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Mayo Affair: Day of Reckoning Looms at USC?

May 13th, 2008 · 16 Comments · Basketball, USC

(Warning. Sarcasm alert.)

Wow. Never saw that coming.

O.J. Mayo, most-pimped-college recruit since, oh, forever … might have received “improper benefits” (I believe that is the NCAA term) while playing basketball in his one-and-done Trojans career?

I am shocked. Shocked. A guy agents and other sleaze balls have been hanging around since he was a ninth-grader? And he (allegedly) took cash and a TV (among other things)? While he was on scholarship at USC, just another of their student-athletes?

You could knock me over with a feather.

(Stand down, sarcasm alert.)

Anyway, some folks are noticing that one of the nation’s premier college athletic departments has a couple of huge clouds hanging over it. Named Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.

Pat Forde, veteran columnist for, came down hard on the Trojans today. Read it here.

Can’t say Forde is out of line. At all. I know him a little. He’s been covering college athletics for a long time, particularly college basketball, and he seems to be a bit of a romantic about it. And when journalists who get a little dreamy about the college sport they love are confronted by mounds of sleaze … well, their gag reflexes tend to become engaged, and then they get angry.

And Forde’s fulminating aside, maybe judgment day finally is about to arrive for the USC athletic department, which for years now seems to have operated at (or over) the bounds of propriety.

I’ve been telling people since, oh, 2003 that I expected something heavy to fall on the football program, someday. But Tim Floyd and the basketball guys may beat Pete Carroll’s team to it.

First, the hoops team.

From the limited time I spent with the Trojans last season, I was struck by how uniformly inarticulate their key players were. As it turned out, O.J. Mayo was their poet laureate. By far the most articulate of the crew.

If the rest of those guys actually went to class, you couldn’t tell from their grasp on the English language. I’m talking both grammar and content here.

Their poster child could have been Davon Jefferson, dopey 6-9 forward, whose scholastic career gives new meaning to the word “sketchy.” A local hoops insider I respect told me he doubted Davon Jefferson “has ever gone to school in his life.” Jefferson is the guy who needed two years at a prep school and a last-minute on-line course that sounded fishy-as-can-be before he was eligible. Now, he’s in the NBA draft. I’m just gonna guess and say there is no way he would have been eligible next fall. Not even at USC.

One thing Tim Floyd shares with Pete Carroll? Both run their programs like they are dealing with professional athletes. Not coincidentally, both men put in some serious time on the pro side of things — in the NBA and the NFL.

I believe both carry the professional coaches’ approach to acquiring talent: Some money is going to change hands at some point. It’s business, see? That’s their background.

Can you imagine the pressure on Tim Floyd? The Trojans put up that basketball cathedral known as Galen Center, with a men’s hoops team room that is more ornate than any NBA locker room I’ve ever been in. And now you better go win, coach. Compete with the Bruins. Recruit with them.

And two years in, Floyd lands the hottest prep talent in the country, Mayo. You didn’t have to be old and cynical to wonder, “Hmm, wonder how THAT happened?” Well, it happened because the guy who has his hooks into Mayo was allowed free run of the USC basketball offices, apparently.

And then a few months later Floyd recruits a kid who can’t play, Romeo Miller, better known as rapper Lil’ Romeo, because he’s the best bud of the serious player the Trojans actually want, Demar DeRozan. (And how much of a circus do you think USC hoops will be next season, with Romeo Miller on the team??) And then, don’t forget that Floyd gave jobs — in the USC program — to the fathers of two more prize recruits, Daniel Hackett and Dwayne Polee Jr.

Tim Floyd … out of control! And apparently not worried about appearances. Until now.

And football? When it comes to the concept of student-athlete, USC football is something of a farce, frankly. Blue-chip athletes stacked like cordwood, few of them showing any particular interest in academia. For the serious players, school is about staying eligible. The End. Every guy there believes he’s going to play in the NFL and plans his time accordingly. Taking real classes and getting a real education certainly don’t seem to be high on the priority list of the star players.

If you spend enough time at Heritage Hall, you begin to get numb to the whole semi-pro aspects of every day life. You begin to think “this must be how it is everywhere.”

Then you go over to UCLA and deal with the Bruins. And perhaps not all those guys could have gotten into Caltech … but “school” seems a real concept. It’s almost shocking, making the drive from one campus to the other. Interacting with the Bruins, both in football and basketball, is like entering another world. Going from Dullsville to the Groves of Academe.

Tim Floyd is a great Xs and Os coach. So is Pete Carroll. And Pete is massively charismatic, as well. The programs those guys run have put out some supremely interesting teams.

But I always had a sense of “things out of control,” when dealing with those programs. Of regulations winked at or overlooked. Of a certain, “We’re the Trojans, and the rules don’t apply to us. We are above the law.” It’s an arrogance that is special to them.

And now the basketball team may be headed for some serious sanctions.

Don’t be surprised if the football program isn’t far behind.

And don’t be stunned if Mike Garrett’s victory-drenched (and ethics-challenged) reign as athletic director comes to a sudden end.

If anything, I’m a little surprised the Trojans skated through the NCAA mine field as long as they did.


16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 DPope // May 13, 2008 at 12:07 PM

    If anyone deserves to have sanctions levied against them, it’s the NCAA. The one-and-done rule makes a mockery of every university, educationally.

    O.J. Mayo is just the next in a long line of “student-athletes” who took advantage of loopholes provided by the NCAA. And now he’ll walk straight into the NBA and swim in the millions he’ll get as a lottery pick. Just as he and his “mentors” planned.

