Why the Vilification of Tim Floyd Bothers Me So Much

The presumption of innocence is something I take very, very seriously. It is one of the core tenants of American jurisprudence and, when you think about it, a cornerstone of our democracy. When someone is accused of a crime, serious or otherwise, our system is required to view them as innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately that presumption does not extend to the media. Instead the media feels compelled to rush to judgment, as if its readers can't make up their own minds. Facts go by the way side as papers, Yahoo!, or ESPN trip over one another to be the first to "break the story." Whether it's rooted in fact or not is irrelevant.

What troubles me so much about the vilification of Tim Floyd is that, wait for it, he just might be innocent of all this. Imagine that. All this media smoke, but no fire. Let's see, where have I heard this before? Oh yeah. Duke. It scares me just how eriely similar Floyd's tar and feathering is to the near crucifiction of the Duke Lacrosse team less than three years ago.

As you probably recall, several members of the Duke Lacrosse team were indicted and arrested on the allegations that the beat and raped a stripper during a party. There was no evidence to corroborate the allegations. No witnesses. Massive inconsistencies in the accusers story. Criminal history for the accuser. While there was little to no evidence that anything had occurred, this did not stop ESPN or any of the East Coast media from painting the Duke Lacrosse team, and in particular the three players eventually charged, as violent, vicious, elitest, and (occasionally) racist jocks, who committed a crime because they felt they were entitled to do what ever they wanted.

But this wasn't the case. It turns out the stripper's story was fabricated. It was later stated by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

Now you can shake your head and say, "these two stories aren't remotely related. One is rape! The other is cash in hand!" If that is your response, then you're missing my point. The alleged crimes are irrelevant. What is relevant is that the media then, and now, rushed to judgment on a story before its facts were laid bare. A story without fact is fiction. And that seems to be the majority of what is being written about Mr. Floyd.

Personally, I have no dog in this fight. I am not a Tim Floyd supporter, especially after his mismanagement of my beloved Chicago Bulls. I don't root for USC, but I do enjoy friendships with those who do. By that same token I am also friends with those who are reveling in USC's troubles. So I suspect this column may paint me as chosing sides, regardless of what I intend. I'm not. If Tim Floyd did the things he is accused of, then may he receive the punishment he deserves. But until evidence is presented by someone other than a convicted felon who has a criminal, and financial interest, in promoting and saving his own skin, I remain unconvinced Tim Floyd deserves the stake burning he has received.

I'm not blind. In some ways Floyd was complicit in the obvious violations inherent in bringing OJ Mayo to USC. When you receive a call from a scumbag like Rodney Guillory, who is claiming to be able to deliver Mayo to USC, and then meet with him... well... you know you're starting down a potentially dangerous path. Regardless of how talented a player is, there are certain risks that aren't worth taking, and association with Guillory qualifies as such a risk. But Floyd did what most college coaches would do, he met with Mayo, liked him, and said "Come to USC" after Mayo quite confidently said he'd resurrect the morbund program. 

But that's where the guilt ends. Floyd was dumb enough to think he could handle Mayo, plus keep Mayo's handlers at bay. That does not mean he was actively involved in their clique or that he was handing out benji's like halloween candy. Having Mayo at USC and actually handing out cash are not one and the same.

The allegations that Mayo was receiving oodles of cash from "sports agent" Rodney Guillory have been around even before Mayo was a High School junior. The ESPN OTL report in May of 2008, made everything public. Now, more than a year later, Johnson has changed his tune.

Johnson told the NCAA and federal authorities the ($1,000) payment took place in the week leading up to the 2007 NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas – three months after Mayo committed to USC while finishing his final year of high school. His attorneys said Johnson perceived the payment as an extension of Floyd’s gratitude for Guillory’s delivery of Mayo to USC.

"It was clearly money in contemplation of inducing O.J. to go through with the decision [to play at USC]," Murphy said. "That was the understanding that Louis had – that this was money from Floyd to Guillory for them to go out and have a great weekend. It was the inducement for Guillory’s efforts in delivering [Mayo to sign with USC]."

