Two campers walking in the woods get chased up a tree by a bear. As
the bear beings to try to climb up after them, one puts his running
“You really think you can outrun the bear with those shoes on?”
“I don't have to outrun the bear; I only need to outrun you!”
By Bill Smith
No matter how the O.J. Mayo situation turns out, officials at USC including athletic director Mike Garrett and head coach Tim Floyd know how the slower fellow felt. Like everything that ends badly, at some point in time it must have seemed like a good idea.
Today, an “associate” of O.J. Mayo told ESPN that the freshman guard turned NBA rookie prospect received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and other benefits from an LA event promoter Rodney Guillory. The point here is not if that accusation is true. I have no idea if it is true and we may never know for sure.
However, this situation points out what the NBA and the NCAA should have realized long ago—if you try to pound a square peg into a round hole, three things will happen. The peg will splinter and be damaged beyond recognition, the hole will be damaged beyond repair, and the one that is doing the pounding will find nothing but frustration. Such is likely to be the result of the Mayo situation and similar cases that are sure to follow.
First, the peg will splinter and be damaged beyond recognition. Whether the charges are true or not, Mayo's reputation will always be tainted. If he wonders how long such an accusation can dog a player, just ask former USC running back Reggie Bush. All professional leagues are investigating every aspect of the backgrounds of prospective draftees. They have to because they will give millions of dollars to a young man that needs to be the face of their franchise for years. It is likely that such a scandal will hurt the draft status of Mayo. NBA contracts for first round players are guaranteed. Once it is signed, the terms are chiseled in granite.
The fact that a 19 year old has “associates” is by itself a warning flag. Outstanding athletes experience life differently than those that play the tuba in the high school band. Super athletes are allowed to walk through life under a different set of rules than the rest of us. The super athlete also collects hangers-on like a porch light attracts bugs on a summer night. These “associates” plan to live and profit vicariously through their relationship to the athlete.
Second, the hole will be damaged beyond repair. The NCAA seems to have two goals. To drain as much money out of college sports as possible and to use their thousand page rule book to pound member schools into submission. Mayo and USC are already under the watchful if not sympathetic eye of the NCAA rules police for a front row seat ticket to a Lakers game give to OJ by Carmelo Anthony. According to Mayo's personal website, Coach Floyd has already taken responsibility for that violation.
NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124.3 clearly states that student-athletes may not receive "free or reduced-cost admission to professional athletics contests from professional sports organizations, unless such services also are available to the student body in general." There is already some talk about a death penalty for USC. That is just ridiculous. But the new allegation will get much more focused attention by the NCAA. Whatever happens, Coach Floyd and Director Garrett will suffer as some of the more self righteous members of the ivy covered college academic profession look down their noses at them.
Thirdly, the one that is doing the pounding will find nothing but frustration. If these accusations are true, the NCAA is going to have to do something. Whatever that something is, it will not be fair. USC is not to blame for Mayo being prevented from going directly from high school to the NBA. Coach Floyd can not vet every association of every recruit for their possible relationships with others that would be willing to support athletes that come from difficult backgrounds.
It is the NBA and judges that do not seem to be able to understand the Constitution of the United States that are to blame for this situation. The school and the NCAA are innocent. The NCAA will look like the bad guy in the eyes of many. The NCAA will take the PR hit because again, like in so many cases before, the coach and university is being held responsible for something that operationally is beyond their control. An organization that lives in the glass house of the BCA is in no position to throw rocks at all.
This is another example of the square peg—players that are ready for the Pros out of high school, being forced into the round hole of a year in college. To the credit of the NBA, the establishment of the developmental league is a great step to help young men learn the game and hone their skills if they are not NBA ready but not interested in or qualified for college. Often, these players come from very poor backgrounds and need to make money to help support their family. What is fair about forcing these young men to wait a year to begin their chosen profession? Nothing!
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for http://BrutusReport.com. He has also published several novels on http://ebooks-library.com/index.cfm and edits http://fryingpanpolitics.blog.com/