Text, Lyles and (lame) videotape
Ask anyone who's actually reviewed his products, and it's increasingly clear Lyles is either inept, a charlatan or a willing accomplice.
Let's bracket off what Oregon's motives were with Lyles, and whether that might end up falling afoul of NCAA rules -- or, at least, how the NCAA decides to arbitrarily interpret its own rules this go-round.
What we can now say without a doubt is that Lyles is not a victim here, as he tried to portray himself when he -- selectively -- spilled his guts to Yahoo! Sports.
A mentor? Who knows? Oregon running back LaMichael James has defended him, and my impression of James is he's not a naive sort who would be easily conned. But I only know James as a reporter knows James, which is not very well.
But if you were making a list of young men in the state of Texas who most needed a mentor, you'd have to go through several million before you arrived at James or fellow Ducks running back Lache Seastrunk. It doesn't really seem that cynical to note that Lyles' choice of acolytes seems curiously self-interested based on his chosen profession.
James and Seastrunk would both be playing football for a BCS program today even if they had not met Lyles. Of that you can be certain. So let's not act as if his behind-the-scenes work for them functioned as game-saving, selfless gestures.
And, if we are to believe Lyles' chosen profession is operating a recruiting/scouting service, it's fairly clear now that he was a failure at that well before he was cast as "street agent" by the media.
Let's put it this way: Why hasn't Lyles provided any reporters with his product to prove his legitimacy? All he would have to do to prove himself is show up to an interview with thousands of hours of well-produced video and thousands of pages of well-documented scouting reports and it would be easy to conclude that -- whatever his relationships with a handful (or two) of elite prospects -- he also put in the work and hours to build a scouting business.
There are plenty of legit recruiting/scouting services that could meet you with a large box filled with material in a hour to prove what they actually did.
Lyles' legitimacy was the original issue for Oregon, and when it became public the Ducks' $25 grand paid for comically worthless material, sphincters tightened in Eugene, even more so when Lyles claimed the materials Oregon received were thrown together per a late request from Oregon, which makes it more difficult for the Ducks to sell the "We were scammed!" defense.
Then there is the California question. Lyles also worked with the Bears. As previously reported by Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News:
According to an invoice provided by the school, the Bears received the "2010 National Package." Only one piece of scouting information has been reviewed by the Mercury News thus far, and it contained pertinent information, including data on prospects in the class of 2010.
The invoice indicates the scouting material was shipped March 23, 2010 -- more than a month after the 2010 prospects had signed their letters of intent.
A Cal official with direct knowledge of football operations said the Bears paid Lyles for information on back-to-back recruiting classes -- that the information received in March '10 was for prospects in the following year's class.
So Cal got something, but its quality also remains uncertain.
If material Lyles provided Cal also proves to be worthless, one would think it's three-strikes-and-your-out with Lyles' credibility, though the Bears seem confident their exposure won't incur the NCAA's wrath.
The point here isn't to speculate on the endgame for Oregon, LSU or California. I suspect there are a few more chapters for each in this who-done-it (or not).
The point here is that Ducks, Tigers and Bears fans are going to back their team, wrong or right, and they will be looking for a villain if the NCAA eventually lowers the hammer on them. The media, in general, will get its share of the blame. Messenger always does. But it is becoming increasingly clear those fans will have a convenient scapegoat, one whose name could end up written on each program's wall of infamy.
And his name rhymes with "smiles."