I have no idea how anyone can buy this. Hey, thanks. Here's $1,000. This is ludicrous. Mayo had ALREADY SIGNED HIS LETTER OF INTENT. Hell, he signed his letter of intent three months earlier, in November of 2006! The the allegations that Floyd handed $1,000 in cash to Guillory as "inducement for Guillory's efforts in delivering Mayo" are really as stupid as they sound. Floyd was inducing Guillory to do something he'd alredy done? Seriously. Say that out loud. "It was clearly money in contemplation of inducing O.J. to go through with the decision [to play at USC]," are you serious? Mayo signed on the dotted line. He had no choice. Had he attempted to go elsewhere it was up to USC whether or not to let him out. Mayo was going to USC or he was going to have to wait another year before he got to jump to the NBA.

I'm sorry, the allegations that are being paraded as fact are ridiculous. A 40 plus year-old basketball coach, who has coached successfully in the NBA and college levels, who has a $1,000,000 contract with USC, is handing $1,000 in cash to a dirtbag like Guillory, on a street corner in Beverly Hills, in the middle of the workday and work week, on a practice and travel day to Arizona?

How stupid does that sound? Really? This is so goddamn stupid I can't believe anyone is buying it. And the allegation isn't from a cop, or a teammate, or a booster. It's from an estranged member of Mayo's posse who less than a year earlier told Outside the Lines that he didn't think Floyd knew anything about what was going on.

So who is Louis Johnson? Johnson is a former sports reporter who actually rose to be Foxsports.com's college basketball producer in 2001. After changing jobs on several ocassions and having several business ventures fail, Johnson ended up unemployed. Unfortunately, he was arrested in 2005 for selling cocaine, though he did not serve substantial jail time. Johnson eventually hooked up with Rodney Guillory (for whom he later, allegedly funneled about $30,000 to Mayo) in 2006. Through Guillory's basketball tournaments, Johnson met Mayo and the two became friends. Despite being jailed in 2007 for an undisclosed reason, Johnson, Mayo and Guillory continued their relationship when Mayo began to recruit USC. From that point, the rest is varying stories.

What is clear is that Johnson funnelled a lot of money to Mayo (at least that's what's consistent in every account). What is also clear, and admitted by Johnson back in June 2008, is that he was expecting a payoff later down the road. Presumably whenMayo mde the NBA. Anyone rushing to judge Floyd really needs to read this article, Johnson's planning to write a book about all this.

Here is the breakdown of the allegation against Floyd:

On Feb. 14, 2007, Johnson and Guillory packed up Guillory’s black Infiniti SUV and were preparing for the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to attend the NBA All-Star weekend. Before they left, Guillory informed Johnson several times that he had to meet with Floyd so the coach could give him cash for the trip. Sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Guillory and Johnson headed toward Beverly Hills to meet with Floyd. During the drive, Johnson listened as Guillory and Floyd exchanged several cell phone calls as Floyd explained where the meeting would take place.

Upon arriving in Beverly Hills, Guillory pulled up to a stretch of cafes in the downtown shopping district, where Floyd was waiting on the sidewalk. Because there were no parking spaces, Guillory asked Johnson to circle the block in the SUV until Guillory was ready to be picked up. Johnson exited the passenger side of the vehicle, at which point Johnson saw Floyd and the two exchanged greetings. Johnson then got into the driver’s seat and proceeded to circle the block while Guillory and Floyd met.

After approximately 15 minutes, Johnson saw Guillory waiting on the curb in front of the stretch of cafes and pulled over to pick him up. Once Guillory was inside the vehicle, he produced a white envelope with cash inside. Guillory told Johnson that Floyd had given him "a grand," and Johnson was able to view $100 bills inside the envelope. He said he believed there appeared to be "substantially" more than $1,000, although he did not count the bills.

One of my favorite pieces of "information" in support of Johnson's allegations is this little nugget from Yahoo Sports Writers Robinson and Cole's May 12 article:

"Louis knew that if he didn’t tell the truth in that meeting, he’d be in the same boat that Martha Stewart was in for deceiving federal authorities," [his attonrey] said. "The agreement that he was under, the explicit agreement was that he had to be completely truthful in his statement. Lying to a federal agent is a whole crime unto itself. If you’re going to talk to them at all, you have to tell the truth."

I'm sorry, Martha Stewart? Really? This makes his story credible? (cackling laughter). Also read that paragraph again. "The agreement that he was under, the explicit agreement was that he had to be completely truthful in his statement." Agreement? Interesting. Sounds to me like Johnson got himself a deal with the feds to avoid jail time for attempting to defraud the goverment (tax evasion).

