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.

Below are excerpts from Canzano’s conversation with Lyles about LSU, Cal and Texas A&M. (Lyles has also recently confirmed he was paid $5,000 by Cal for recruiting services in the past year.)

Canzano: “Did you give [LSU] helpful hints on recruits, did you travel around the state with LSU and Cal coaches, did you have relationships with their coaches, Les Miles, were you close with him?

Lyles: “I know Les Miles and he knows me. I’ve been to [high] schools with coaches from LSU. I’ve never been to a school with a coach from Cal.

Canzano: “Did you escort recruits to the LSU campus?

Lyles: [pause] “In eight years of working in scouting and working for bigger companies and doing different things in scouting, you get a chance to see a lot and do a lot. You see a lot of things that go one. That’s just stuff that I don’t want to even touch on this point and that’s about it. I haven’t decided on what information I do want to talk about at this point as far as dealing with them. I don’t want to say anything that’s out of line and out of turn as far as my dealings with LSU.

Canzano: “Did you escort recruits to campus at LSU?

Lyles:  “I have before, yes.

Canzano: “You have?

Lyles: “Yes I have.

Canzano: “LSU at that time, were they paying you for your services?

Lyles: “They were paying for services at the company I was working for, yes they were.

Canzano: “Did you have a relationship with [former LSU assistant and NCAA-sanctioned coach] D.J. McCarthy?

Lyles: “I don’t know D.J. McCarthy. … I really don’t know D.J. McCarthy at all.

Canzano: “How much have you been on the [LSU] payroll?

Lyles: “They [LSU] paid $6,000 this past year for the service. They purchased junior college information from California and Kansas.

Canzano: “Did you take Lache [Seastrunk] to LSU on a visit?

Lyles:I actually went with Lache and his mother on that visit to a camp at LSU.” [editor’s note: Lyles also escorted recruits Toney Hurd and Shaun Lewis to the same LSU camp in July, 2009.]

Canzano: “On campus?

Lyles: “On campus, yeah.

[Lyles on the allegation by former Texas A&M assistant coach Van Malone that Lyles reportedly solicited $80,000 for recruit Patrick Peterson’s services in 2007]:  “I never asked for $80,000. It was just a conversation that we had. I think it’s ridiculous because it’s totally false. He [Malone] also said he wanted to recruit the player without going through me and then in multiple years after that he still dealt with me in recruiting. I don’t find the logic in that.

Canzano: “You’ve talked about Oregon and the Ducks misrepresenting your service. [That] this [Oregon] records dump really misrepresents what you really do. You talk about the access and influence you had [at Oregon]. Were you doing the same stuff for Cal and LSU?

Lyles:The funny thing about those schools is that, the information was provided for them. That’s what I sent them. I sent Cal databases and I sent LSU copies of [information on] junior college athletes. That’s what they got. Kids were never steered to go anywhere because I can’t make someone do anything that they don’t want to do. I find it hard to believe that I can control these people to make them do what I want them to do. That’s not realistic. That’s not a realistic view, period.”

Canzano: “Cal and LSU, those are state schools. At some point, reporters are going to ask  for records from those schools. You have a chance to get in front of that release. What will they find? What will be provided? Will it just be phone records? Will it be the same kind of dump that Oregon showed where it’s all outdated information. Will there be hardly anything written? What will that look like?

Lyles: “[laughs] It won’t be because that’s what they [LSU and Cal] asked me to provide. With Oregon, the document dump, those things that were shown were last minute things that were thrown together. But as you saw in the newer databases, they were a lot more extensive. That was the threshold of where ‘okay, we’re going to stop doing it this way and start doing it the way we need to do it on paper.’

That was the big difference. But those other schools, Cal already had a database, LSU already had information. That’s what they asked for so I gave it to them.”

In the context of what we now know about the nature of the relationship between Lyles, Chip Kelly and other members of the Oregon football staff, Lyles’s comments about LSU and Cal as they pertain to NCAA rules are impossible to ignore. (And perhaps Lyles’ remark about working with Texas A&M for ‘multiple years’ since 2007.)

With all of those schools subject to open records requests, this story appears to be far from over.

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