HOOVER, Ala. — Les Miles’ near silence said it all Friday at Southeastern Conference media days.
The NCAA just placed his program on one year’s probation earlier this week, but it appears NCAA investigators aren’t done with Miles’ Tigers just yet.
Not that Miles had much to say when asked about his working relationship with scouting middle man Willie Lyles, who faces NCAA scrutiny for allegedly steering recruits to the college clients who purchase his video and scouting packages.
“I’m kind of prohibited from commenting on Willie Lyles,” Miles said. “The only thing I can tell you is we look for film and video anywhere we can find it. Those people that provide those services, we need to cover a broad area, and we want to evaluate our guys from a bunch of different spots.”
Stories detailing Lyles’ dealings with Oregon — where the school paid Lyles $25,000 last year and later asked him to retroactively submit player scouting reports to legitimize the transaction just before Yahoo! Sports broke a story detailing the relationship — were among the summer’s biggest NCAA-related bombshells.
NCAA investigators have also spoken to members of Miles’ staff about the services Lyles provided to LSU, which paid the scout $6,000 last December for a series of 32 highlight DVDs.
An ESPN review of the videos revealed footage of “poor quality (and) full-game shoots that did not isolate or identify any players at all.” The DVDs also included footage that was already available on YouTube and other clips that were apparently taken from Scout.com.
ESPN reported that the Lyles-submitted video of former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger came from Digital Sports Video — another scouting video company that said Lyles used its video illegally.
LSU revealed in a news release that Lyles’ scouting package submitted to LSU also included “typewritten material (consisting) of 91 pages of roster-type information … pertaining to prospects that had finished junior college in 2009-10 and had already enrolled in a four-year college by the time LSU received the materials.”
In other words, it doesn’t appear that LSU received much material of legitimate value from Lyles’ Elite Scouting Services — which Miles’ program paid $10,000 for two straight years before paying $6,000 last year.
“All I can tell you is we’re going to cooperate fully (with NCAA investigators),” Miles said when questioned again about Lyles and the NCAA. “I can’t really make much more comment than that.”
The Lyles situation was not the only subject that Miles dodged on Friday, however — and the question didn’t even concern this week’s probation announcement, where the Tigers lost two scholarships and reduced their official visits and recruiting calls because of recruiting violations and unethical behavior by a former assistant coach.
Receiver Russell Shepard was originally scheduled to be among the Tigers’ media days contingent before the school announced on Thursday that he would miss the event because of “personal reasons” and that center T-Bob Hebert would replace him.
Incidentally, Shepard was the nation’s No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2009 and is a native of Houston, Texas — the same city where Lyles’ scouting service is based.
LSU’s Scout.com affiliate, Tiger Sports Digest, reported Friday that Shepard’s absence was not related to the Lyles investigation, but instead because of a possible compliance issue related to an off-campus housing arrangement that could date back to his sophomore year.
Miles told Tiger Sports Digest that he’s not “overly concerned” about Shepard’s situation, but ducked a question about Shepard’s housing arrangement at the podium.
“I don’t know exactly the specifics of that,” Miles said. “The only thing I can tell you is this was an issue where there were some things that he had to handle in his personal life that needed an immediate resolution, so that’s why he’s not with us.”
Despite the potential damage that these issues could do to a team with national championship aspirations this season, Miles’ time on stage Friday was mostly pleasant.
He happily discussed the silly video he sent to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt of Miles beating his children at basketball, as well as his habit of eating grass that famously was picked up by CBS television cameras last fall.
“Some of the things that coach Miles comes up with are just crazy,” LSU linebacker Ryan Baker said. “Every week it’s something new, so we can never really expect anything. Whatever coach Miles is feeling, he does.”
Not surprisingly, Miles felt more like hitting the talking points about his silly behavior than discussing the NCAA knocking at his door.
That’s a perfectly understandable tendency — as well as a useful distraction for the LSU coach.
They’re often entertaining, but maybe Miles’ goofy actions and behavioral traits are by design. He might just be crazy like a fox.