In a long-awaited response to allegations former standout guard O. J. Mayo received improper cash and gifts while in school, USC announced...
LOS ANGELES — In a long-awaited response to allegations former standout guard O.J. Mayo received improper cash and gifts while in school, USC announced Sunday it would penalize its team by forfeiting victories and money, forgoing postseason play and curtailing recruiting.
“When we’ve done something wrong, we have an obligation to do something about it and that is exactly what we are doing here,” athletic director Mike Garrett said in a statement.
The action comes as USC is also facing allegations in its football program that tailback Joe McKnight and former tailback Reggie Bush also accepted improper benefits.
The NCAA, the ruling body of major-college sports, has combined its investigations of Bush and Mayo, looking for evidence the athletic department failed to exert reasonable control over athletes.
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By punishing itself before the NCAA acts, USC might be attempting to show its willingness to deal with misdeeds.
“It’s a statement of good faith if there is an acknowledgment that violations occurred,” said Tom Yeager, former chairman of the NCAA infractions committee.
“Sometimes, it’s a way of taking your medicine and getting penalties out of the way.”
Mayo played one season at USC — leading the team with 20.7 points a game — before leaving for the NBA in 2008. He is averaging 18 points for the Memphis Grizzlies this season.
USC’s postseason ban applies to this season only. The program will sacrifice one scholarship for this academic year and one for the next and will cut 20 days off its total recruiting activities for the next academic year.
The Trojans, who were 21-12 in the 2007-08 season, will vacate those victories and return an undisclosed amount of money received from the 2008 NCAA tournament, where they lost to Kansas State in the first round.
The scandal broke shortly after Mayo’s departure from USC, when Louis Johnson, a former confidant of the player, appeared on national television.
According to Johnson, a Los Angeles events promoter named Rodney Guillory received more than $200,000 from a Northern California sports-management agency. Guillory allegedly funneled at least part of that money to Mayo in the form of cash, clothes and a flat-screen television. The potential infractions include allegations former coach Tim Floyd delivered cash to Guillory outside a stretch of Beverly Hills cafes in 2007.
Mayo and Floyd have denied wrongdoing in the past.
First-season coach Kevin O’Neill learned of the sanctions in a meeting with administrators Saturday night after USC (10-4) beat Arizona State to extend its winning streak to eight games.
O’Neill said he relayed the news to a “shocked and saddened” team at a meeting Sunday morning.
“Of course we’re shocked,” senior guard Dwight Lewis said. “We didn’t see this coming at all.”
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