In the effluvia of the OJ Mayo report from Outside the Lines (you remember, he took money and gifts from street runner Rodney Guillory, acting as a proxy for the Bill Duffy Agency) the other night, there has been a cacophany of predictable kneejerk reactions from every corner of the media universe.
Tim Floyd and USC are to blame!
The NBA’s 1-and-done rule is to blame!
The NCAA’s lax enforcement is to blame!
AAU basketball, or even worse – the system - is to blame!
There’s a lot of culpability being thrown around by the various pundits, and with good reason on many counts, but we’d like to proffer another culprit that few in the MSM have been willing to indict - their own 4th Estate, the so-called watchdogs of the community. We in the blogosphere have been told repeatedly by those in pedigreed positions of media power that what separates us from them is the simple concept of access. While we can riff on the same televised game that a USC beat writer for the LA Times can, he has a level of access to players, coaches and administrators that we do not (from our parents’ basement), thereby rendering his reporting more valuable than ours. Or so the story goes.
While we completely agree that level of access of which the MSM has to sports figures makes our job different than theirs, there also must exist a certain amount of responsibility for said journalists to follow up on rumors, whispers and innuendo that such access enables. Because of the difficulty for a blogger to gain entree into a circle of coaches willing to speak off the record to a trusted journalist, we expect that the writer will not simply wink and nod with the rest and ultimately let it slide into oblivion. After all, isn’t the journalist’s role to not only report the news, but investigate it?
Gregg Doyel wrote nineteen months ago that USC should be wary of Mayo due to his relationship with Rodney Guillory – that’s a great start. Did anyone else follow up on this accusation of impropriety? Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times recounts a conversation with two prominent coaches he had about recruiting Mayo during his prep days:
“It’s not even a consideration,” one coach said. “You don’t even understand how many problems that could cause,” the other said. Back then, there was much fear about Mayo’s large circle of friends. There were whispers that he had already been bought, a common rumor about prep basketball stars.
If there were whispers among prominent coaches about Mayo, and the writers knew about it, why didn’t anyone investigate it? Where was the local watchdog, the award-winning LA Times investigative staff on this story? It’s not like outing Mayo, the “next Lebron” at one time during his HS career, wouldn’t have been a prime catch. How hard could it have been? – the Big Lead even gave the MSM a roadmap in March 2007 - you have Mayo associated with Guillory; you know that Guillory is a runner for an agent who already got USC player Jeff Trepagnier and Fresno St. player Tito Maddox in hot water several years ago; and you know the weird circumstances of Mayo’s “recruitment” to USC. What more do you need to look deeper into this steaming hunk of brown mess??
And yet, to our knowledge, until the OTL piece on Sunday by ESPN’s Kelly Naqi after Mayo’s college career was all-but-finished, the MSM’s inertia effectively made certain that Mayo will never face any sanctions over this scandal. As for USC… well, we’re still waiting to hear their penalties from the Reggie Bush situation a few years back. Just keep in mind among all the yelling about blame this week that if someone, anyone, in the MSM had been doing their job a year ago, Mayo would have never suited up for USC in the first place. The NCAA plans on watching college basketball recruiting a little more closely, but given its limited enforcement resources, perhaps all the doomsday rhetoric being thrown around as a result of this fiasco will inspire our MSM friends to include a little more self-awareness of their watchdog role next time.