Sports

So, What Does That Make Chip Kelly?

Jason Whitlock of FoxSports.com has a column in which he calls Willie Lyles an imbecile, a sellout, an attention whore, and a snitch. All this under a headline that refers to Lyles as a rat.

John Canzano of The Oregonian has written that Lyles is a slimeball and scum.

Oregon fans, undoubtedly, have come up with even more creative names for Lyles.

All of which seem somewhat appropriate from what little I know of Lyles. I’ve never met the man, nor have I interviewed him, which leaves me in a seemingly small club among Portland-area media. I mean, the guy has been on the radio in this area more than Lars Larson in recent days.

Lyles, indeed, appears to be rather despicable, which is how I would describe any hanger-on who tries to make a living by attaching themselves to high school athletes. With that in mind, perhaps “parasite” would be the more appropriate term for him.

But all of that is to ignore the larger point.

You can question Lyles’ motives for attempting to bring shame to the University of Oregon football program while elevating his own public profile. And you can question the purity of his motives when he was “helping” high school football players choose a college. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

But if Lyles is, indeed, an imbecile and a slimeball and a sellout and a snitch, then what does that tell us about Chip Kelly’s judgment? What does that tell us about Oregon’s recruiting process? What does that tell us about how low Oregon is willing to wallow?

Those are the real questions for Duck fans. You can denigrate Lyles all you want, but such name-calling fails to address the question of why the Ducks were cavorting with such a low-life.

Lyles, according to reports, was paid $25,000 for providing scouting services for the Oregon football program. He now says he really was providing access to top-flight recruits, and just happened to “help” them choose Oregon. When this came to light, the Ducks clumsily tried to cover their tracks, releasing a scouting report they received from Lyles that wasn’t worth 25 cents, let alone $25,000.

In many regards, it reminds me of something I wrote a year ago about Oregon’s hubris. And I think the roots of this scandal tie into that.

Not long ago, the Ducks saw fit to hire a booster as their athletic director. Hey, he got a basketball arena built, so what’s a little lack of experience with intercollegiate athletics? Then they saw fit to promote the football coach to athletic director. Hey, he made room to elevate Kelly to head coach, so what’s a little lack of administrative experience?

Oregon, for several years, had nobody in place to say, “Wait a minute, what are we paying this guy for?” Because it had no interest in having anybody in place to say such a thing.

Make no mistake, Kelly could lose his job over this. There is a long way to go in the discovery process, and Willie Lyles is hardly an unimpeachable source. But the issue could prove to be serious for the Ducks, who couldn’t have bungled the situation more if they had hired the Watergate burglers.