It's Friday, and you stayed up past your personal curfew to watch former Bulldogs Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins get shipped off to
basketball Siberia Los Angeles. And as amusing as it is to watch David Stern stand next to a procession of men each ridiculously taller than he is, it's not as amusing as college football. Which we have none of, because it's June. So we're filling that breach with Free Form Friday, a hodge podge of things which are not college football, but will have to do for the moment. Come on September, you're our only hope.
Cue the jam:
This week I picked the first ears of sweet corn from my summer garden. It's already gone, and I'm looking forward to more. I truly believe that fresh corn picked right off the stalk is one of the ways we know that God loves us and wants us to be happy. I've heard you can even make corn into other delicious stuff. I'll have to look into that.
In case you missed it the Drive By Truckers, the unofficial official band of Dawg Sports, were on the Late Show With David Letterman this week and received a huge honor. The band was on the show performing "Everybody Needs Love", an Eddie Hinton cover from their album Go Go Boots (a song which has already made an appearance on Free Form Friday, by the way). It was a great rendition of a great song, so great apparently that Letterman closed the show by asking them to play some more. Allegedly, it's only the second time in the show's history that Letterman has asked the musical guest for an encore. Check it out.
Speaking of great music, one of America's best singer/songwriters, Lucinda Williams, will be playing the Capitol Theater here in Macon on July 28th to benefit Newtown Macon's efforts to revitalize the old Capricorn Records building. Tickets are available through the Capitol Theater website. I'd strongly urge you to come on down if you're so inclined. Williams doesn't play Georgia that often, and she's one of those artists you'll want to be able to tell your grandchildren you saw. Anyone thinking of coming into town is welcome to shoot me an email at macondawg of the gmail variety to try to meet up. Consider it a tuneup for Goat Roast Part Deux.
I've been following with amusement the saga of Texas recruiting analyst (sic) Will Lyles and his sale of the year to the Oregon football team. By now you know the contours of the story. Lyles is a self-styled recruiting analyst who has worked for other scouting services but eventually opened his own shop, offering "national recruiting coverage." He sold a package to the University of Oregon for $25,000 which not only wasn't national in scope, but which at best seems to have covered a handful of recruits from 4 states, most of which was delivered 10 months after Oregon paid for it. Oregon never asked for a refund or credit. They never so much as left a lousy review on Yelp.com.
Oregon is now applying a generous layer of lawyer to all areas exposed to the glare of NCAA scrutiny. At this point I don't blame them. There are a lot of high profile programs (Ohio State, Tennessee, North Carolina, Auburn, Slippery Rock**) under serious scrutiny right now. Maybe it's just me, but I get the sense that the NCAA's under some pressure to put the hammer down on somebody. Anything any of those schools can do to avoid being that school is a wise expenditure.
That being said, I think Oregon's dirty on this one. I'm not pulling punches on that. SI's Andy Staples did a great job recently of making the central point clear: what Oregon got from Willie Lyles was not something than anyone other than a total moron would pay $25,000 for. The Oregon football program is not run by morons. Chip Kelly's not a moron. Mike Belloti's not a moron. It's just not a credible story. Oregon paid Willie Lyles $25,000 so they could maintain a good relationship with Willie Lyles, because Willie Lyles has maintained a good relationship with good recruits, including Oregon's LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk. Any other explanation is a proverbial urine stream applied to the leg yet explained away as aqueous precipitation from the heavens.
In one way at least, this is worse than the Auburn/Cam Newton allegations. Here's why. Because the University of Oregon paid someone known to be close to one of their recruits, star tailback Lache Seastrunk, a lot of money. That's dangerous. There's no plausible deniability there. When a booster strokes a check without official authorization the athletic department folks can point to their complaince regimen, shrug their shoulders and say "guess it didn't work, we'll try harder." When it's the University itself stroking the check there's a burden there to actually ask questions up front. There's a burden to realize the appearance of flaming impropriety. The fact that Oregon did not ask more questions is damning to me.
As Staples notes, however, assuming everyone sticks to their stories about what they knew and when, about the worst that can be said about Oregon is that they spent Phil Knight's money poorly. But if any emails, texts or phone conversations pop up indicating that Willie Lyles told Lache Seastrunk that he thought a lot more highly of Oregon after their check cleared, then Eugene, we have a problem.
And the potentially bigger problem is that most schools, including Georgia, use recruiting services. LSU and Cal paid Lyles' company in 2011 as well. I'm not sure they asked for a refund, either.There are tons of services out there. Some are reputable, some are not. And most of them have ties to players. I mean, in order to secure a reasonable amount of high school game and practice footage you're going to have to hang around high school football fields. And coaches going to look at you really weird if you don't talk to anyone while you're there or call beforehand to let them know who you are and why you're showing up with a camera and tripod. As in any business, there are relationships. All of which is to say that not every scouting service is bogus, but it sure looks like this one was. Others may be as well. So the Oregon inquiry may be only the opening salvo once reporters across the nation really start digging. Stay tuned.
Until later, talk among yourselves, don't pay 25 grand for an infomercial juicer, and . . .
*Also note the guest appearance by David Barbe, Director of the University of Georgia's Interdisciplinary Music Business Certificate program. He's the guy on the Les Paul to Patterson Hood's right.
**Not actually under investigation. But given past NCAA enforcement patterns I figure if Pitt ever does anything wrong Slippery Rock's getting nuked.