The number three-ranked Oregon Ducks begin practice tomorrow with a big-time, storm-cloud hanging over the program.

It is the prospect of some kind of NCAA penalty (ranging from the proverbial wrist slap to something much more substantial) arising from a $25,000 payment to “recruiting services” guru/ “street agent”/stud athlete “mentor” Willie Lyles of Houston, Texas.

Under the advice of the department’s hired legal gun, sports attorney Mike “The Cleaner” Glazier of the Collegiate Sports Practice Group of Bond, Schoeneck & King, Head Coach Chip Kelly and/or Athletic Director Rob Mullens will deliberately be both cautious and boring with the media when asked about Lyles. Why unintentionally resurrect the incident, when a more interesting competing story is at hand…the commencement of fall practice and the preparation for the nationally televised opener Sept. 3 against LSU?

Kelly as expected tomorrow will mumble something about allowing Glazier’s internal probe of the le affaire Lyles while continuing to cooperate with the NCAA. This is a textbook public relations punt formation.

But is there another course that Oregon can take that may even win the approval of legal counsel and at the same time improve the program’s reputation and brand?

How about being on the side of working with the NCAA on legislation that essentially curtails so-called “street agents” that are trying to ultimately make big bucks off high-school football prodigies? Isn’t this another way of cooperating with the NCAA? Instead of being seen as being part of the problem, why doesn’t Oregon become part of the solution?

Former President Bill Clinton confounded his Republican critics in the wake of charges that he illegally raised campaign funds for both himself and the Democratic National Committee from the Oval Office. After the allegations were made, he quickly pivoted and became a champion of “campaign finance reform.” Some offered the metaphor of Al Capone opposing bank robbing after he was caught red-handed to describe Clinton’s actions. Nonetheless, Clinton offered a solution to the issue and took political steam away from his critics.

In no way in offering this aside am I comparing the Oregon Athletic Department to the Clinton administration. What I am saying is that street agents are a clear-and-present danger to the integrity of high school and college football. It all arises from gobs and gobs of guaranteed millions being thrown at NFL rookies (regardless of the recently adopted Collective Bargaining Agreement).

It certainly has not escaped the attention of these youth “mentors” the size of the bank accounts of Leigh Steinberg, Scott Boras and other mega agents in professional sports. Ten percent or more of multi-million contracts is 10 percent or more of multi-million contracts. As Cuba Gooding Jr. made his agent Tom Cruise repeatedly recite in Jerry Maguire: “Show Me the Money.”

And if a “mentor” running a “recruiting service” can befriend a precocious super stud at a young age in making a decision regarding a big name college program?…That potentially leads to a successful collegiate career…Might that grateful student-athlete then turn to this “friend” as his agent when it comes time to sign a multi-year contract and related athletic shoe endorsement deal? Can you say: “Ka-Ching?”

The issue of real agents, street agents, mentors, recruiting services, seven-on-seven sponsors, football and basketball camp coordinators or whatever the cute names for the services these individuals offer, the issue is here and now before the NCAA. Oregon and by extension LSU and Cal (which also have engaged in business relationships with Lyles…and most likely others) has specialized knowledge. Can this unique insight be put to work without endangering an institution’s legal position with the NCAA?

Obviously, Oregon needs to protect itself in proceedings undertaken by the NCAA and Pac-12 conference. That is why “The Cleaner” and his firm were hired. Having acknowledged that, the Oregon Athletic Department can be a force for good. It should be working…cooperating with the NCAA in severely restricting the access of these leaches to immature and impressionable young men. They are not in the position of deciding who should represent them as a professional agent at 17-years of age.

The NCAA should pass tough legislation directly aimed at these individuals that prey on young athletes for their own long-term gain. The member schools have a direct interest in curbing this obvious abuse that is only going to get worse if it continues unchecked. Besides cooperating with the NCAA’s request for information about Lyles, Oregon (and presumably others) should work with the NCAA to resolve this problem.

It is not only good public relations with the NCAA and the general public; it is the right thing to do as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaiSHcHM0PA

http://www2.registerguard.com/cms/index.php/duck-football/comments/report-seastrunks-family-suggests-little-influence-from-lyles-in-recruiting/

http://oregon.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1248695

http://www.oregonlive.com/ducks/index.ssf/2011/08/oregon_ducks_rundown_sunday_mo.html

http://articles.cnn.com/1997-09-29/politics/poll_1_clinton-and-gore-gops-republicans?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/gen/resources/infocus/reform/index0.html

 

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