As I did with Reggie Bush and and OJ Mayo, I think it's important to defend the players, who really have no idea about the backroom dealing that often takes place among AAU coaches, family members, agents, runners and college coaches.
The NCAA, college programs and coaches can shift the blame to the agents, but ultimately it takes two take to tango. What's so damning in this investigation is the volume of calls between an agent and the UConn coaching staff. Not just any agent. But a decertified agent who stands accused of stealing $1 million from a former UConn great and current NBA star Richard "Rip" Hamilton.
According to Yahoo!, there were "1,565 phone and text communications" with Josh Nochimson, a former UConn basketball manager turned agent who once repped Hamilton and Luol Deng. 16 of those calls were from Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun. Think Kelvin Sampson is shaking his head? Sampson made a few extra calls to recruits and one infamous three-way call, while UConn recruiters made 1,500-plus calls to an alleged thief who stole from one of UConn's own. 16 of those calls were from Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun.
The problem of funneling players among summer program, college basketball and then back to the agents is nothing new. It is heightened with the NBA age restriction and the embracing of one-(or even two)-and-done. This is what happens when the NCAA and its members attempt to maintain an outdated facade of amateurism, while EVERYTHING about basketball AT ALL LEVELS has been commercialized...whether we want to admit it or not.
There's no explicit fiduciary duty for college coaches to protect their players from unsavory characters, but I would like to believe that college coaches are the players' "in loco parentis." After all, that's what coach recruiters promise to mothers and fathers every day. Nochimson was a former UCONN student basketball manager, so there's added intrigue: His role appears to be essentially babysitting on behalf of UCONN and making sure Miles was delivered to his alma mater. In return, Nochimson would be well positioned when Miles went pro.
UConn athletic department and its basketball coaches should bear some responsibility to protect current players from a guy who stole big money from a former UConn star. Nice notion, of course, but the insatiable appetite coaches have for the NEXT star is often too great to resist. According to the Yahoo report:
“[Nochimson] admitted to stealing,” Hamilton said. “He cried … I always remember my agent saying, ‘Rip, don’t put your hands on him because he’ll be able to sue you. [Nochimson] was doing everything off of me. He looks like a high roller. It’s hard for a kid because you may not have anything and you see this guy.”
Did the experience of Rip Hamilton cause UConn hoops to end its association with Nochimson? Not in this upside down world. Here's the conclusion to the Yahoo! story:
Hamilton’s discovery didn’t stop UConn’s contact with Nochimson. The phone calls and text messages went on well past Miles’ expulsion. Even now, Moore is unwilling to disavow his old student-manager saying that they still haven’t discussed the charges that he stole from Hamilton. “I consider him a friend and a very loyal, trusting person,” Moore said.
Using this standard to judge people, who does Moore consider disloyal and distrusting?
As an aside, my high school plays a periphery role. From the Yahoo! story: "Nate Pomeday remembered Nochimson arriving unannounced with Miles at his gymnasium in Lake Forest, Ill. Nochimson had discussed using Pomeday’s school at the time, Lake Forest Academy, as a place to enroll other basketball players. Pomeday said he never worked out Miles." Nice that an agent wants to turn LFA into a basketball factory.
In my many years examining the issues facing or plaguing basketball (depending on how your moral compass is calibrated), I've met all the good and bad actors in this business. As I try to point out, things are not always what they seem. Unfortunately, it's increasingly difficult to tell the wolves in sheep's clothing from the sheeps who come dressed as they are. Since we're using analogies to explain this world, there is no better truth-teller in all of college sports than Saint Joseph's basketball coach Phil Martelli:
"I had an opening on my staff last year and three different guys called me about it. They all said the same thing: 'If you hire me, I can deliver this guy high school player to your program.' Frankly, it made my skin crawl. Not to make an analogy that's a huge over-exaggeration, but hasn't slavery ended?"
Actually, slavery has been outlawed, but the enterprise of "owning" people still, unfortunately, occurs.
Another good guy, Virginia Tech basketball coach Seth Greenberg, understands recruiting:
"The player is the center of the universe. You've got to draw a circle around that player and then touch everyone in that circle. If you don't touch the right person, you're going to be eliminated."
College sports is big business. That's not necessarily bad, especially if everyone could just be honest about this commercial enterprise, rather dressing it up as a sheep. Baaaahhh.
