ESPN's respected investigative reporters at Outside The Lines have turned their attention to Texas and our contentious relationship with Will Lyles, the Texas street agent that, it should be noted, Barking Carnival and Recruitocosm had been writing about a couple of years before any of their reporters had ever heard the name.
Presumably Will Lyles has now been exposed sufficiently as a street agent (he now admits the $25,000 he extracted from Oregon was for direct recruit influence) such that we can reference him unfavorably without being derailed by racism accusations from the professionally offended. Jason Whitlock agrees.
Back to the investigation...
The intro paragraph doesn't sound too good for us:
Despite learning months earlier that scout Willie Lyles had requested $3,000 from a University of Texas booster to ensure a recruit's visit, the Longhorn football program paid $15,000 to a recruiting service that employed Lyles in 2008-09, according to documents obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines."
Texas comes off looking OK as they explain the particulars, but I also write that as someone who knows the subject matter. I'm not sure how casual readers will perceive it. It's also reconfirmation that our more enthusiastic alums, in the absence of street smarts, need to focus on cheering on Saturday and writing checks to the Longhorn Foundation instead of getting played by a street agent.
That introduces a Texas alum named Ken Collins into the story. I don't know him, but I have friends that occasionally pull his posts from Orangebloods (he writes as Hornya?) and send them to an e-mail chain for everyone's amusement and head-shaking. He's THAT guy. I'll leave it at that. He insinuated himself into the process thinking he could help connect Texas with a nice helpful man who worked for a scouting service (you guessed it, Will Lyles) and you can tell part of the Longhorn management of the story was in managing him.
The broad strokes are these:
- Before Lyles went full street agent, he was an employee of Elite Scouting Services. ESS was run by Charles Fishbein. There is a long history of street agents getting their start in legitimate recruiting services. We've written about some of them. Texas paid ESS on a quarterly basis per a one year agreement.
- Fishbein fired Lyles a little over a year after his hire for attempting to cut side deals in exchange for influencing recruits. I won't get into Lyles' methods, but they were sad, and generally focused on single parent households. If you want to know why he draws our ire more than most street agents, it's that. Those kids don't see a dime. And then he sells them out to the NCAA. He's not Robin Hood. He's robbing the 'hood.
- Lyles approached Texas through Ken Collins and asked Major Applewhite for $3,000 in exchange for influence over
Lache Seastrunk (correction: inference - it was reportedly Trent Richardson).
- Applewhite said No. We reported Lyles to compliance and Texas cut all interactions with him. We earned ourselves an enemy who had influence over a half dozen major state recruits and was already starting to work the junior and sophomore classes. We also began working with the NCAA, which the writer doesn't mention.
- We continued to pay ESS. The writer, Mike Fish, has his facts straight, but suggests this particular point seems suspicious. ESS is NOT Lyles' personal instrument - he was an employee, he was months from being fired for these behaviors, and we were paying his boss for online scouting services. Not for Will Lyles' influence. How do we know that?
- Lache Seastrunk dropped Texas from his recruiting list and went to Oregon. We also stopped recruiting him several months before signing day. His final list of schools was an amusing potpourri of random institutions, to say the least.
- Obviously, we cut no deals with Lyles and Texas began to work behind the scenes in a number of venues to expose him. We also lost out on all of the other recruits over whom Lyles had influence. If the insinuation is that our $15,000 to ESS and their owner was making it into Lyles' pocket, then we weren't seeing the benefit. And we did, you know, report him to the NCAA.
- The notion that Lyles was "costing us recruits" does accurately reveal a Texas mindset that we would have some of these guys if not for Lyles' influence. It also seems arrogant, I think, if you're reading this from an outsider's perspective.
- Texas likely disseminated information that was damning to Lyles (which was also truthful, I might add) in multiple venues and with compliance organizations. If someone wants to accuse Texas of being vindictive in trying to keep a street agent from making his nut and that we may done so for selfish reasons, we're likely guilty as charged.
- We didn't renew the contract with ESS. Probably a contributory reason for Lyles' eventual termination.
- It should be noted that Mike Fish (did good stuff on the Players Club Lenny Dykstra scandal, gambling scandals, Patriots & Spygate) also received help from Mark Fainaru-Wada (the guy who wrote the Bonds HGH expose) and both guys are respected investigative reporters.
If something in here makes you uncomfortable, don't doubt their integrity. Recruiting is a strange world and our easy familiarity with it and some of the bad actors involved is not a baseline knowledge they share.
The basic facts are favorable to Texas and any perceived unfavorables consistently run into the stubborn evidence that Lyles hates the Longhorns because we wouldn't play the game, wouldn't pay him for influence, he was fired for his behavior by his employer for peddling influence, we didn't land any of Lyles' guys, severed contact with all of them, and we reported Lyles for his improprieties.