02.23.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on February 23rd, 2009

We’ll be bringing you these Fast Breaks more frequently thanks our new intern who will be sending me the best of the web, which I will then filter and send out to you, our loyal readers.

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Another Culprit in the Mayo Mess

Posted by rtmsf on May 13th, 2008

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. 

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No more OJs at USC?

Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2008

I’m not even sure where to begin with this post. Here at RTC, we have discussed OJ Mayo several times most recently in what rtmsf myopically thought would be a final retrospective on the latest OJ to grace the USC campus. As pretty much everyone knows by now Mayo has been implicated in a rather large scandal involving Bill Duffy Agency (BDA) and Rodney Guillory, who appears to have been essentially hired by BDA to bring Mayo to them.

Most of my knowledge on the topic comes from Kelly Naqi’s Outside the Lines report I saw on Sunday morning while I was staying at a beach resort so this isn’t going to be some deep NY Times investigative piece that some of you may be expecting from RTC–we’ll work on that over the summer. Instead, I think it’s more interesting to consider the impact this will have on USC and recruiting/college basketball in general given the hype that Mayo brought with him to USC and the manner in which he handled his recruitment of USC–yes, the way he recruited USC.

Will OJ still be welcome at the USC campus?

According to the OTL report, Guillory gave Mayo cash,  a flat-screen television, cell phones, hotel rooms, clothes, meals, and airline tickets. Given Mayo’s celebrity status, it’s pretty hard to believe that Tim Floyd and others at USC didn’t notice this was going on. Some prescient writers like Gregg Doyel even warned USC about the specific threat as early as 2006, but USC never did anything about it. Floyd and USC just looked the other way and hoped nobody else would notice or at least that nobody would give them up while they raked in the money from the increased attendance and sales of Mayo’s jerseys. The transgressions are not at the same level as those involving Reggie Bush’s family at USC, but these directly involved a player (Mayo) while the majority of the financial benefit in the Bush situation appears to have been reaped by Bush’s parents who stayed at a million dollar house essentially for free.

The big question now is what the NCAA will do about it. There have been several reports over the past year that the NCAA has investigated Mayo thoroughly, but did not find anything. Given the amount of evidence presented in the OTL piece, it’s hard to imagine that the NCAA spent much time digging into Mayo if they never came across any of this stuff. Ever since Yahoo! Sports broke the Reggie Bush allegations, Internet message boards have been abuzz first with what sanctions would be levied against the Trojans and when none came with conspiracy theories about how the NCAA was protecting the Trojans while being much more harsh on other teams such as a dominant football power on the East Coast (Miami). Compounding the fans fury was the seeming indifference of the sports media outside of Yahoo! Sports (read: ESPN) to really go after USC. Fans claimed that ESPN was trying to protect its sacred cow as ESPN had hyped up the Trojans to the point where they ran a week-long segment on where the Trojans ranked historically even before their Rose Bowl game against Texas, which they lost thanks to a super-human performance by Vince Young (I Heart VY). Now that ESPN has decided to join the attack against USC, it will be interesting to see if the mainstream sports media will turn up the heat on the NCAA (still waiting for the SI cover asking USC to cancel its athletic program). For those of you who think I may be going too far, the list of transgressions by USC athletes goes far beyond Bush and Mayo and includes recent charges against athletes ranging from dealing drugs to weapons possession to sexual assault.

While I’m not on board with Pat Forde’s reactionary death penalty column, I think the NCAA should come down pretty hard on USC. I am not sure what the precedent is for multi-sport probation, but given the multiple transgressions by the USC football team and the Mayo fiasco that anybody could have seen coming, its pretty clear that the Athletic Director Mike Garrett has no control over his programs or doesn’t care as long as they win. I would think that a 1- or 2-year probation with a ban on postseason play would send a pretty clear message that the NCAA won’t tolerate this kind of behavior. However, I doubt the powers that be will punish USC that severely, but USC should at least have some scholarships taken away from them in addition to the ones they lost with their poor APR performance. If the NCAA fails to do that, the Internet and the parents’ basements that bloggers inhabit will be all over them and this time the mainstream sports media with ESPN’s support will be behind them.

The story about Mayo’s recruitment is well-known as an associate of his (Guillory) entered Tim Floyd’s office and offered Mayo and his “services” to USC. When Floyd asked for Mayo’s number to speak with him, he was told that Mayo would call him. Perhaps Guillory wanted to make sure Mayo stayed within the minute limits on the plans that Guillory was paying for. Hopefully, this fiasco will convince more coaches not to get involved in these situations as it was obvious from the beginning of this relationship who was in control. At least Floyd seemed in control over the team, but it won’t be too long before some 5-star comes in with his personal coach and pushes for certain personnel moves and demands that the offense runs through him so he can get his numbers to boost his draft status.

The final issue, and potentially the most important in terms of its overall effect on college basketball, is how this will affect the NCAA’s decision on the 1-and-done rule. It’s pretty obvious that Mayo and several other stars like Michael Beasley were never going to spend a minute more than required in college before jumping to the NBA. If it’s going to be like that for the next generation of college stars, I wonder if the trade-off is worth it. As much as opposing fans like to knock Tyler Hansbrough and J.J. Redick, they embody what we used to love about the college game with guys staying 4 years and developing their games and fans identifying teams with players and not just the coaches manning the sidelines. Unfortunately, Tyler and J.J. are not the caliber of player that we saw do that in the 1980s. College hoops fans need to face the reality that we will never see a Lebron James (would have finished his senior year last year) or Dwight Howard (would have finished his senior year this year) having those kind of historic college careers. The question is how much is it worth to bring in guys of that caliber (or Mayo who is clearly several steps below James or Howard) in for 1 year with the risk of it blowing up an athletic program like it threatens to do at USC now. Mayo’s career and eventual legacy at USC may go a long way in determining the future of this rule.

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