I've previously wrote on the Andy Oliver case, "The unintended consequences of trying to protect athletes." Mr. Oliver's attorney used this article to support its position in the case Oliver v. NCAA. You have to like that the horrifying image of athletic department employees beating down an agent is now part of the case's historical record. It's a joke...that would never happen in our country, right?
Quick recap: On the night before Oklahoma State baseball player Andy Oliver was to pitch in an important NCAA regional tournament game, he was ruled ineligible for violating the NCAA's "no agent" rule, which basically prohibits NCAA athletes from retaining agents to represents their interests. The charges against Oliver came courtesy of his former advisor, Robert Baratta, who sent a scorched-earth letter to the NCAA. Rather than wait for his case to wend and wind its way through the NCAA judicial process, Oliver and his family decided on a more aggressive legal strategy: Sue OSU and the NCAA.
Money Players is all about being the best resource
for the business of being a professional athlete. Here are some links from
around the web that we think are must reads for any current or aspiring
professional athlete and their families.
Sean Deveney reports on
the National Basketball Players
Association's high-growth entrepreneurship program. This summer the program offered
NBA players four days of intense business classes and workshops at
Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, one of the nation's best business
schools. This is something that any NBA Player with an interest in investing in
or starting a business should get involved in. The gold in the article comes from, program director,
Professor Steve Rogers: "Every single athlete is approached with get-rich
ideas all the time," Rogers said. "But they don't have the tools to
evaluate those ideas. Their focus is basketball. They should be saying no to these
deals almost every time. At big venture capital firms, they will get 3,000
business plans per year, and they'll say yes to, maybe, eight of them. Of those
eight, not all are going to work out. Sometimes a solid, legitimate business
idea just doesn't work. What makes things harder for high-profile people like
athletes is that a lot of the people who are offering them these deals are not
legitimate. That's where this program is aimed to help."
Forbes has a cover story on the most powerful coach
in sports: "[Saban] was given total control of the
football program: recruiting, coaching, business administration and public
relations. There are coaches at other universities who have similar salaries,
like Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and Pete Carroll at the University of Southern California.
But no coach, including those in the professional leagues, can match Saban's combination
of money, control and influence. Saban, now entering his second year as the
coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, is the most powerful coach in sports.”
Len Elmore is a man I respect for his accomplishments on and off the court. He’s a rarity in that following his playing career he pursued and completed a law degree at Harvard Law. However, I must respectfully disagree with his comments in his op-ed piece for this week’s Sports Business Journal.
In his article entitled “Education Must Teach That There is More to Life Than Hoop Dreams”, Elmore suggests that the NBA should raise its age limit requirement to at least three years out of high school so that “hoop dreams don’t eschew young black males chances to develop tools that will last a lifetime rather than a short lived basketball career.“ Elmore believes that it is time to “practice more responsible paternalism and remove the pro option after high school”. He says that he doesn’t worry about the top prospects and that he “only worries about the thousands or tens of thousands of pretenders who without the riches of NBA stardom or the promise of an education, are left with few viable options.” His solution to this dilemma is to force kids to play college basketball for at least three seasons.
Elmore’s argument has several flaws. Most notable is his belief that NCAA Division-1 revenue generating athletes (football and men’s basketball) actually have the same opportunity to learn in a college setting as the rest of the students on campus. The honest truth is that most of them are not prepared to succeed in college academically due to the circumstances they grow up in.
It’s no secret that the top college football and basketball players often come from low-income, single-parent, inner-city situations. Students from those environments often don’t make it to college, not because of their misguided hoop dreams, but because of lack of opportunity and preparation. If they are accepted into college on an NCAA athletic scholarship (remember the key word here…athletic), they are expected to perform at the highest level on the court, and just get by off of it. This is basically for two reasons: 1) College Basketball is a big business, and inner-city blacks playing for top schools across the country are the main drivers of that business. With all the rah-rah about the NCAA, the schools, the administrators and the coaches wanting to see kids succeed academically, the bottom line is that the priority is on the court performance. 2) Even if the colleges wanted them to succeed academically, most of them wouldn’t be able to because the education system they were funneled through failed to prepare them to achieve academically at a top university. This has NOTHING to do with chasing a hoop dream and everything to do with socio-economic inequity.
The bottom line is that college football and college basketball are big business. While the NCAA and its members often tout the academic side of college athletics, there are far more economic incentives in place to keep the best players (who are often the most at-risk students) eligible than to provide proper mechanisms to receive a meaningful education.
