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

Ducks, Cal: Troubling Ties To ‘Mentor’ Of Recruits

Six days before Christmas, on Dec. 19, 2003, Otis Yelverton filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a North Carolina Federal Court.

Otis Yelverton's ties to Oregon, Cal followed financial distress

Listing himself as “self-employed” with a monthly income of $4800.00, creditor claims totaled $989,628.36 against Yelverton at the time.

13 months later Yelverton filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in a North Carolina Federal Court, with the accompanying creditor claim register totaling $429,644.71 against Yelverton - who listed his employment as “construction” and “towing.”

Of his Wachovia checking account in the second filing, Yelverton reported a balance of “$0.00.

Otis Yelverton's ties to Oregon, Cal followed financial distress

Two years after the latter bankruptcy filing, in 2007, Yelverton was hit with a pair of Federal Tax Liens totaling over $10,000.

On Feb. 21, 2010, Ed Hardin of the GREENSBORO (NC) NEWS & RECORD reported that the same Yelverton was a local high school football coach and “mentor” of several top local high school football prospects:

Yelverton helped pay for trips to California for the group of young men, also arranging trips to Oregon, Washington and Alabama. He’s been doing this for years for area high school players, building a reputation here and across the country as a man who can connect recruiters with young men who might not otherwise have an opportunity to go to college outside the state.

The “group of young men” Hardin referenced included Cal football players Gabe King, Keenan Allen, Zach Maynard and Chris McCain and Oregon football players James Scales and Remene Alston, Jr.

Two weeks before Hardin’s piece, Yelverton presided over a Feb. 4., 2010, Greensboro press conference in which King, Allen and McCain committed to Cal while another Yelverton high school football protege, Zach Maynard, finalized a transfer from Buffalo to Cal. At the same Yelverton-hosted event, yet another local high school football player Yelverton claimed to have “mentored”, James Scales, announced he would soon enroll at Oregon. (Which he did, a month later.)

Otis Yelverton in Cal hat

(Otis Yelverton decked out in Cal gear on sideline in Berkeley)

Gabe King’s commitment to Cal came - strangely - by way of South Eugene (OR) High School. After the Greensboro-area high school football star was declared ineligible for attempting to transfer into a local school in which Yelverton had served as a “non-faculty” assistant football coach, Yelverton reportedly helped arrange King’s transfer to the Oregon high school located in the same city as the University of Oregon.

On Sept. 22, 2009, Robert Bell of the News & Record reported of Yelverton’s role in King’s transfer to South Eugene High School:

Sources in Oregon said King moved to Eugene after Oak Ridge Academy athletic director Otis Yelverton — a former assistant coach at Page, Grimsley and, until this year, Northern — recommended to King and his family that they move to Eugene

Otis Yelverton's ties to Oregon, Cal followed financial distress

Greg Biggins of ESPN.com also covered the prominent role the financially-challenged Yelverton had in the recruitment of Greensboro-area high school football stars who ultimately signed with Cal and Oregon. From a Biggins ESPN report dated August 24, 2009:

Otis Yelverton, or ‘Coach O’ as he’s known, coached at Northern Guilford before recently taking a head coaching position at Oakridge Military School. Coach O took the players on a series of unofficial visits this past summer that included stops at Alabama, Maryland, Oregon, Oregon State and Cal to name a few.

The visits to Oregon and Cal made a strong impression and the two schools have a chance to score big when decision time rolls around.

On June 19, 2009, A.J. Jacobson reported on one unofficial visit to the University of Oregon in which Yelverton escorted Greensboro high school recruits Allen, King, Scales, McCarin and Maurice Harris to an “Oregon coaches” football camp on campus. During the visit, Yelverton told Jacobson:

I’ve been out here five, six times per year since Remene (Alston, Jr.) got here.”

Alston joined the Oregon football team in 2007.

Tom Keller of the News & Record was at the Yelverton-hosted Greensboro signing day press conference on Feb. 4, 2010, which he described as “surreal” while adding:

It was a huge and unexpected cross-country package for the Golden Bears, and a rare flow of talent with Guilford County ties to any one school, much less one on the West Coast.

Keller also wrote of the role twice-bankrupted, IRS-targeted Yelverton played in the Greensboro players attending Cal and Oregon:

Scales, Allen, McCain and King visited Cal and Oregon among others on a 24,000-mile recruiting journey last summer with Yelverton, who is Oak Ridge Military’s athletics director and is a former assistant football coach at Northern, Page and Grimsley.

