At Michigan, it's hard to wag the condescending finger at anyone for NCAA Rules violations. Anyone in Maize & Blue attempting to cop a holier than thou attitude about the recent allegations that O.J. Mayo accepted thousands of dollars from a basketball tournament organizer, needs a serious reality check. Face it folks, Michigan set the bar for basketball corruption. Imagine that, something in basketball we're actually better at than Michigan State.
Even if Mayo took the $30,000.00 that ESPN is alleging he pocketed prior to and during his year at USC, that pales in comparison to the reported $616,000.00 in loans made by the now deceased, car dealer Ed Martin to Michigan basketball players Chris Webber, Robert Traylor, Maurice Taylor and Louis Bullock, in violation of NCAA rules. Before anyone gets all huffy about 30Gs in cash and prizes, think about that, and remember all calls for the death penalty or other sanctions must be measured against the punishment that Michigan received.
And if Michigan didn't receive the death penalty for over half a million dollars in loans and payments to players, really, what can you do to USC? $616,000.00 in loans gets you the following:
• Forfeiting all games won while the four players were ineligible, including the 1992 and 1993 Final Fours, the entire 1992–93 season, and all the seasons from fall 1995 through spring of 1999. The University has removed four championship banners that were hanging in Crisler Arena, and will excise mention of any victories from all programs and written materials
• Repaying to the NCAA about $450,000 the University received for postseason play with those ineligible players
• Declaring the men’s basketball team ineligible to participate in the 2003 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament, as well as the 2003 National Invitational Tournament
• Placing the basketball program on probation for two years, during which time the president will supervise detailed reports on compliance to be made to the NCAA Athletic Director Bill Martin said the current investigation, conducted jointly with the NCAA, involved additional interviews with former Athletic Department staff, coaches and assistant coaches.
So by these standards, USC should forfeit its wins for this past season, lose a scholarship, be post-season ineligible for next season, and be on probation for two years. MAX. Before people get all huffy about what USC could've or should've known, look at how things went down.
Mayo received approximately $30,000.00 over the course of four years from his agent/friend/lamprey/whatever. That's $7,500.00 a year, if averaged out. Oh no. Stop the presses. Even assuming he received two-thirds of that money during his freshman year at USC, and that's being generous (I'm guessing Mayo probably took about $15,000.00 of that $30,000.00 at USC), how in the hell was USC supposed to do anything about it. The Inside the Lines piece details the lengths the agent went to in order to keep things off the NCAA's radar, wiring money to Mayo's family in West Virginia and Ohio. Even if USC checked into where the money was coming from, they'd get the answer Mayo's associates and Mayo intended, "It came from family."
Further, $15,000.00 over the course of a year isn't that much money when you consider where Mayo was going to school. USC is ungodly expensive and the kids who go there aren't exactly hurting for cash. Yes, I'm painting with a broad brush here but I've had some experience with USC and its students, so I don't think I'm too far off. At the premier private college in California, in a city where image is everything, buying new clothes and having a fancy TV aren't out of the ordinary. One last point on the issue of "they should've known." How much do you think a kid like Mayo eats? Seriously. I look at my family's bills at the end of the month and a disproportionate amount of that goes to food. And I'm 31. When I was in my teens and playing sports every day my mother put a pad lock on cupboard so we'd have something left in the kitchen for dinner. Even though the receipts showed cell phone bills and clothing, I'll wager a great deal of the money Mayo took went straight to his stomach.
What about how poor Mayo's family was? What about the single mom aspect? Shouldn't that raise eyebrows that he was in nice clothes and had a TV? Give me a bleeping break. Oh no. Poor kid has something nice. Something's wrong! If you listen to Pat Forde, it all lines up :
According to Floyd, Mayo was raised by a single mother who didn't have the money to pay a big cell phone bill -- which ostensibly is why Guillory discouraged Floyd from calling him during his recruitment. Floyd also said the kid "doesn't have anything" materially.
Despite that, the USC coach apparently never got around to wondering how the poor child from Huntington, W.Va., could afford the expensive clothes on his back or the expensive shoes on his feet. How about the flat-screen TV in his dorm? That never set off an alarm? If the answer is that USC coaches or compliance workers never set foot in Mayo's dorm room … why the hell not?
Please read the above for most of my answer to this. Secondly, if Mayo was so damn poor how was he going to elite basketball camps each summer and financing new clothes or shoes (you know, I hear basketball players need more than a single pair of shoes) before he got to USC. It wasn't like he was walking about in a burlap sack before college. Another thing that seems to be forgotten is this kid was an NBA bound prodigy before he got to SC. I don't think he was worried about paying his credit card bill at the end of the year. Would it be so out of the ordinary that a college kid ran up a big credit card bill or perhaps misused some of his student loans? Nah. That never happens. No one's ever done anything stupid like that. That would never happen in the regular student population. Finally, Forde answers his own question about the cell phone bill, Guillory didn't hand out a cell number because that would've ceded control over Mayo not because it would've tipped anything off. The over simplification of the accusations here is just staggering.
I'm sorry, but all the righteous indignation over this is sickening. Everyone suspected Mayo was on the take, but everything he did at SC lead people to believe he wasn't. Hell, OTL reported at the end of their piece that Mayo's character was a major reason he was moving up the draft boards. Mayo even had the previously skeptical Conquest Chronicles singing his praises prior to this.
The point of this is not to excuse Mayo for his conduct. If he was pulling the wool over everyone's eyes, then yeah, he deserves to be called on it. But given the NCAA's inability to do anything about the Reggie Bush fiasco, what do you think they'll be able to do about Mayo? That's what I thought.
My hope out of all of this is that the NCAA does a thorough investigation to determine whether there was any institutional culpability with this nonsense. From what I've gathered about this, Mayo was fairly low key about any money he received and kept it fairly low profile. If people have information to the contrary, please share it. But if we take the primary assumption that Mayo was not Tractor Traylor, and was not rollin' on crome dubs in a fuscia suburban leased to his "aunt," then its going to be hard to show USC was willfully turning a blind eye the way Michigan did during the Ed Martin years.
The real issue is USC's failure to deal with Guillory, a known entity who's previously gotten USC in hot water. He never should've been allowed anywhere near the program, but was sitting front row for games. THAT is the issue. All the nonsense about "Lookit the poor Kid!" is absolute crap. By all accounts, Mayo covered his tracks fairly well. It is Guillory's presence and involvement in the program that should've raised eyebrows and didn't.
There were signs things were wrong. But there were also signs things were fine. So before people start calling for a program to get the axe and for the heads of the responsible parties lets take a second and think back to what a real scandal looks like. Let's then realize this is just a drop in the bucket in comparison.
Let's get through this self-congratulatory chest thumping and move on.