But beyond the reality that most revenue generating athletes aren’t prepared for and/or aren’t given the opportunity to succeed on college campuses, Elmore’s suggestion that forcing kids to stay in school for three years will have a trickle down effect of getting more blacks to aim for the college diploma is just ridiculous. Again, low income, inner-city blacks aren’t failing to graduate from high school because they are chasing hoop dreams. They are failing to graduate from high school because many of them come from unstable, single-parent, low-income homes; grow up in rough inner-city neighborhoods; and attend run-down, under-financed schools, with overworked and/or uninspired teachers and administrators.
Mr. Elmore is correct to believe that education must teach that there is more to life than hoop dreams. However, having the NBA raise its age requirement is not the way to get there. If you’re worried about young blacks making the mistake of forgoing education at an early age in favor of focusing on an unlikely career of professional sports, entertainment, or whatever, I think your focus shouldn’t be on preventing surefire first round picks from becoming multi-millionaires (and uplifting their families beyond anything they could ever do for them with just a college degree), but on fundraising, lobbying houses of government, and reaching out to the inner-city to help open up more opportunities for low-income black males, so that the idea of achieving in the classroom and completing a college education seems more attainable than becoming great a professional athlete, a rapper, or in the worst case, a criminal.
Lastly, I must say that Mr. Elmore is wrong to state the Brandon Jennings “is neither a pioneer blazing a trail for other young men to follow nor a hero” and wrong to write him off as “simply another impressionable young man, susceptible to the hawkers and hangers-on who tell him what he wants to hear instead of what he needs to hear.” While no reasonable person is ready to anoint Jennings, he has every right to pursue his professional aspirations sooner rather than later. And Jennings may well become a pioneer. With his move, he's opening top prospects eyes to the opportunities to play basketball outside of just the NCAA, the D-League and maybe even the NBA.
There are only 450 roster spots in the NBA, but there are also many more opportunities to play basketball for good money all across the world. But because of the market power of the NCAA and the NBA, many players have limited themselves to the traditional path of playing for the NCAA for no money (while coaches, administrators, broadcasters, sponsors, NCAA executives, etc. all benefit financially from the system) and then fighting for one of 450 spots in the NBA.
But with basketball leagues continuing to grow all across the world, and guys like Jennings, and Josh Childress showing that it’s okay to utilize the entire world market, not just the traditional path of the NCAA and the NBA, you are going to see more and more opportunities open up for talented basketball players. While the NCAA is often slow to recognize and embrace change (mostly because they've never had serious competition), the (Basketball) World is Flat, as Thomas Friedman pointed out in his seminal book. Basketball is the fastest growing sport in the world -- and becoming more economically prosperous every day. In future years we will likely see more young men blaze the same trail as Jennings, especially if Jennings shows there is a viable path to professional basketball that does not include a pit stop in college and also provides an opportunity to earn money and get their families out of poor circumstances at an earlier date. The NCAA should either respond to this fast-changing world by letting go of its notion that U.S.-born players should be compelled to attend college for a set amount of years or by enhancing the experience it provides these gifted players.
In Brand's world, this is not about the money, but about the kids who would otherwise blow off their educational opportunities if they had the freedom to go straight to the NBA. Brand views the NBA's rule as a net positive. He says the real benefits of one and done are "not often recognized." Come on media, do your job!
See if you agree with Brand's logic: "So in the old view, you have hundreds of kids blowing off high school, thinking they're going to be one of the 10 kids who is going directly from high school to college. Now, believe it or not, not everyone is Lebron James and not everyone is going to be able to play at that level. So you have hundreds of kids who get disappointed and they blew off high school and they're not going to graduate from high school, they're not prepared for college and once they don't get into the NBA, what are they going to do? Flip hamburgers at best?"
Let's put Dr. Brand's theory to the test. Brand believes that by denying the ten or so players the right to go straight to the NBA, we are saving hundreds of kids who will undoubtedly see their hoop dream become a nightmare. Brand's argument is heavy on truthiness, rather than any hard evidence, but give him credit for not backing down.
As an aside, in my opinion (and Warren Buffett will back me), LeBron is a savvy, smart, responsible young man, despite the fact that he never attended college. By any measure, LeBron has been successful, both on and off the court. But he's a bad role model, according to Brand, because he was freakishly talented coming out of high school and because he will cause hundreds of other hoop hopefuls to have unreasonable expectations. Therefore, we must not allow 18 to 19 (and maybe one day 20) year olds to succeed -- or fail -- in any other environment other than the billion-dollar-a-year college basketball enterprise.
