Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mayo allegations speak to state of NCAA

The story isn't surprising, but revealing nonetheless.

Former USC basketball player O.J. Mayo received thousands of dollars in cash, clothes and other benefits while he was still in high school and during his one year in college, a former Mayo associate told ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

ESPN's investigation was thorough as illustrated by Kelly Naqi's well-reported story.

This story is about much more than O.J. Mayo. It speaks to the nature of the NCAA, which has become nothing like the "amateur institution" that it wants us to believe.

"This is way bigger than some 'brand' and money and all of this stuff," said Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle. "He played within the rules of the game, and this is the game. Runners, agents, shoe companies, other elements -- this is the game. … Once you're in the game, you're in the game. There's no turning back."

ESPN's Pat Forde couldn't agree more.

In his latest column, Forde says that USC and coach Tim Floyd have no excuses.

An excerpt from his column:
You have to assume USC simply didn't want to know. Didn't want to know the extent to which runners already had set their hooks into their highest-profile basketball recruit ever. The Trojans knew they were in this deal for one year before Mayo turned pro, and they probably just averted their gaze, hoping nothing blew up and the victories would pile up.

It's a scenario playing out right now on many other campuses nationwide, guaranteed. Agents and their runners are identifying who can play as early as college scouts are, and they're commencing the jockeying for position. And we all know what wins most of those turf wars: money and favors. Most topflight young basketball players have at least been offered plenty before college, even if they haven't accepted it.

It's a problem the NCAA desperately needs to get a grip on if college basketball is going to maintain even a hint of a legitimate relationship to higher education. The sport's repeatedly pilloried reputation took another big hit with this revelation, but perhaps it will spur other Louis Johnsons to tell the truth about what's going on in college hoops and youth basketball.

I couldn't have said it better myself.


David Shochat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Shochat said...

Stop hatiing on SC they are innocent!!!! haha just kidding. This doesn't surprise me at all... First Reggie Bush and now OJ. Unfortunately, it looks as if my Trojans are becoming just as bad as the SEC teams I loathe. I think it is hard though when SC is located in L.A. I think that has something to do with these sorts of things at SC although it is happening all over the country in football as well as basketball. I am sure sleezy Saban has done stuff at Bama already. The sad thing is this happens all over, and it hurts honest programs that don't. The NCAA can only do so much, but they need to do more than they are.

David Rutz said...

College basketball, particularly in big market locations like Los Angles like Shochat pointed out, have become way too susceptible to these kinds of illegitimate business dealings.

"It's a problem the NCAA desperately needs to get a grip on if college basketball is going to maintain even a hint of a legitimate relationship with higher education."


One of the best things about Vanderbilt is that the successes of its sports program are fully legitimate. It's the only school in the SEC that hasn't been put on probation in my lifetime (according to Clay Travis). And by dissolving the athletic association a few years back, Gordon Gee helped ensure that Vanderbilt's student-athletes would actually be students too and not place too much emphasis on the athletic portion of their collegiate careers.

I've been reading a book about coach Bob Hurley called "The Miracle of St. Anthony", and I wish the NCAA had more coaches like him. He coaches a New Jersey high school team that's won 23 state championships despite having an enrollment of about 250 students. Even with all the attention they get, Hurley never lets his players feel entitled to anything, distancing them from the business aspect of the sport and focusing simply on the game.

Mayo's been made to feel entitled for too long because of his great talent. Perhaps if he had played under the watchful eye of a coach like Hurley, he wouldn't have put his university in this embarrassing situation.

Jarred Amato said...

Rutz, great point about Vandy. I was going to mention that articles like these remind you just how gratifying it is to root for a school that truly does things the right way. The recent feature about Shan Foster is the perfect example of that.

While there may not be any proof that USC coach Tim Floyd knew about any of these alleged wrongdoings (the same way there's no proof that football coach Pete Carroll knew about Reggie Bush's shenanigans), it'd be a crime if the university wasn't punished for this.

The bottom line is that Floyd, along with the rest of the USC athletic department, knew what was going on and turned a blind eye to it all. They knew that Mayo would only be in school for one year and hoped to rake in as much $$ and as many victories as possible.

In a weird way, the only person I come across feeling slightly sorry for is Mayo. Sure, he didn't have to take the gifts, but what teenager, especially from a poor upbringing, is going to turn down free stuff when the people buying it for you promise that you won't get in trouble?

Since seventh grade, there have been countless agents and runners and whatever other nicknames there are for slime balls trying to exploit and take advantage of Mayo. People who have pretended like they care about him when all they want is a profit for themselves.

As Johnson said, "Once you're in the game, you're in the game. There's no turning back."

Apparently not.

Aram Hanessian said...

I gotta say, I feel the exact opposite about Mayo. I think he completely stabbed the program in the back. Yea, cool shit is hard to turn down, but for one thing he'd have it all in a year anyway. USC did everything for him. Floyd let him be basically a one man show who was able to do whatever he pleased on the court to try to make himself look good. Also, being in LA although makes him more susceptible to things like this, definitely increased his profile. He essentially was placed in the best possible environment possible and turned around and screwed the people who put him there.

Jarred Amato said...

Aram, USC and coach Tim Floyd knew exactly what they were getting themselves into.

Just check out Gary Parrish's article , as well as Greg Doyel's column from last year that essentially predicted this would happen.

You say "USC did everything for him," but I think it was the other way around. USC profited immensely from Mayo.

