USC Sticks It To ItselfPosted by jstevrtc on January 4th, 2010
Earlier today USC announced the self-imposed penalties to shield their football their basketball program, stemming from the whole O.J. Mayo/Rodney Guillory situation. Guillory, an events promoter in Los Angeles who seems to frequently be involved with high school basketball players making their way to college, helped guide Mayo to USC during Mayo’s recruitment, and allegedly acted as a bagman between a sports agency and Mayo with thousands of dollars of cash and merchandise finding its way into Mayo’s hands. You probably recall that former USC coach Tim Floyd was accused of greasing Guillory’s palm to the tune of a thousand bucks for his services, and quickly repaired to the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets about fourteen seconds after that accusation was publicly made. Mayo’s end of the bargain in all of this (besides playing ball) was that he’d sign with the agency Guillory was “representing.” All of this is alleged, of course — though Mayo did indeed sign with that agency after he left USC after one year for the 2008 NBA Draft.
The big daddy among the sanctions that USC is self-imposing is that there will be no postseason this year at all — no Pac-10 Tournament, no NCAA. It has also vacated all 21 of their wins from the 2007-08 Season of Mayo, and will give back the dough they “earned” from their first-round loss to Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament that year.
Look at that last paragraph again, and behold the inherent logical absurdity. We’ll return the tournament cash and vacate the wins from 2007-08…but we won’t go to the post-season this year. In other words, what happened was in the past, and as part of the mea culpa, we’re punishing people involved in our program today.
In any situation, isn’t the penalizing of a current squad for violations which occurred in the past a bit of an arbitrary sanction? As college basketball fans, haven’t we had enough of how ridiculous that is? Then again, that’s the precedent that the NCAA has set, right? You can’t go back in time, other than to remove the wins and give back the money. You can’t punish the people alleged to be directly involved (in this case, Mayo, Guillory, and Floyd), even though everyone thinks that you should have that right and the means to do so, if you weren’t at fault yourself. A long time ago, the NCAA set the precedent of punishing current teams for the mistakes of past teams (or members thereof) because…well, what else could they do? Who else could they punish? And so that’s the way it’s always been.
So, in the next couple of days and definitely in early March, you’ll hear and read a lot about what a shame it is that this year’s USC basketball team is getting extremely screwed on this deal. And that’s completely correct. We echo those sentiments. Because O.J. Mayo wanted to play in a major media market two years ago and (allegedly) had some guy help make that happen, folks like Mike Gerrity, Nikola Vucevic, and Alex Stephenson don’t get to play in an NCAA Tournament this year. Gerrity, a senior, will never get the chance as a result of this. Oh, yeah. That makes sense. But people have been saying this for years. Everyone knows how unfair it is to punish members of current-day teams for crimes committed by earlier teams’ players who are long gone, yet the NCAA hasn’t bothered to come up with another way to sanction programs for their wrongdoings. As observed in so many areas of life, here we have a silly way of thinking and a stupid method of doing something being perpetuated over time, and the reason it’s allowed to continue is…because that’s the way it’s always been. Where’s the creativity?
In a perfect college basketball world, a few things would happen. First, the NCAA would stop punishing current-day teams for old infractions and do something like, say, increase the monetary penalty for such unlawful acts. Instead of giving back the money earned from an NCAA appearance, maybe the penalty should be that a school pays back TEN TIMES that amount. Maybe a program should pay back $20,000 for every game they won while they were doing whatever they were doing. Maybe a program could be suspended for one season AFTER the current freshman class has graduated. OK, I know these are impossible, unrealistic sanctions; I’m just spitballing, here. But they’re better than punishing innocent people for others’ actions. And this isn’t even our job, you know, to come up with these things.
Another thing we’d see in a perfect hoops world is — if it’s found that only Mayo, Floyd, and this Guillory guy were in on this and the rest of the USC Athletic Department were unaware — that USC would be able to go after the wrongdoers. If Mayo and Floyd did what they’re accused of, USC should, with assistance from the NCAA, be able to go to the NBA and come up with a suitable punishment for those two, whether it’s garnishment of wages or season suspensions or whatever. The NBA shouldn’t be a haven for players and coaches who have screwed over colleges. This will never happen, of course, because the NBA (and the players’ union) will always protect their most precious commodity — the players — no matter what they’ve done in the past.
High school kids and their families also need to ask some tough questions when they invite coaches into their homes or when they’re on campus visits. Coaches should be up front about this stuff anyway, but they also have incentive to fudge the truth when it comes to the state of their program. These recruits need to consider a program’s “shadiness factor” when evaluating it, and should ask direct questions like, “What are the chances that, after I move away from home, run all those miles, lift all those weights, sacrifice study time, go through all those practices and road trips, and sweat and bleed every day for this team, I’m going to wake up one day and be told that one of the biggest goals I’ve set has just been eliminated as an option because of something somebody did several years ago?” We’re not saying that the current group of USC players are getting what they deserve because they knew what they were getting into. We’re wondering how many of them actually knew what they were getting into, and considered this as a possibility when they signed on to play there.
For now, though, the USC players will suffer the consequences, and Mayo and Floyd will continue to get paid. And USC will be allowed to, along with some smaller recruiting penalties, bury itself for a season…not because it necessarily represents justice, but because it’s what the NCAA would have done.