When people make the argument for or against requiring players to go to college, there are certain names that pop up. For every Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard, there is MJ, Shane Battier, Grant Hill and Brandon Roy. And for every example used to support the benefits of college (Korleone Young, Leon Smith, Taj McDavid), there are players who screwed up in the NBA after attending college.
Two names off the top of my head: Latrell Sprewell and Jason Caffey. Collectively they spent 8 years on college campuses (I hope it was ironic that they both went to the same school). Did college prepare Sprewell and Caffey for life in the NBA? Both have had financial problems and both filed bankruptcy protection. Sprewell infamously choked his NBA coach. Caffey sadly has an assault on his record too. In the NFL, players must go to school for at least three years. Rae Curruth, Tank Johnson and Michael Vick did their time in college and then did time. For every good example why someone should go to college, there's a bad example. There's no one-size-fits all, as much as we'd like to there to be.
Is college a great place to develop as a person and as an athlete? Absolutely. But there are corrupting influences in college ESPECIALLY for those who have no interest in school, but are forced to attend against their will.
The NCAA has repeatedly told us college sports is a privilege, not a right.
So I wonder what valuable educational experience did LeBron James not miss that helped him thrive so extraordinarily. In the final analysis, a college education does not guarantee success by any measure. Nor does lack of a college experience put someone on the fast track to flipping burgers.
Sure, Brand would like a system that forces the best players to go to college (and be real students and real amateurs) for one, two or even three years. But is that fair to the players? And how does forcing players to go to school support the NCAA's mission? Of course, if Brandon Jennings succeeds in Europe he might throw a wrench in Brand's vision to control the teen basketball market.
A 76% Success Rate Not Enough? Brandon Hoffman crunches the numbers of players who declared for the NBA Draft straight out of high school. (The success rate is even higher when you throw out Taj McDavid's bogus declaration for the NBA Draft.)
Similar articles have been written before, so there's not much new ground covered here. There's the usual questionable characters mentioned (especially Rodney Guillory), the vague job description of runners and the now-regular staple of these articles: an anonymous sports agent pointing out the hypocrisy and corruption of this dirty business.
I like what John Wall, a top high school player, has to say:
"If you let one person into your circle, they can mess everything up. They would tell me I had a good game, I'm a good player and they want to start helping me out basketball-wise," Wall said. "I was like, 'Nah. If you weren't there before I had anything, there's no point in you coming around now.' "
"Some observers compare a coach who purports to guard a player's best interest with the fox guarding the henhouse."
And then there's Pat Barrett, who runs Southern California All-Stars. Bolch states that Barrett is a "controversial figure in local basketball circles, is quick to acknowledge that he's 'not affiliated with any rules. . . . I have no kids in school, I'm not a booster, I'm not alumni.' "
Had no idea that rules (or laws for that matter) are something we are or aren't affiliated with.
There is also an accompanying article on agents and intermediaries that mostly quotes an anonymous "prominent sports agent." I love this agent's reason for not identifying himself: He is apparently concerned "that his comments might be construed as an admission he had engaged in wrongdoing." Personally, I would prefer these agents who purport to follow the rules stand up and identify themselves. "Hey, look at me, I follow the rules, I don't jeopardize an athlete's eligibility."
The supposedly prominent sports agent on just how sleazy the sports agent biz is:
"Overwhelmingly, 95% of the time, there's a third party involved. If agents could get players in a fair, representative way without paying money they would, because everyone is a bottom-line businessman. But they can't."
"Most of the time the runner tells a kid, 'I'm just taking care of business so that we can do what we need to do.' "
This is probably my biggest problem with the entire sports agent industry: Agents and runners operating without disclosing the nature of this relationship with the targeted player.
The anonymous agent also thinks the NBA Players' Assn's oversight of agents is "loosey-goosey" and that "the union's investigation into whether Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management engaged in wrongdoing during its recruitment of Mayo should serve as the litmus test for whether the league is willing to get tough."
Litmus test? So if BDA is not found guilty, the NBPA is not doing its job. There were bad actors in the Mayo case, no doubt, but that doesn't mean it's fair to automatically reach these conclusions. I'm guessing this is the real reason this agent wouldn't come forward: He wanted to slam Duffy on the record. As I've said several times on Money Players, if it is proven that BDA did anything wrong, they should pay a heavy penalty. But we haven't seen that evidence yet. Only Louis Johnson showing ESPN Guillory's receipts.