Parrish makes a great point:

"The thing is, practically every program in America -- save a select few -- would've taken Mayo just the same, and then they would've done the exact thing USC did, i.e., close their eyes and cover their ears and yell la la la la la until the season was complete because that's typical behavior for coaches these days."

It's not fair for you to say that he "screwed" USC when they knew what they were getting themselves into. USC got "screwed" because somebody from the inner circle decided to tell, which doesn't usually happen.

Tony Arnold said...

This is the tip of the iceberg. The NCAA has to know all this stuff and they make everybody feel good with a bunch of rules that they selectively enforce. If they are so convoluted they cannot possibly be enforced equitably and I think that is by design.

I love the fact that Vanderbilt has such a great record on these issues and I am proud of it.

But, I get concerned too. Frankly, one reason we have been able to avoid such problems is we have not recruited this level of athlete. However, now that we are starting to land 4 & 5 star recruits in multiple sports, we are at risk to having some baggage dumped on us.

What does a school, with every intention of being ethical do, when the kid has been handled illegally since he was in Junior High?

Jarred Amato said...

Tony, you make a great point about the NCAA intentionally making the rules so convoluted that they can pick and choose which programs are punished.

As for your last question, it's tough. I'd like to think that the school would simply choose not to recruit a player with that baggage, but I'm probably being naive.

Top recruits like O.J. Mayo have no interest in going to class or getting a degree (they would jump straight to the NBA if not for the age rule) and most programs are perfectly OK with having those "student"-athletes for one year, even Vanderbilt.

Don't forget that they were pushing really hard for Brandon Wright a couple years back. The Nashville native had Vandy in his top 3 before ultimately signing with UNC, where he played for 1 year.

David Shochat said...

I was going to point out how a school such as Vandy is disadvantaged by this sort of behavior but was worried I would be called a homer again. If you think about it, it is hard enough for Vandy to recruit top recruits in football and, before this year, basketball with the academic requirements and such let alone add on other programs "cheating". Also, another reason that I hesitated to mention Vandy was while I would like to think and do think that Vandy athletics are all clean, how can any of us really know for sure??? You would think though I guess that if we were cheating we would have a better football team haha.

Jarred Amato said...

Shochat, you're absolutely right in this case (I can't believe I'm agreeing with you haha). Many people have told me that Vanderbilt is one of the few, if not the only, SEC schools to run a clean program.

Vandy's coaches do not bend the rules whatsoever and for a lot of recruits, they find that honesty and genuineness extremely appealing.

David Rutz said...

Bud Light should do a Real Men of Genius commercial for guys like Mayo, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, etc, guys who are attending college only because of the NBA age requirement.

We salute you, Mr. Professional College Basketball Player.

Equipped with $300 Nikes that were given to you by a "friend", you average a sterling 20 points per game. And 20% attendance in your physical education and home economics classes.

David Shochat said...

LMAO that is great Rutz. I know Jarred we don't agree on anything nowadays haha.

Aram Hanessian said...

USC didn't "use" him, floyd can recruit anybody he wants, just look at DeRozan and the guys they have coming in the future, Mayo handpicked USC b/c of the opportunities it provided him. He is screwing USC, it doesn't matter that he would have screwed whoever he played for, its still not right for him to take advantage of a perfect situation to benefit himself. Saying this would have happened anywhere doesn't make it ok for him to knowingly break rules that the punishment wouldn't hurt him at all. He did something that had no downside for him and potentially huge problems for whatever school he played for. Nothing is going to change until there is some accountability on the players side with this kind of thing. Hopefully Reggie Bush is made an example out of in the courts so that finally a player can pay for crimes he commits instead of piling it on top of the school.

David Shochat said...

Who is to say the same thing isn't happening with DeRozan??? Another high profile kid who is expected to stay a year and then be a top five pick in the draft ( has him as the number two pick next year). Just saying...there is no way for any of us to know who is at fault here at this point. It seems as if O.J. and USC should have known about this, but who knows?

As for who is at fault, it depends who knew about what. If O.J. didn't know and SC did, then I feel for O.J. and he didn't "use" SC. If O.J. did know and SC didn't, he used them. If they both knew, I don't feel bad for either of them. They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

However, the repercussions will be much more detrimental to SC than O.J. The worst that will happen to O.J. is his records will be taken away along with him having to give back the money and gifts which he will soon be able to buy himself. As for SC, they will lose scholarships of which they have already lost a few for poor academic standing as well as post season bands. SC's basketball program which Floyd has helped bring back to respectability could soon be the doormat of the Pac-10.

Greg Viverito said...

Interesting read from CBS Sportsline's Gregg Doyel who outlined the Mayo-Guillory relationship last year...

Jarred Amato said...

Greg, you know that Doyel is loving himself right now for calling that and I guess you really can't blame him. I mentioned that column in one of my previous comments and I think it shows why we shouldn't feel bad AT ALL for USC at all.

Aram, I don't think you can argue with the fact that USC took a huge risk by allowing Mayo to play for them. They may not have known exactly what was going on, but common sense said that there was something illegal happening.

So, yes, Mayo may have used USC to market himself, but don't think that the school didn't benefit from him either.

Now they might pay the price and I don't feel bad at all. They took a chance that nobody from Mayo's inner circle would ever come forward and that the NCAA would have no proof of any wrongdoing and it looks like it's backfiring...