May 16, 2008

Hold the Mayo, or O.J. or both

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

O.J. Mayo is in quite the pickle. The same can be said about his alma mater, USC and event the NCAA after this recent payola/recruiting scandal. But who has it the worst? I think you’d be surprised.

Mayo, a highly touted, high potential, basketball player coming out of high school, was probably the most sought after prospect in the U.S. It has come out that the details on how he landed at USC are a bit shady to say the least. This includes a semi-blacklisted agent, a little pay and even the recruiting of some other prospects to the program of Mayo’s choice — seemingly to make him happy.

Of course, Mayo adamantly denies taking any money or gifts during his stay at USC. Now here’s an illogical observation, if he is telling the truth: after an interview in which Mayo was claiming he didn’t receive anything because his mom still lives in a “two-bedroom house, one floor,” and “She still drives the same Toyota Corolla that she drove for the last three years and is still trying to meet ends.” Then, after speaking, Mayo got into a new Porsche Cayenne and drove off. Porsche Cayenne standard retail: $44,295. Maybe he should’ve helped out Mom first.

As for USC, well, they’ve been in some trouble like this before. Remember Reggie Bush being accused of taking some money and gifts from boosters? Yeah, that’s kind of similar to the Mayo allegations.
And now, DeMar DeRozan may walk. DeRozan would be the school’s top recruit if decides to stay but word is that if USC is punished — as expected — he’ll be heading elsewhere. UCLA has apparently received a phone call.

But what about the NCAA? They’re coming out of this looking very foolish too. Firstly, they have guys like Mayo who are only coming to school because they have to play a year before hitting the NBA. Secondly, it’s no secret that there are schools that simply go out and pretty much buy players. Thirdly, they allow these agents who bring players to certain schools to operate without any fear of reprimand.
Sure, the NCAA may put heavy sanctions on USC for this incident, but they have a ways to go on this issue. Why not install a system similar to football’s? You can only declare for the NFL draft after three years in college, then, if you do, there’s no turning around. That would solve the problem of one-year wonders as well as guys who declare just to “test the waters.”

Anyway, this whole problem won’t be resolved if and when USC is disciplined. It won’t be resolved in the next few years unless there’s some remarkably swift movement from governing bodies. What has to happen is a culture change. Have guys realize that it would be more beneficial to stay in school and get an education than persue riches. But, even if the classic phrase is “don’t be a fool, stay in school,” the almighty dollar will always be too strong.

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