  • 2 Anonymous // May 14, 2008 at 5:50 PM

    Good one DPope, except for the fact that the NCAA has nothing to do with the one-and-done rule. That’s the NBA and their collective bargaining agreement.

  • 3 Fox 71 // May 14, 2008 at 6:34 PM

    Great article, Paul. You hit the nail right on the head. Unfortunately, it seems that the ncaa (that organization doesn’t deserve to be capitalized) just can’t quite find a violation anywhere on the TrOJan campus. Floyd and Carroll will come out of this squeaky clean – no one knew that there was anything improper going on. Of course, neither of them made any effort to find out. But that’s business as usual at that place.

  • 4 DPope // May 14, 2008 at 10:26 PM

    Well look at the big brain on Anonymous. Though I don’t think I used any verbage actually connecting the NCAA and the one-and-done rule, I’ll check. … Nope.

    I know the rule is in the NBA’s CBA.

    I also know that nobody likes a know-it-all.

  • 5 ron // May 15, 2008 at 7:40 AM


    When you write a paragraph or a comment the normal path is you have your topic sentence and then the next few sentences support the topic sentence. So if you blame the NCAA in your first sentence and then reference the one and done rule, it is implied that you are blaming the NCAA for that rule.

    I will take a wild guess and say you went to usc, on the I am an athlete class curriculum. You probably have great ballroom dancing skills.

  • 6 Kevin // May 15, 2008 at 8:43 AM

    Wow! A journalist who is willing to call USC’s athletic department what it is – renegade! It would be interesting to see how many USC players or their parents sport cars from Toyota of Tracy, you know, that dealership 300+ miles north of LA, where their “runner” got a $50K Lexus. Oddly enough, that dealership is owned by none other than Ronnie Lott. I think this goes very deep over there.

  • 7 Cindy // May 15, 2008 at 9:28 AM

    Its just a matter of time before someone discovers something over at that place that those idiots wont be able to cover up.

  • 8 Damian // May 15, 2008 at 11:30 AM

    As an addendum that proves as a worthy tangent: A girl I know who played soccer at USC a couple years ago was just telling me yesterday that USC would carry out random drug tests (not ordered by the NCAA) of its athletes. I suppose USC did it as a self-check policy, if not under the auspices of the Pac-10 guidelines. But USC would strategically choose the athletes it knew to be clean. It may ask a player (who was on weed or otherwise) to submit to a drug test at some point during a semester but there was no hard deadline or real obligation to do it. My co-worker said that if that person (who was dirty) never checked in for the test after a certain amount of time, USC would just go ahead and choose someone else instead.

    Bottom line: Mike Garrett, Pete Carroll and Tim Floyd are dirty and shady, as the only significant reps of the school’s athletic program. But let’s not kid ourselves, this kind of stuff happens everywhere. At every D1 program with national expectations and a rep of success to uphold. It’s not cheating until your caught, right?

    … and this one from the USC mailbag:

    “Man, Mayo could be in a heap of trouble. I think I may know a couple guys who might be able to bail him out. After all, USC guys have done worse and gotten away with it.”

    Sincerely, the other OJ

  • 9 DPope // May 15, 2008 at 12:05 PM

    The other OJ is still my favorite OJ. Remember those Hertz commercials where he would stiff-arm the luggage cart? Classic.

  • 10 Em // May 15, 2008 at 2:06 PM

    This is the biggest non story of the year next to Kevin Love being illegally recruited to UCLA by John Wooden.

  • 11 Bro // May 15, 2008 at 2:34 PM

    Nice attempt at pathetic deflection Em, you cheater!

  • 12 I wuv da trogens // May 15, 2008 at 2:46 PM

    Class is not hard to find at sc. I like my classes. they fun. I go all the time or send a tutor so no blaming me. right?

    Leave us alone.

    Davon Jefferson

  • 13 BK // May 15, 2008 at 2:50 PM

    LOL!! How can JRW illegally recruit Kevin Love for UCLA. You obviously dont know very much about that story do you? Maybe that is why you only had one sentence to write about it. Typical to talk about something else to avoid the obvious problem at hand. It is too bad SC has such a spotty track record otherwise OJ Mayo might be innocent until proven guilty. Here’s a thought… Maybe OJ deserved better than the Trojans!!

  • 14 CrouchingBruin // May 18, 2008 at 6:36 PM

    @Em, Coach Wooden’s contact with Kevin Love was investigated and determined to be not illegal because Coach Wooden is a paid consultant for UCLA and not a booster, unlike the hosting of several USC recruits a couple of years ago at the restaurant of former USC linebacker John Papadakis, who is considered a booster and not an USC employee or consultant, and for which USC has yet to be punished.

  • 15 Tim Floyd Escapes Galen Center Ahead of NCAA Posse // Jun 10, 2009 at 10:45 AM

    […] As I wrote in this entry more than a year ago, there has been a sense of programs-outta-control around the Trojans for years. It got going with Pete Carroll and shifted into overdrive with Tim Floyd. (And just for purposes of conversation, that entry I just linked to, from May of 2008, has had more hits than any entry in the history of this blog. I would never, ever have guessed that would be the case.) […]

  • 16 Pete Carroll and the Super Bowl // Jan 31, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    […] early as May 2008, when the NCAA was coming down on the USC basketball program, I suggested the football program would be in trouble, too, citing the lax atmosphere of the latter years of the Mike Garrett tenure as athletic […]

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