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The NCAA gets some unwanted attention

Things have been quiet on the O.J. Mayo front as far as the investigation goes but there is an interesting piece in LAT that gives us a bit of the picture at how weird this case really is. I have stated numerous times that the one thing that stands out like a pink elephant in the room is the fact that Rodney Guillory is and was a known problem for USC in the past with the whole Jeff Trepangier issue, so it’s obvious that his involvement with Mayo should have been a huge red flag.

When allegations surfaced this year that USC basketball star O.J. Mayo had received improper benefits from a sports agency funneled through a close advisors, the university pointed to its own scrutiny of Mayo and said an NCAA "investigation" had deemed him eligible.

Now, with two sources confirming that an NCAA representative met with Mayo and advisors Rodney Guillory for several hours before certifying the player's eligibility for the 2007-08 school year, there is national focus on how that NCAA pre-screening process could affect USC's possible culpability in the Mayo scandal.

USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett and men's basketball Coach Tim Floyd declined to comment, but university officials have privately expressed frustrations about the severity of any looming discipline the NCAA or Pacific 10 Conference may deliver the Trojans in light of the NCAA screening of Mayo.

While this doesn't absolve SC from any wrong doing it once again shows just woefully out of their depth the NCAA is at on vestigating anything.

You can this one getting teed up to be a major pissing match between USC and the NCAA. You have to be walking around blind without a cane to not see how the battle lines are being drawn. On the one hand SC will claim that the NCAA's "due diligence" should absolve SC from any major penalties as the organization that will hand down any penalties is also the same organization that supposedly "cleared" Mayo to begin with. The fact that the NCAA even met with Guillory (Mayo was an automatic given his status as a top recruit) shows that the NCAA was wary given Guillory's past. That the NCAA deemed Mayo free and clear shows just how shoddy their investigation was and how overwhelmed they are in investigating possible infractions. I mean this one was easy simply because of Guillory and his prior bad acts.

But this story takes two different tracks, though both tracks end up in the same place. If the NCAA found Mayo was not receiving extra benefits deeming him eligible (I think we would all agree that Mayo DID receive something) that's all on them and their ineptitude is once again shown front and center. The other track is determining what Mayo received while he was enrolled at USC. This where SC is going to have a difficult time explaining itself.

We can discuss player privacy all we want but the fact is if Mayo had a 40 inch plasma screen TV in his dorm room and "SC didn't know it", SC could be seen as not doing basic due diligence of just spot checking it's players to make sure everything is on the up and up.

Beyond that, eligibility rules in NCAA bylaws place a "higher standard on the institution," to explore day-to-day concerns about a player that may emerge during the school year, such as the athlete driving a new car, or -- like Mayo -- having an expensive television in his room and accepting free tickets to a Lakers game at Staples Center.The NCAA will ultimately ask a university what questions it asked when new information came forward, the former agent said.

This is even more important given all the rumors swirling around Guillory/Mayo. Like it or not SC should have been looking at it more carefully. Mayo may have been around one season but anything he may have done in that one year could affect USC for years to come. USC should have done a better job of protecting its long term investments.

Again, If this were just about Mayo allegedly receiving benefits BEFORE he enrolled at USC they may have had a chance at minimizing the punishment but so much of the allegations have to do with Mayo while he was at USC so I am just not seeing how SC doesn't escape punishment.

Michael Glazier, a former member of the NCAA enforcement staff who heads a Kansas law firm's collegiate sports practice group, said the NCAA review of an athlete "doesn't alleviate an institution's responsibility to analyze the background of the recruit . . . and to examine any warning signs that may emerge in a diligent, comprehensive manner."

He said that if USC met that responsibility, he thought the NCAA would not impose severe penalties, such as a postseason tournament ban or scholarship limitations. But Glazier added that he thought lesser penalties such as stripping USC of victories and forcing it to return money from the NCAA tournament were "close to automatic."

SC simply can't rely on the fact that NCAA cleared Mayo and then not continue to pay close attention to the situation, especially with Mayo's connection to Guillory an already known bad apple. They really should have to kept closer attention on all of this. Regardless of how or where this all ends up SC should have done a better job of keeping tabs on Mayo while he was at SC and that is probably going to determine just how bad SC gets punished.