive review of the circumstances surrounding the use of outside recruiting services” and takes the matter “very seriously.”
The Register-Guard first reported on Mullens‘ email after obtaining a copy.
Neither Kelly nor Mullens previously had commented publicly on the matter, which surfaced this spring.
Oregon recently confirmed that it retained the legal services of Bond, Schoeneck & King. Former NCAA enforcement staffer Michael Glazier leads the firm’s Collegiate Sports Practice Group, which has become known for representing schools facing NCAA infractions.
In the email Friday, Mullens explained the decision to retain “outside counsel.”
“The firm has been charged with making an independent assessment of the football program’s use of outside recruiting services,” Mullens wrote. “In addition, they have been asked to provide the University with recommendations for areas of improvement within the football program and athletics department in order to meet best practices.”
The possibility of recruiting violations first surfaced in February, when Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com reported that Oregon had paid $28,000 to two recruiting services, which are commonly used and typically provide biographical information and video about high school and junior college players.
The amount the school paid to Lyles raised eyebrows, given his apparent mentoring relationship with Lache Seastrunk, a running back who was recruited to Oregon. Lyles also had ties to the Ducks’ Heisman Trophy finalist, LaMichael James, accompanying him to the Heisman ceremony in December.
Oregon’s $25,000 check was issued in March 2010, shortly after Seastrunk signed a letter of intent to play for the Ducks. It would be an NCAA violation if Oregon paid Lyles to use his influence to steer a recruit to Oregon.
Late last month, in response to media requests, Oregon released a series of documents including a “2010 National High School Evaluation Booklet” that Lyles provided the school. But nearly all the athletes profiled were from the 2009 graduating class. One of the athletes been killed in a car accident.
In interviews Lyles gave last month to Yahoo! Sports and several other media outlets he suggested that he threw the package together at Oregon’s behest just before the initial news reports surfaced this spring.
Although Oregon didn’t directly ask him or pay him to guide athletes to Oregon, Lyles maintains he was paid to help recruits achieve eligibility and make sure they followed through with their commitment to sign with the Ducks.