USC Has a Serious Agent Problem

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program has reported that former USC basketball player OJ Mayo received around $30,000 worth of benefits from Rodney Guillory, a “runner” for sports agency Bill Duffy Associates. This is not just a passing accusation either; OTL has a mountain of evidence detailing the story. It stretches back to when Mayo was in high school in Huntington, West Virginia.

I was going to draw some detailed parallels between Mayo’s case and the Reggie Bush case, but Pat Forde already beat me to it. He goes a bit over the top, I think, but it’s a nice summary of the allegations.

The troubling aspect is how cavalier USC appears to have acted towards agents and their influence. Yahoo! Sports’s investigation into the football program showed that agents and their representatives were allowed to be in the locker room and on the sidelines at practices and games. Now we find out that the school did nothing about the fact that Mayo was known to be associated with Guillory, despite the fact that former USC guard Jeff Trepagnier and a former Frenso State basketball player were suspended for accepting benefits from him.

USC Compliance Officer Schultz was unavailable for comment.

Every major program has trouble with agents. UF suffered its own scandal with the Tank Black episode back in the mid-1990s. If anything, that fact should make schools more vigilant about keeping agents and their runners away from their players. USC especially needed to be on that beat, considering the Reggie Bush fiasco and the fact – and this was news to me – it’s against California state law for agents to give gifts to amateur athletes.

Really, Mayo was a ticking time bomb for NCAA compliance. He has been in the spotlight since he was in middle school. His family was very poor, yet he had nice clothes, nice shoes, and a 42″ TV in his dorm. USC head coach Tim Floyd apparently had contacts with Guillory during the recruiting process, despite Guillory’s past history with the school. All the signs were there.

Mayo’s case also ties in with a lot of other issues in college sports – the role of media and now colleges in middle school athletics, the NBA’s age limit, and the NCAA’s historically laughable record of enforcing its own rules. Combined with the Bush case, it shines a light squarely on the issue of whether USC can police itself.

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. We have not just one, but two major sports media outlets that have done far more investigation into Trojan players than USC itself has. We also have reports from both the Bush and Mayo investigations that agents and their influence seem to be an accepted part of the culture in USC football and men’s basketball between agents being allowed at football practice and Guillory not being blackballed from the men’s basketball program.

How about it USC? When are you going to regain institutional control?

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