USC Sticks It To Itself

Posted 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?

This WOULD have been a good RPI booster for Gerrity and co., but...

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.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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3 responses to “USC Sticks It To Itself”

  1. Glenn Logan says:

    Hi Guys:

    Well, the NCAA cannot exercise too much power here or it will open them up to more lawsuits by players for all sorts of wrongs, real and imagined.

    The best way for this to be addressed would be for the NBA, without any prodding from the NCAA, to decide that if an athlete or now-NBA coach or assistant was substantially involved in an NCAA violation prior to entry into the NBA, there would be some kind of league sanction under ethics rules. For the life of me, I can’t fathom why the NBA doesn’t do that already. Perhaps the players prevent that by their collective bargaining agreement, who knows? If so, I suspect that idea is screwed as well.

    Obviously, if a player commits a legal offense (i.e. fraud or point-shaving), they can be sanctioned by state AG’s and even federal prosecutors. Unfortunately, most of the hanky-panky these days falls well short of that.

    There are reasons besides precedent that the NCAA does this. It definitely sucks, but I think the reasons that the NCAA doesn’t do some of the things you suggest are mostly for self-protection from lawsuits and such. That’s my guess, anyway.

  2. jstevrtc says:

    Hey, Glenn. It looks like we’re of the same mind on just about all of this. I also don’t get the lack of cooperation between the NCAA and NBA when it comes to going after players and coaches who have screwed over member institutions, unless as you say there’s some provision in the CBA mandating that the NBA protects the players. Wouldn’t surprise me. I’m not sure if that exists, but I’ll do some searching. If any reader knows for sure, let us know.

    And you bring up another important point in that what these players are doing is (usually) not “illegal.” As you mention, it just violates NCAA rules and state/federal law doesn’t even enter into it. It just seems to me that any school who imposes post-season bans like the one USC laid on its players yesterday is doing so because that’s what they would expect the NCAA to do…and the only reason the NCAA does it is because that’s just the way they’ve always done it, even though everyone knows it’s idiotic to suggest that punishing current-day players/coaches for something that long-gone players/coaches did a few years ago is a fair punishment. To my eyes it seems almost arbitrary and shows a lack of real forward-thinking. I wouldn’t expect any of the punishments I came up with to really be used; they were just examples of how some guy off the street can come up with options that are just as good as the one they have now, and it’s not even my job to do so. Surely someone at the NCAA can think up other ways to sanction programs or, better yet, go after the actual guilty parties.

    Top-notch work on ASOB. Thanks for checking in on us!

    John Stevens

  3. rtmsf says:

    As to cooperation between the NCAA and NBA, I doubt it’s even on the NBA’s radar b/c the function of the two entities is so completely different.

    Do the Milwaukee Bucks really care if Kelvin Sampson made a bunch of phone calls to prospects during a quiet period? Of course not. They only want to know if he can help coach young players to make their team better. Do the Grizzlies care that their superstar draft pick and future all-star was really a pro while he was in college at USC? No way. They just want him to improve to reach his potential and make their team better. I doubt there is a single Bucks exec or fan who is troubled by what Sampson did at IU or Grizzlies exec/fan who is bothered by Mayo’s dealings at USC. Ethics? Pffssshaww… So there’s no incentive whatsoever on the NBA side to help the NCAA “regulate” castaways any more than if they went to work at CBS or Real Madrid. Those companies and teams are only going to care about what that person can bring to the table for their interests, and the rest of it be damned.

    I’m not saying this is right in a perfect world, but I think it’s the reality and it’s not going to change b/c there’s no will for it (admittedly, there are only a few of these situations).

    You have to punish the school in some way for violations that happened, and real-time isn’t an option. Erasing wins is a little hollow b/c nobody respects that anyway (imo, Memphis still won 38 games in 2008). I like John’s idea about hitting them in the pocketbook, though. Taking away future postseasons goes toward that end, but why not make the penalty for cheating more punitive looking backwards? Legislate it so that it really, really hurts an athletic department in the budget to allow rampant cheating to go on. If you make the number big enough, stuff like this would be all but eliminated (or hidden so well nobody could ever find it anyway, haha).

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