What I also love about the accusations included in Robinson and Cole's article is that they paint Johnson as an old hand in the print press, citing his 16 years in the media. What they fail to mention his numerous arrests, cocaine distribution charge, and book deal.

Further, Johnson admits he didn't see anything happen. Guillory just got back into the car and said Floyd had given him cash (hint: in court that's called hearsay). What we do know about Guillory is that he is a less that reputatable person. Since Johnson is allowed to speculate, why can't we? I've got even money that if this meeting did occur, Guillory had the money on him already and dumped it in Johnson lap to act as if he had some kind of control. And why does a guy driving an Infinit SUV need cash from someone else? Guillory was pocketing thousands from DBA (the sports marketing company that funded Guillory's pursuit of Mayo with the intent of landing him as a client) at this point, so him needing or even asking for "a grand" from Floyd make little sense. Finally, February 14, 2007 was a Wednesday, what the hell would the head coach of USC's men's basketball be doing hanging out on a corner in Beverly Hills in the middle of a work day?

I'm sorry, this makes no sense. There is ample additional information contained in the interviews of the yahoo! sports writers who "broke" the Johnson allegations. Conquest Chronicles pulled them together and you can listen to them at your leisure and draw your own conclusions.

Where's the flaw in my argument? Easy. What motive does Johnson have to throw Floyd under the bus? I don't have one. I can't for the life of me come up with a reason, from the outside at least, to explain why Johnson would point a finger at Floyd for no reason. My summation is that the extra cash "'substantially' more than $1,000, although he did not count the bills" alleged, is just another nail in Guillory's coffin as unreported "income." But that's a bit of a stretch. There's no motive here, and that, on its face, lends at least a shade of credibility to the allegation.

But that's it. Just a shade. A UCLA commenter left the following note on my critique of the Floyd situation yesterday:

But felons are incapable of telling the truth right? Yeah, that’s it. That makes me believe [Floyd].

Well, in this case, yes. Look at the allegations now, compared to 2008. One of my favorite lawyer tricks when something like this comes up is "Were you lying then or are you lying now?" The inability to tell a consistent story undermines Johnson's credibility. His financial interest in the outcome of this freakshow undermines his credibility. The fact he was looking at jail time before cutting a deal with the Feds undermines his credibility. The fact he's got a criminal record and was involved with intentionally and repeatedly undermining NCAA rules undermines his credibiltiy.

You don't have to be a lawyer, or even watch Law & Order, to know that people will sell their mothers down the river to save their own ass. The insta-credibility granted to Johnson baffles me. Further, how this story has anything to do with Reggie Bush baffles me even more. I don't get it. The only thread between these two scandals are the three letters the players wore. The amounts, the players, the actors, well... everything else is different. With Bush, it's really hard to doubt that shenanigans didn't occur. But by that same token, five years later, there's NOTHING THERE. People can yell and scream and say "Lookitthat!," but there hasn't been anything from the NCAA or California DA to indicate there's enough evidence to prosecute anything. With tim Floyd, to me at least, there's even less.

Certainly the fact that these two spectacles occurred at the same institution is troubling. But until the facts demonstrate the University was active or complicit in these violations, how can you hold them responsible for the acts of people (a) not associated with the University, (b) who had no interest in the success of the team outside of player X, and (c) were basically lampreys expecting to get paid off when player X hit the big time? This isn't a situation where an Oklahoma Booster was giving Rhett Bhomar $12,000 to (not) work one summer. The Mayo case is about people outside the program, boosters, etc., trying to benefit from a player's long term success.

Many writers and bloggers have speculated that Floyd is being used as a fall guy for USC's alleged misdeeds. They are probably right. Floyd has said "to hell with it, I don't need this" packed up his office and gone home. People are already speculating whether he'll ever coach again. News Flash: when nothing comes of this, Floyd will be back on the bench at a BCS school.

Only Floyd knows if this really happened. Sure Floyd could've issued a statement saying I didn't do anything with this bozo, but that would only ignite the media feeding frenzy over his response, how Johnson will respond, how this affects USC, what will the recruits do, etc... Honestly, Floyd's best move was to stay quiet and let the stupidity of these allegations been seen for what they are.

But instead of looking at these allegations and thinking about them, the media has condemned Floyd. He must've done it. Burn him! Build a bridge out of him! Burn Him! There is no presumption of innocence.

Only a rush to judge.

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