OJ Mayo Accepted Gifts? Color Me Surprised

Sarcasm is a valid blogging technique.

ESPN reported over the weekend the results of an Outside the Lines investigation which showed that USC freshman OJ Mayo received a variety of goodies from an agent middleman called a “runner” during the course of his brief NCAA career in Los Angeles.  Mayo naturally has denied the allegations.  I am sure Tim Floyd will be along forthwith to give us the standard “I have no knowledge this was happening” meme coaches who play with fire in the form of players like Mayo are famous for.

ESPN columnist Pat Forde who, along with his OTL brethern, are probably breaking some kind of code by even reporting negative things about USC, says the NCAA should levy the death penalty on the Trojans:

In a just world, USC basketball would have something in common with SMU football in the near future.

The death penalty.

It’s not going to happen, because NCAA bylaws don’t work that way. And besides, they’re not likely to ever again disband a program for a year after the smoking crater it left at SMU.

But USC deserves it. The school has so far escaped facing NCAA prosecution for compelling allegations that star tailback Reggie Bush and his family were lavishly compensated by an aspiring agent while playing for the Trojans. Now comes a devastating, thoroughly documented “Outside The Lines” report that goes into stunning detail about the money and gifts star guard O.J. Mayo allegedly received before and during his one season at USC.

All directly beneath USC’s chronically blind eyes.

Some of Forde’s ire stems from the fact no one, paid a lick of attention to the “Reggie Bush was being paid” story broke after the RB left USC for the NFL.  The NCAA seemed extremely disinterested in launching anything close to a formal investigation into Bush’s activities, so it will be intriguing to see how they treat this situation.

The larger question I have about this kind of violation is how much of this kind of behavior will we continue to see with the NBA’s 19 year old age limit?  Players who know they are one year from the NBA and are simply playing college basketball until they can make the jump might be more inclined to do exactly what Mayo is accused of doing.  What the age limit has done, since it is only for one year, is created a class of players commonly referred to as the “one and doners.”  Many of these players would have gone to the NBA out of high school but since the rule has been enacted they head off for one year of college. And in most cases who can really blame them?  Brandan Wright was one such player and it was hard to argue with the lottery pick status he had when he declared.   And with most of these kids, they follow the rules at school and fulfill their obligations while they are on campus.  However, there are probably more than a few instances in which they do not.

These are the two glaring unitended consquences of the rule.  You have players who attend class long enough to be eligible for the basketball season.  And in the case of Mayo, you have players who decide to get a head start on living the NBA life despite what the NCAA says.  The issue is the level of motivation these players might have for respecting the rules and keeping their eligibility intact.  Remember, college is just a obstacle to clear before getting to the NBA because a stupid rule was put in place.  I am sure some players do not attend class after December and also start taking gifts because why should they really give a crap about what happens to the program they are serving time with until they turn 19?

Granted this is probably not a rampant issue and it is not a player only issue.  In some ways they are being lavished upon and that sort of thing is hard to turn down.  Probably a greater bulk of the responsibility falls on the coaches who run these programs in ensuring they do not mortgage integrity for the sake of one talented player for a single season.  And in USC’s case, if the allegations are proven true, it will hardly have been worth the price of having Mayo since they were bounced in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament.[Side Note: Commenters at 850 pointed out the lack of consequences for the player who commits the violation.  This is a valid point and it was suggested that the players be charged with tax evasion since the money is income and they do not pay taxes on it.  In some ways the players are tempted but that might be curbed if they think they can be charged with a federal crime for taking it]

In my mind the solution is simple.  First of all the NBA needs to enact the baseball draft rule and allow these kids to either declare out of high school and if they decided to attend college make it three years before they are eligible again.  This will make recruiting for the college coaches more difficult but at the same time it will add significant stablility to college teams in general. At the same time, I think you would also get rid of the players whose sole goal is the NBA.  Any player who shows up on campus knows he is there for three years and will be committed to what the program is doing.

If these allegations prove true, the NCAA must act with brutal force and send a clear signal that if you want to take on a potential “one and doner” who comes in with questions you do so at the risk of you coaching career and the viability of your basketball program for years to come.

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14 Responses to OJ Mayo Accepted Gifts? Color Me Surprised

  1. Asheville Heel says:

    THF, I agree that the baseball rule would be the best way to go for these “one and doner’s”. Lacking that I actually liked something Bobby Knight said. He wants the NCAA to mandate that any player who goes to college must complete both terms for that freshman school year in good standing academically. If not, the school loses that scholarship for 1 – 2 years. That might help to curtail some of the wholesale recruitment of the players whose intentions are so transparent (like Mayo) as to be laughable. Roy recruits character as much as he recruits tallent so I’m not too concerned that we would be impacted by a rule like this. In the baseball scenario, the kids who don’t want to commit 3 years to college can go to the NBDL. I thought that’s one of the reasons Stern wanted to start that league anyway!

