The whirlpool of scandal surrounding increasingly-notorious Texas recruiting scout Willie Lyles has gotten wider this week, as former Texas A&M assistant (and current Tulsa coach) Van Malone claimed that Lyles shopped the services of future All-American Patrick Peterson while Malone recruited Peterson (then called Patrick Johnson) to College Station.
That report has prompted swift denials from everyone involved except for Lyles, starting with Peterson yesterday and continuing through Texas A&M today. Aggie officials say that despite Malone's claims, he never passed that information along to A&M compliance or anyone else currently at the school:
A&M spokesman Alan Cannon said he talked earlier today with Aggies’ athletics director Bill Byrne and that school officials researched the possibility of a relationship with Lyles’ recruiting service dating back as far as the start of the Dennis Franchione era, which began in December, 2002. Cannon said no evidence was found and A&M officials consider this “a non-issue.”
“No one currently in the Texas A&M athletics department was aware of any conversations between former assistant coach Van Malone and Willie Lyles regarding payments to secure prospective players,” Cannon said. “Our business records show no financial relationship with Willie Lyles or his recruiting services. We consider this a non-issue from Texas A&M’s standpoint.”
It seems likely enough that with Peterson eventually going to LSU, A&M (unlike Oregon) won't be caught in Lyles' investigative wake. (Though could Malone? Failing to report Lyles' request to compliance could be a violation in itself, as Jim Tressel could tell you.)
But can the same be said for Peterson? The potential No. 1 overall draft pick claimed yesterday to have no relationship whatsoever with Lyles.
That statement, though, seems to have been contradicted by this 2007 recruiting story at Rivals, in which Peterson discussed an unofficial visit to College Station and mentioned a Houston-based "friend" of his father's he and his father visited. The writer of the story, Brian Perroni, has confirmed that the "friend" in question was in fact Willie Lyles. According to Malone, Lyles' request for $80,000 came shortly after that visit ... and after that request was denied, the official visit to A&M Peterson says he planed on making never occurred.
Was that anything more than coincidence? Recruiting visits both official and unofficial are often scheduled and unscheduled at a moment's notice, both Peterson and his father are clearly adamant they had nothing to do with Lyles' request, and of course at this time no one (Malone included) has yet accused the Petersons of having anything to do with Lyles' alleged solicitation. Unless something much more concrete emerges, neither Peterson nor LSU will be in any danger from the NCAA.
But given that the Petersons likely had some sort of relationship with Lyles, it's not time to be certain just yet that that something isn't out there.