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College football’s off-season is almost over, but an odor lingers

Willie Lyles does not coach or play football or work for ESPN. He is not a candidate for this year’s Heisman Trophy. No one invited him to grand-opening festivities.

He just sort of crashed the party.

Only in wacky college football world could Oregon and Louisiana State meet in a huge Sept. 3 game in Dallas with both teams under NCAA investigation for dealings with same guy.

Some are already calling it “The Lyles Bowl.”

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Lyles is a Houston-based scouting services provider who may have provided players instead of services.

What a fitting way, actually, to start a season that leaves behind an off-season of stench, Buckeyes betrayal and wolf cries for reform.

Commissioners near and far, in their spare time between making billion-dollar broadcast deals, are calling for clarification and crackdowns. Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said his sport, on the public-trust issue, has lost the benefit of doubt.

Ohio State would have been a serious national title contender if not for a scandal that cost coach Jim Tressel his job and quarterback Terrelle Pryor his senior season. The Buckeyes will appear before the NCAA infractions committee this month.

“That’s embarrassing,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in late July.

Michigan, the league’s other marquee football school, was sanctioned for violating the limit on practice time.

“That was an embarrassment,” Delany said.

Delany would rather be talking about how a conference with 12 schools could still be called the Big Ten.

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North Carolina prepared for fall camp by firing coach Butch Davis in the wake of an academic fraud/agent mess.

USC was picked by the media to win the Pac-12 South division but can’t, because of sanctions, participate in the league’s first title game.

Commissioners, presidents and athletic directors are doing what they usually do in these situations — organizing seminars.

“It’s not the NCAA’s problem,” Delany said in general of the myriad woes facing intercollegiate athletics. “It’s our problem.”

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Pacific 12 Commissioner Larry Scott, a relative newcomer, said the NCAA’s way of governance seems to be “death by incrementalism.”

No one knows yet how this year’s off-season might affect this year’s season. Should Willie Lyles participate in the coin toss before the Oregon-LSU can-of-worms opener? The winner on neutral, Jerry Jones soil becomes an early front-runner in the BCS title chase, but only if the winner can avoid the perilous pitfalls of ongoing scrutiny and NCAA inquiry.

There’s no betting allowed in college, but what are those odds?

chris.dufresne@latimes.com


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