Lache Seastrunk, the running back connected to the probe into Oregon’s use of Texas-based prep scouting service, has been granted his unconditional release by the No. 3 Ducks.
Questions were first raised about Seastrunk’s status when he did not report for practice Saturday morning. Oregon coach Chip Kelly confirmed his release in the afternoon.
There was no immediate word as to why Seastrunk wanted to leave Oregon. A prep star at Temple High School in Texas, Seastrunk redshirted as a freshman last season.
Oregon paid Houston-based Willie Lyles and Complete Scouting Services $25,000 last year soon after Seastrunk committed to play for the Ducks. When Oregon released the recruiting material it received for the payment, much of the information appeared to be outdated.
Lyles has said in interviews he had a mentoring relationship with Seastrunk. It would be against NCAA rules if Lyles convinced the running back to go to Oregon.
The NCAA is investigating the matter.
“We wish Lache all the best in his future pursuits and will offer our complete assistance to him in his search to continue his football and educational career,” Kelly said in a prepared statement on Saturday.
Earlier this month when the Ducks opened fall camp, Seastrunk tried to distance himself from the investigation.
“I know I haven’t committed anything wrong so I’m going to keep focused on the task ahead and keep pushing to reach my goal,” he said.
Seastrunk ran 4,217 yards in 32 career games in high school. He scored 52 touchdowns, and topped off his prep career by running 305 yards in the Temple High School’s season finale.
But it appeared at Oregon that Seastrunk was going to have to fight for playing time this season.
Oregon has returned Heisman finalist LaMichael James, and his equally fast counterpart Kenjon Barner. True freshman De’Anthony Thomas, a prized recruit from Los Angeles, was also impressive in fall practices.
Lyles has not responded to repeated phone calls or emails from The Associated Press seeking comment about his relationship with Oregon and with Seastrunk.
But in a lengthy interview with Yahoo! Sports published in July, Lyles said the Ducks never directly asked him or paid him to guide athletes to Eugene. He instead maintains he was paid to help recruits achieve eligibility and make sure they followed through with their commitment to sign with the Ducks.
“I look back at it now and they paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits,” Lyles told Yahoo! Sports. “The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should. … I made a mistake and I’m big enough of a man to admit I was wrong.”
Kelly has repeatedly refused to comment on the situation with Lyles. Oregon has retained a law firm in connection to the matter.
Last month athletic director Rob Mullens sent an email to key boosters that essentially said the university was cooperating with the NCAA investigation.
“As part of the university’s commitment to accountability, we want to reiterate that the institution takes this matter very seriously and remains dedicated to an open and transparent approach with the NCAA,” Mullens wrote.