Earlier this month, a Southern Cal assistant coach abruptly resigned from the football program just 2 days before the season opener, citing non-USC related personal issues that he needed to address. Rumors abounded through the message boards, but nothing solid on his departure had come out, until Yahoo Sports published the latest installment of the Willie Lyles saga.
An assistant coach during Lane Kiffin’s tenure at the University of Tennessee wired $1,500 to a talent scout in July 2009, funding the airfare for an unofficial recruiting trip by then five-star prospect Lache Seastrunk and his mother, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
In an apparent NCAA violation, then-Volunteers secondary coach Willie Mack Garza sent the money to one-time scout Will Lyles, who had paid for plane tickets for Seastrunk and his mother Evelyn. Garza, who joined Kiffin’s staff at USC in 2010, stepped down from his position with the Trojans in September citing "some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address." His resignation came shortly after Lyles informed NCAA investigators in August of the transaction. Lyles said NCAA investigators were conducting a wide-ranging look into Tennessee recruiting practices.
This unofficial visit took place at the end of Lache's Junior year; NCAA rules bar schools from funding recruits to make an official visit before that recruit begins his senior year of high school, while unofficial visits are just that - unofficial trips by the recruit - without using university or athletic department resources. Per NBC Sports College Football Talk, paying for a recruit to take an unofficial visit would be considered a major violation. Regardless of the timing of exposure, that fact that the apparent violation took place before the NCAA released its findings and imposed sanctions on the Kiffin/Pearl violations means that repeat violator sanctions would not be triggered by this incident, though additional sanctions can be levyed for this violation in addition to those previously found.
This act was not uncovered during the NCAA's earlier investigation of Tennessee's recruiting practices under Kiffin and Bruce Pearl, coming to light only when Willie Lyles met with NCAA investigators last month. The bulk of that meeting, to our current knowledge dealt with Lyles' dealings with Chip Kelly and the Oregon Football program, but it seems that no discussion of shadyness in college football can go by without Lane Kiffin becoming involved. Once Lyles informed the NCAA of what went down in Knoxville, Garza's usefulness to the kitten was at an end.
Lyles spoke with the NCAA on Aug. 30 in Los Angeles. Two days later Garza, who had followed Kiffin in 2010 to the University of Southern California, resigned abruptly from the Trojans’ staff.
With this news, the Willie Lyles fallout continues to spread over college football, with the heavy doses spreading out of Eugene to catch the Kiffinstream through Knoxville and into South Central. What odes this have to say about Kiffin's pattern of NCAA compliance, and of Oregon's claims that its dealings with Lyles were of an honest scouting business nature?