Darren Heitner, who is on top of all things agent related, provides an excellent analysis about yet-another- college athlete/agent situation. It is definitely not as high profile as O.J. Mayo, but it does raise some interesting issues. It involves Oklahoma State University sophomore star pitcher Andy Oliver, who was declared ineligible in the middle of the College World Series. Rather than set up the situation, read Darren's story and analysis. Let the judgment begin...except here The facts surrounding Andy Oliver's are not clear to take sides, but
my views expressed in the O.J. Mayo situation apply here: Don't
rush to judgment, wait for the facts to come out and let the
appropriate authorities conduct their investigation.
My analysis will focus on amateur baseball players and their involvement with so-called "family advisers" and NCAA rules governing these relationships. For most student-athletes agent prohibitions make sense. However, baseball players drafted by MLB teams are unique from other college athletes because they are automatically entered in MLB's amateur draft (rather than declaring for the draft like basketball and football players). While I am a big fan of MLB's system for drafting players, drafted ballplayers should have the opportunity to receive quality representation in negotiating their first professional contract. Maybe I am alone on this, but I think everyone's interests (players, schools, NCAA, agents) would be well served if the system for "advising" amateur baseball players is brought above board, rather than devising ways around NCAA rules (athletes and agents certainly aren't the only ones figuring out loopholes). Not all agents wear horns The intersection of amateur athletes, agents and the NCAA is complex. There are bad agents out there. The overarching question is, How can we come up with ways to improve the system? I would love to think that education is the primary tool to deal with the "agent problem," especially since my book, Money Players, would, of course, be an essential part of the solution. But it will take more than just well-constructed educational programs laced with strong admonitions to refrain from taking money from agents and runners. (No, I am not advocating that athletes be paid.) I'm actually not sure what the solution is for college basketball and football. But I firmly believe the rules governing agents for amateur baseball players need to be restructured.
NCAA rules are supposed to protect student-athletes. And for the most part they do. NCAA rules prohibit an NCAA athlete from having any oral or written agreement for representation by an agent. They also prohibit an athlete from retaining an agent to represent his athletic interests. These rules make sense for amateur football and basketball players. But baseball players drafted by MLB teams are in a completely different situation, yet governed by the same agent prohibitions.
IMO, amateur baseball players absolutely need above-board, expert representation by someone who is not only well versed in the legalese of MLB contracts, but also understands the marketplace. And who possesses these skills? Agents! But student-athletes who wish to retain their amateur status are not allowed to retain agents. A baseball player drafted by a MLB team, even with the help of his family, is unlikely to be capable of effectively negotiating a contract, let alone obtaining full market value. It would be so sensible -- and truly demonstrate that the NCAA is more "kinder, gentler" these days -- if they would allow a small window for agents to negotiate MLB deals on behalf of drafted baseball players.
So-called family advisers In doing research for my book Money Players, I spoke to a several baseball agents. They all agree that the concept of "family adviser" is a sham. Baseball players selected by major league teams need some form of professional counsel. What they really need is an agent, but NCAA rules prohibit amateur athletes from retaining. So these advisers work behind the scenes, but they do not sit at the negotiating table (probably the most essential agent function). Good, reputable agents won't do anything to jeopardize an athlete's collegiate eligibility. They'll do whatever they possibly can to assist an athlete and their families, but they won't "agent" an amateur athlete. Of course, that's all a fine line and open to wide interpretation. My primary advice to athletes is: Don't break NCAA rules. Secondary: Don't scorn a b-list agent!
Who says it doesn't pay to be an alleged student-athlete? Interestingly NCAA rules empower individuals from members institutions to negotiate with professional sports teams. There are obvious conflict of interests, although I find most coaches and athletic directors honorable when it comes to advising athletes on the decision to stay or go pro. But baseball is different: For players drafted after their senior year in high school and/or their college junior year, they are in the unique and enviable situation where they can negotiate with a MLB team and use the leverage of another offer (the opportunity to go to college) against the MLB team. And, magic, baseball teams offer more money rather than risk losing the rights to a coveted draft pick.
Fiduciary responsibility of those negotiating professional sports contracts
NCAA bylaws empower athletic departments to act as agents.
184.108.40.206 Negotiations. An individual may request information about professional market value without affecting his or her amateur status. Further, the individual, his or her legal guardians or the institution's professional sports counseling panel may enter into negotiations with a professional sports organization without the loss of the individual's amateur status. An individual who retains an agent shall lose amateur status.
