You can tell that something is amiss when the New York Times has an article about USC basketball. Firstly, there's the surprise of remembering that the Grey Lady covers sports. Then there's the article itself.
In a nutshell, the article is the odd tale of how OJ Mayo came to sign up for USC, based on an initial contact to Tim Floyd from an individual named Rodney Guillory (not Ronald, as the NYT article incorrectly calls him). In a nutshell, Guillory, who is acting as Mayo's adviser, indicated that Mayo was interested in SC and would contact Floyd... which Mayo duly did, including making a promise to recruit others to SC.
Why was Mayo interested in USC? This from the NYT article:
The man explained that Mayo wanted to market himself before going to the N.B.A., and that Los Angeles would give him the best possible platform.
"Then why aren't you at U.C.L.A.?" Floyd asked. The man shook his head. U.C.L.A. had already won 11 national championships. It had already produced many N.B.A. stars. Mayo wanted to be a pioneer for a new era.
"I want to be different," Floyd recalls Mayo telling him. "I want to leave a mark."
Mayo said that if he did not go to U.S.C., he would probably enroll at an African-American college. Such colleges are renowned academically, but they do not typically produce pro basketball players.
And then Mayo shows up with a film crew to sign up, etc., etc.
So far, the reek of naked opportunism is on both sides. This is where you might expect our cross-town rivals to start their usual fanfare about how dirty SC is, what a gang of thugs we are, and so on, and you probably would not be disappointed. In fact, I'd bet they might even reference the SC crew from Watergate (Don Segretti of the dirty tricks department, and Ron Ziegler, Nixon's press secretary), although the historical musings would probably end before there was any mention of how Ehrlichman and Haldeman met when they were students at UCLA...
But enough of petty speculation.
What disturbs me is that someone at SC should remember Guillory, because in 2000 he was culpable for the suspension of Jeff Trepagnier - yeah, I don't remember him either, but he was an SC basketball player - for improper receipt of a benefit, an airplane ticket in this case. Apparently CBS Sports reported on this and contacted the university, but there was no comment.
It seems to me that there are two main risks here. One is that the AD is playing with fire, as is Floyd, from the standpoint of managing the risks of NCAA investigations when Mayo comes to town to build his overall value to advertisers.
The second is selling the good work of this year's basketball team down the river. The NYT article basically implies that this year's team pulled it together when they thought that Floyd had pulled off a recruiting coup; it also describes the team this way:
"We understand what it takes now to win games," said Pruitt, who was academically ineligible for the first semester. "We like the results."
This was all supposed to happen next year, with Mayo leading the team deep into the N.C.A.A. tournament and then bolting for the N.B.A. lottery.
I can't help but wonder what precisely Mayo is going to do to the team ethos. In the meantime, Fight On and beat the Tar Heels!