Cal Went To ‘Mentor’ Instead of High School Coach

EXCLUSIVE: Cal’s 2010 football recruiting class was so impressive that it earned Golden Bear assistant coach Tosh Lupoi Rivals.com’s “National Recruiter of the Year” award.

Otis Yelverton reportedly offered job by Cal to steer recruit to football program

(Report: Cal offered “mentor” a job after delivering recruits to Lupoi)

Lupoi’s award was due in large part to signing three top prospects from the Greensboro, North Carolina area that year: Keenan Allen, Chris McCain and Gabe King. Current starting Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, a former Greensboro-area high school standout, also joined the squad at the same time thanks to his transfer from the University of Buffalo. (Maynard transferred to Cal expressly to join half-brother Allen.)

So how did Lupoi pull off such a coup?

Speculation has centered on Cal’s relationship to former, well-traveled Greensboro high school assistant football coach Otis Yelverton, who also served as a “mentor” to the aformentioned four players. Cal has confirmed that Yelverton, who has twice filed for bankruptcy since 2003 and was served two Federal Tax Liens totaling over $10,000 in 2007, personally escorted all four players to Berkeley for unofficial visits to the school.

Beyond those trips, Yelverton’s role in Cal’s recruitment of the Greensboro-area players, like the source of funds for his cross-country excursions with the four prospective student-athletes, is unknown.

What isn’t a mystery though is the role Northern Guilford High School coach Johnny Roscoe played in his former players, Keenan Allen and Chris McCain, signing with Cal.

None.

When Allen and McCain signed with Cal on Feb. 3, 2010, representing the heart of a class that earned him college football recruiting’s highest honor, Lupoi had never spoken to Roscoe.

Perhaps that’s why the crown jewel of Cal’s prized recruiting class, N. Guilford’s Allen, was barred from holding a press conference at his own school to announce the news. A press conference presided over by Yelverton, who had previously been “released” from his duties as a “non-faculty” assistant coach at N. Guilford.

Allen’s decision to choose Cal was a controversial one, to say the least. Long-committed to Alabama, Allen flipped to Cal at the last moment. Allen’s recruitment by Nick Saban was so high profile that the TUSCALOOSA NEWS covered the Greensboro press conference in which Allen mystified much of the college football world with his Cal announcement.

Though in its coverage of the Yelverton-led presser, the Alabama newspaper reported what may have been the reason Allen, McCain and King (and Maynard) chose Lupoi’s Cal:

A source at a school involved with Allen’s recruitment said coaches heard that Yelverton had been offered a job at Cal for steering the player ranked No. 5 overall in the nation by Rivals.com, and that Allen’s parents would be moving to California to stay close to their son.

Before Allen announced his decision, his mother, Dorie Lang, was asked whether the family will move to be close to the player.

“I don’t know that yet,” she said.

Beyond that, Team Allen would say little to The Tuscaloosa News. Angered that Lang had been asked about a possible move, Yelverton complained to the manager of the bar and grill and the News’ correspondent was asked to leave before the signing ceremony began.

Outside Coyote’s Dueling Piano Bar, Allen’s father declined to answer questions.

“I’m real protective of my family,” Scott Lang said. “These last three, four days have been very stressful for us and now we’re going to go home and relax.

“There’s so much more to this whole thing than people realize. I’m just not comfortable with a lot of it.”

The on-the-record discomfort expressed by Allen’s father about his son’s last-second switch to Cal, along with the fact that Lupoi never spoke to Allen’s high school coach throughout the recruitment process - and Allen being forbidden from holding a signing day press conference at his own high school - make Cal head coach Jeff Tedford’s supposed hardline stance on the “fringes of recruiting” in a recent interview indisputably ironic.

Willie Lyles and Jeff Tedford

On March 4, 2011, Dan Rubenstein and Ty Hildenbrandt of SolidVerbal.com asked Tedford during a podcast for the website:

“I want to call them characters in the nicest possible way that we’ve been seeing this offseason on the fringes of recruiting.  How do you and your staff address those types of situations?”

Tedford:

“We haven’t run across that. We typically deal with the player, the coaches and their families so we really don’t get involved in any of the other stuff.

“Obviously everyone uses recruiting services but that’s just to gather data and not depend on what they have to say or what their opinions are or anything like that. It’s really solely collection the information that you need on where the prospects are so you can have a pretty good idea on where to go recruit.

“But as far as people being involved, we haven’t really run into that. We’re really just focused on what important to the kid and go through the school and his coaches.”

The year before Cal and Tedford paid $5,000 to the NCAA-targeted Willie Lyles for his “recruiting services” - and three weeks before top Texas high school prospect Lache Seastrunk made a Lyles-escorted recruiting visit to the same Cal-Berkeley campus Yelverton escorted eventual, Lupoi-signed recruits to  - Tedford said the following at Cal’s 2009 signing day press conference:

It’s a little unsettling because sometimes they go underground and you can’t get hold of them. You don’t know what’s happening, so you just continue to try. With not being able to text now, now you just have to call and you get an answering machine. So you’re really at their mercy. It’s a helpless feeling when you don’t know the information. You can’t counterpoint something you don’t know about, so that’s some of it. But it’s so competitive. No one’s going to give up. Everybody is going to always continue to battle right down to the end. Obviously, the people we are recruiting against are very good programs and very competitive that way.”

Is it unreasonable to think that at least part of the reason Tedford’s Cal paid Lyles $5,000 was to ensure a unique level of access to Seastrunk and other Texas recruits associated with Lyles?

And that the some manner of compensation may have been directed to Yelverton on an informal, undocumented and perhaps tacit basis for similar access to prospective student-athletes?

Brooks can be reached on Twitter, Facebook and directly at sportsbybrooks@gmail.com