Sunday, December 18, 2011

Year End Thoughts Part I: Will Lyles Investigation

Because the next two weeks will be extraordinarily busy, I thought I would share my year end thoughts now.

Recruiting Scandal:

Many of the readers first discovered my writing as we talked about the ongoing investigation into Oregon's recruiting practices. I have made no secret that I believe that the over-hyped status of this is largely a media created monster that has little bearing on reality. I am a Duck fan; that was my initial interest. I make no bones about this fact, but my fandom does not change what I discovered along the way.

A funny thing about investigating... most people find what they want to find. There are more readers when a "feel good" story is taken down by scandal. Think about the Tiger Woods saga. Whenever someone is built up, they just set themselves up for a fall. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Nonetheless, there are always two sides to a story. Much of traditional media assumes "no comment" equals guilt. It is unimaginable to them that no comment is simply used to avoid further complications. Sometimes, no comment simply means no comment.

As I dug into this story, I discovered a lot of information that changed the way people looked at the story. But that was never my original goal. I was simply sharing my thoughts on another blog when someone asked me to put those thoughts together in my own blog. Now, over 110,000 visits later, my story has been seen by tens of thousands of people. Some minds have been eased while others simply dismissed my thoughts just because I am a "fan."

That's okay, I never did the research to convince journalists of anything. I simply looked at existing facts and put them out there in a way that told a different story than the prevailing media thoughts. One of the main problems with media is that it goes unchecked. We are so jaded to the stories we see that no one challenges the media. When anyone dares attempt to challenge the veracity of truth in what the media reports, they are ridiculed mercilessly until the challenger simply quits.

The tactic was used against me as well... the difference? I don't particularly care what people in the media have to say. Unlike the editors of some fan-centric websites, I have no designs to be "mainstream" media. If someone wants to pay me to write, so be it; but if they want to pay me for opinions, I am going to state my opinions. It is not relevant to me whether others in the profession like what I have to say. Simply put, the reason some feel the need to ridicule is that they are not confident in their own ability. When they see some "hack" who does this in his spare time dig deeper and come to conclusions that do not fit their preconceived notions, they begin to feel inadequate.

I have seen this in the business  world as well. There are those who use their own skills and abilities to move up in the world, and there are those that see someone else doing that and simply try to tear them down. For those people, it is simply easier to try to drag others down than to work harder. And, you know what, that's okay too.

Along this journey, I have met some incredible people and had a great time talking about Duck football. I have long been a contributor to Duck Sports Authority and hope to continue doing so for many years to come.

When the Will Lyles story first broke, I thought little of the story. Oregon had not broken a rule, but had played in some murky mud that others did not like. As the story grew, and I watched from the sidelines, I started to see facts distorted and fabricated. So I looked deeper.

Will Lyles told us all that he was a mentor to Lache Seastrunk. Lyles made the world think that he had some magical mystical control over the kid. Why? Well, the story he was telling was that Oregon had paid him for his influence. If his influence was diminished in some way, then his story was less believable.

Make no mistake, Will Lyles implemented himself into the lives of many recruits including Seastrunk. Nonetheless, his position was not one of exclusivity. You see, in the research, it turns out that there were many people heavily involved in Lache Seastrunk's life. Not the least of which was a high school counselor whose husband had coached Lache in grade school. Lache also had an incredible extended family who supported him through it all.

In our journey this year, we got to meet his family and friends and see that Will Lyles was one of may people in Lache's life. Lyles, while claiming he was only trying to help these kids, KNOWINGLY violated NCAA rules to curry favor with the young men and their families. The revelation that Lyles accepted money from a Tennessee assistant (Willie Mack Garza) for an unofficial visit for the athlete AND his mother was the bombshell that proved where Lyles' intentions lay. He was out for himself. He risked the future of young men just to garner their support. He was selfish and despicable in his actions.

When it all started to fall apart, he resorted to what many choose: telling whatever stories he could to victimize himself. But Lyles was no victim. Will Lyles took kids and their families unofficial visits with money from schools. He knew it was wrong and did it anyway. When Evelyn Seastrunk requested Oregon pay for her to visit, she was quickly and loudly rebuffed. These were facts, though, that media ignored in their race to find Oregon guilty.

As the year nears an end, there have been many facts we were able to bring to you exclusively. I was the only person able to interview Lache Seastrunk as he transferred. I got an exclusive interview with his family, with his high school counselor. I brought an exclusive update on Dontae Williams.

These stories helped define the year for the Oregon Ducks. But the year was so much more; because this was the third consecutive season that the Oregon Ducks were the outright conference champion. Only one other school can make that claim. In my next segment, I will discuss the year that was on the field.

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