Whether they are playing in high
school, college or in the pros, fans tend to hold their athletes up on a
pedestal. Many of us fans have the notion that our athletes can do no wrong.
They are heroes and friends; they represent the people and the communities they
live in. Yet, almost every year we turn
on the television and there, plastered across the screen is breaking news about
a student athlete who has violated NCAA codes by taking gifts or money.
This time it was O.J. Mayo, the
phenomenal freshman out of USC. One of Mayo’s closest friends and “business
partners,” Louis Johnson, has recently come forward to say that Mayo has
accepted over $30,000 dollars from Rodney Guillory, an independent club
promoter with ties to BDA, a sporting agency that represents the likes of Steve
Nash, among others. Johnson was recently exiled from Mayo’s inner-circle by
Guillory, giving him reason to come forward and spill the beans on the whole
situation. However, Mayo has already declared for the NBA draft so he is likely
to go unpunished, but USC is sure to face some penalties from the NCAA. Just two year ago another USC player was
under investigation, Reggie Bush, for violating NCAA rules by living in a house
that didn’t belong to his family. The
NCAA should be handing out some stiff penalties to USC given the fact that
these events happened so close together with some of the biggest names in all
of college sports. The Reggie Bush case is not fully closed, so these two high
profile cases are sure to yield some unwanted results for USC. These two
episodes show that either USC is lax in their investigations of student
athletes or they choose to turn a blind eye to what may have happened in the
past. Mayo declared that he had already been under investigation by USC and the
NCAA and that they found nothing.
sophistication in which Louis Johnson and Rodney Guillory went about providing
for O.J. Mayo is startling. They were able to wire money to Mayo’s friends so
it wouldn’t leave a trail to Mayo himself. Guillory also used a credit card
registered to a non-profit organization called The National Organization of
Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation, which may or may not be a
bogus organization because it has never been registered as a non-profit and is
not known to anyone around the community. The Universities and the NCAA need to
keep a closer eye on the spending habits of players in the league. When a
player gets a new flat screen television or constantly has new clothes, some
questions should be asked. It shouldn’t
take a disgruntled close friend of an athlete to uncover the whole situation.
It shouldn’t be that hard either, most of the players that are going to get
offered money or gifts are going to be top players, I’ve never heard of a third
string point guard receiving money or material goods. It always seems to happen
to the great players, the players guaranteed to go pro, the Reggie Bush’s and
O.J. Mayo’s of the world.
O.J. Mayo is not the first and
definitely will not be the last player to go under investigation for taking
gifts or money. Ohio State’s own Maurice
Clarett (remember him?) took advantage of academic tutors to pass classes and
was accused of accepting money and gifts from local boosters during his short
tenure as a Buckeye. Former Ohio State
basketball coach Jim O’Brien also admitted to giving $6,000 dollars to Aleksandar
Radojevic from Serbia
when he signed his letter of intent. Ohio
State is still on
probation for the O’Brien mistake. It is simply hard to understand why great
players allow themselves to get sucked in and used by people trying to make
money and advance their own careers. It seems the world has become so
materialistic that these players cannot wait a couple of years to make millions
of dollars. They just need to have the hottest clothes, the most cash at the
clubs and the coolest cars. They don’t want it two years down the road, they
want it now and they are willing to risk their career, their name and the
University to get what they want.
Players that accept these gifts and the people that give them believe
they live outside the rules, that they run no risk and they cannot get caught.
Educating young players on the risks and dangers of accepting benefits doesn’t
seem to be a priority in the cutthroat world of recruiting and signing players.
It is up to high school and college level coaches to teach their young hotshots
about the dangers of accepting these gifts and what it can do to their careers
and the schools they represent.