In the N & R piece dated Feb. 21, 2010, Hardin also wrote in his profile of Yelverton:

“Coach O is a great guy with a great big heart,” Remene Alston said. “I wouldn’t want his credit card bill.”

Alston’s son, Remene Alston Jr., is at Oregon because of Yelverton, and the family swears by him.

Two weeks after the 2/21/2010 piece by Hardin on Yelverton, Keller reported of Yelverton’s new job as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Oak Ridge Military Academy - and that Yelverton was working for free.

The three most prominent members of Oak Ridge Military Academy’s coaching staff have at least one thing in common: They’re working for free.

Girls basketball coach Delaney Rudd (who was introduced Monday), athletics director Otis Yelverton (who will re-launch the school’s football program as head coach in the fall) and boys basketball coach Stan Kowalewski (who signed a 30-year contract Monday) are working pro bono while the school digs out of a financial hole.

“No coach here is getting a dime,” Yelverton said. “It’s personal.”

Where did the money come to re-launch the school’s football program? From the same Greensboro New & Record story:

Yelverton also said Nike is donating $40,000 of equipment a year to the school, including four sets of football uniforms. He said he negotiated that deal through his relationship with the University of Oregon athletics department, a multimillion-dollar benefactor of Nike through its founder, Oregon alumnus Phil Knight.

On March 21, 2011, Jason Wolf of the News & Record reported on Yelverton’s first (and only) season at Oak Ridge:

Yelverton recruited about a dozen Division I-caliber athletes from across the country to launch Oak Ridge’s startup football program, which went 8-0 last season against a mix of regional public and private high schools and a community-based organization for at-risk teens, outscoring its opponents by a combined 329-15.

Five opponents canceled games after learning of the Cadets’ use of postgraduate players, which is prohibited by the two governing bodies for high school sports in the state.

News & Record reporter Wolf added in his story:

Otis Yelverton resigned as football coach and athletics director at Oak Ridge Military Academy on Monday, just hours before ORMA president David Johnson for the first time acknowledged to the News & Record that the school will no longer allow postgraduate players.

Yelverton said he is leaving to pursue an opportunity that is “not football-related,” but would not provide details.

“It may lead to nowhere, it may lead to one day I may be a general manager of maybe a professional basketball or baseball team. Who knows?” Yelverton said. “I’ve got to leave immediately, and that’s that. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a while.”

Four days after Yelverton announced that four Greensboro-area football stars would be attending Cal, the school sent out a press release noting that assistant football coach Tosh Lupoi had been named “College Football Recruiter of the Year” by Rivals.com.

Tosh Lupoi named recruiter of the year after signing 3 Yelverton-mentored players

Of the six high school recruits Rivals reported Lupoi helped Cal sign in 2010, three were Greensboro-area players “mentored” by Yelverton.

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

Willie Lyles: “I know Les Miles And He Knows Me”

The man at the center of an NCAA investigation into football recruiting impropriety by the University of Oregon, Houston-based recruiting service operator Willie Lyles, appeared on Portland radio on Tuesday to talk about his role with the Ducks while providing new information to host and PORTLAND OREGONIAN columnist John Canzano about his relationship to the LSU, Cal and Texas A&M football programs.

Willie Lyles on Sideline at LSU with Lache Seastrunk 2009 LSU-Florida game

(Audio of Canzano’s Lyles interview is below)

During an hour-long interview with Canzano on 750 The Game in Portland, Lyles talked at length about his ties to Oregon and head football coach Chip Kelly. But when Canzano broached his role with LSU, for which Lyles has confirmed he was most-recently paid $6,000 by the Tigers, Lyles at first refused to divulge any details of his now-documented connection to the Tigers. Read more…

Tiger Stunned As He’s Loudly Booed At Stanford

Saturday Tiger Woods was inducted into the Stanford sports hall of fame. As part of his induction, Woods gave a speech from midfield of Stanford Stadium at halftime of the Cal-Stanford game. That’s where he got a surprising, extremely vocal response from the fans in attendance.

Tiger Woods Loudly Booed At Stanford While Giving a Speech

(Reception so rude that Tiger stopped speech)

The boos were so loud that Woods actually had to stop in the middle of his remarks - as he was clearly taken aback by the reax.

Read more…

Atlanta Falcon: Worst College Football Photo Ever

With it Cal-Stanford week, it should come as no surprise that Stanford has already fired the first volley. I was sent this photo of former Bear Thomas Decoud today by a Stanford alum. (I added the inset of Decoud as a Falcon.):

Thomas Decoud Cal Bears Photo

The photo is not manipulated or photoshopped.

In five years, Thomas Decoud will be …

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Unreal. Read more…