  2. Black Mountain Sophomore says:

  3. TxTarheel says:

    Color me “pessimistic” that the NCAA can ever put this genie back in the bottle. This starts at the high school level where the elite compete in the summer AAU camps run, of course, by the big footwear entities. Reebok and Nike have been at the leading edge for many years, in a system that can both corrupt and be corrupted quite easily. College hoops, like football, is big business and I’m coming to terms with the ‘amateurs’ better describing those in the executive offices at the NCAA.

    I would not imply that AAU coaches are, broadly speaking, more Myron Piggie than coach Wooten from DeMatha High (random comparison). I do not blame the players, just simply teenagers that want to play. I blame the adults involved who obviously know better…yet perhaps they just do not. Is agent a synonym for “parasite” ?

  4. Silent Sam says:

    I don’t think picking Morgan Wooten, who’s been retired for several years, is a random comparison. Wooten is likely the greatest high school coach of all time with a reputation beyone reproach. Coach Wooten is deservedly on a pedestal.

  5. TxTarheel says:

    Random only to the extent that top-tier high school hoop coaches were a short-list off the top of my head. I referred to him precisely for the same reasons you listed.

    Myron Piggie on the other hand…is he still doing time ? no idea

  6. Tar Heel Fan says:

    ^I bet Corey Maggette knows.

  7. rlb says:

    THF YOU ARE RIGHT ON POINT. THIS CRAP WITH THESE PLAYERS WORRIED ABOUT THE NBA AND GETTING PAID ALL THE WAY BACK TO HIGH SCHOOL IS HAPPENING EVREYWHERE. I BELIEVE THIS IS THE REASON UNC NEVER FULLY WENT AFTER TYREKE EVANS BECAUSE I BELIEVE HE FALLS IN THIS CATEGORY.

  8. 52BigGameJames says:

    excellent take THF–it IS about protecting the integrity of the college game. the NBA most certainly shares the blame, but most of this is cultivated at the HS level. if you step back and take a birds-eye view of this recruiting “meat-market”, and the corresponding industry it has spawned, it all has a forward momentum geared specifically to the (potential) NBA career. many of these kids come in with the mindset, not glad to be part of a college team, but to see where and how fast they need to hone their game. it can’t be that hard to see the conflict of interest here, and where it is leading the college game is heading if allowed to continue unabated. think it can’t happen? ask GM & Ford where their customers went when they took their customers for granted.

  9. Joe in Toronto says:

    I wonder how much calipari is paying over at umass…oh wait, sorry, I meant memphi$.

  10. mdm says:

    I think that adopting the baseball rule is a bad idea. It would be cutting off your nose to spite your face. As many kids jumped to the NBA out of high school before, the number would increase tremendously. There would be scores of kids jumping who aren’t ready because they don’t want to be locked into school for three years. In that circumstance Tyler may never have shown up on campus, as I remember reading him say before he came to UNC that if his stock was high enough he was going to jump. Now he’s going into his senior season. A lot of the kids who stay into their junior and senior seasons are kids who would have jumped with the baseball rule. Baseball is different than basketball. You are in your prime later as a baseball player and I don’t think you can apply those rules In the same way for both.

  11. 52BigGameJames says:

    well, between the Mayo incident, and the extended “water-testing”, it appears Swofford has had enough, and is finally deciding to take some sort of action. just as the players are acting in their own best interests, the ACC seems to finally be moving in theirs. glad to see sanity prevailing.

  12. 52BigGameJames says:

    http://www.newsobserver.com/2759/story/1074621.html

    David (POS) Stern might be the worst administrator in professional sports.

  13. DeanForever says:

    Wait-if the baseball rule would implemented, then the athlete would have the option of one (going pro) or the other (attending college for three years)?

    If you equate this whole system to a military-type format, then the three-year system is a way of developing the athletes as human beings as well as star basketball players. I am not in the military, but I have friends and former students who are currently enrolled, and I know that the minimal amount of time for development is two years (not in every branch/level of course).

    See, we tend to always look at things from the business perspective, and how much sense “making the quick jump” is financially for these athletes. But what of character development? I am not necessarily old, but I am of the age where I am starting to recognize the importance of character development as being a huge asset to the individual athlete. I’m not saying that three years of college ball would make O.J. Mayo a better person, but he may be able to deal with certain matters with more cognizance. I also believe (firmly) that the NBA has suffered from a lack of a defensive mentality (collectively) for quite some time. For example, both Kwame Brown and Rasheed Wallace were highly touted prospects in high school. However, Brown never placed defense high on the priority list while Sheed developed a defensive presence under both Dean and Guthridge’s tutelage.

    I am not trying to deny anyone their right to a successful professional career, but I would like to see all of these athletes best prepared to have lengthy careers at the professional level. We talk all the time about how these kids are “ready”, but for what? A 4-5 year career with no post-NBA plan? Look at George Lynch, Eric Montross, Jerry Stackhouse, Brendan Haywood (to name a few). How about Joe Wolf, for that matter? Anyone see my point? Is it a moot point?

  14. 52BigGameJames says:

    good points all DF–couldn’t have said it better!

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