Let's look at the concept of fiduciary. The word comes from the Latin fides, meaning faith. It has been said that fiduciaries must conduct themselves "at a level higher than that trodden by the crowd." A fiduciary is legally required to put their clients' interests above all else, and is certainly not allowed to profit at the expense of his or her clients.
I am not familiar enough with baseball to know if it is commonplace for a representative from a school's professional sports counseling panel to negotiate with MLB teams, but it is hard to fathom that a university employee, even with impeccable academic and practical experience, could be a fiduciary for a student-athlete. Knowing the potential liability, would a school's legal counsel even allow? And what about players associations' regulations that stipulate that only "certified" agents negotiate playing contracts? The early analysis The only reason the public knows about Andy Oliver's alleged involvement with an agent is because one agent was left at the altar for another agent (the fact that it is Scott Boras certainly gives this story added juice). What about all the other baseball agents who acted as "family advisers"? The only difference is they typically do not send 6-figure invoices. And to compound the issue, it probably was not a good idea to have Boras's deputies intervene on behalf of an amateur ballplayer in the middle of his college baseball season. Scott Boras, George Vujovich and Ryan Lubner are attorneys and, I assume, licensed to provide legal services. Keep in mind this issue is over a legal bill, not whether an agency relationship has or has not be established.
Of course, there's an alternative approach to this problem...
"Agents, please keep away from our student-athletes!"
"It's not working. Both the NBA and the NCAA coaches, we all want a good system that gives the players an opportunity and the colleges some sanity and let the NBA be able to have the best players that can play. We know that what we have now isn't working for us and we don't think it's working for the players."
Amen, my fellow lonsman. The current system that doesn't work. This issue is not that complicated, folks. Players who want to go to college and play basketball should. And players who don't should have viable options. This whole issue has been often framed in absolute terms by the stakeholders: Players believe they should have the right to earn a living whenever the market signals they are ready. The NBA wants mature, pre-marketed players entering the Association. The NCAA wants real student athletes. Boosters just want to win. And athletic departments have to find the proper balance: Keep well-heeled boosters happy without completely abandoning their academic mission.
It's like Baseketball, but better The amateur baseball draft is the best system. Players are eligible to be drafted after their senior year of high school. They don't declare for the draft. They are simply drafted. Then if a Major League team offers them enough money, they sign. Otherwise, if they are not offered a sufficient contract they can go to an NCAA school...BUT THE PLAYERS MUST AGREE TO A 3-YEAR ENLISTMENT. Perhaps the NBA should consider this approach.
The marketplace decides who's ready. What a concept! And players don't have to rely on an agent or runner promises and hype. Everybody wins. Why not hold a supplemental NBA draft for high school players? NBA teams select players they think are worth signing. Drafted players either sign according to a rookie scale or they go to college. If a player signs, he goes to the NBDL for at least one season. If he opts to go to an NCAA school, he is not eligible for the NBA draft for three years. And to boot we can rid "declaring for the draft," "testing the waters" and "agent/outside influence" from our sports vernacular.
Feasting on agents and runners And finally...along with James Tanner, David Thorpe, and Jason Levien, I participated in TrueHoop's "Runners and Recruiting: A Roundtable." There's so much to chew on, it took two sittings. Second helping is expected on Thursday.
Many are calling for the firing of USC's coach, athletic director, compliance staff, and school president for lack of institutional control. Most extreme, ESPN's Pat Forde called for USC to get the death penalty.
There's also the cumulative effect the yet-to-be-resolved Reggie Bush case taking place at the same school.
Look, Guillory, Mayo, BDA and USC may be guilty as sin, but they all deserve an opportunity to state their case to the NCAA and whatever other authorities may have an interest in this case.
For anyone who wants a break from the 24/7 cycle of deciding the appropriate penalty, here's a lifeline thrown by Michael Wilbon followed by questions I have about the case and then a link to an interview radio I did on the subject.
"He was the nicest, sweetest kid you could hope to meet. Said hello and then hugged me, even though he'd seen me call him a 'punk' on television. He was polite, engaging, answered every question with 'Yes, sir' or 'No, sir.' He said: 'I would just love for you to spend some time with me, just talking. . . . Could I have your card and just be able to call or talk to you? I've got the pre-draft camp [in Chicago] coming up, a whole new world.' I realized instantly I was wrong for attacking Mayo the way I had. While Mayo isn't an innocent, he's absolutely the product of a subculture in which the ability to play basketball at an elite level is valued more than being a good father, more than formal education, more than almost anything that appears to be within his grasp. Mayo, like so many who've come before him, simply is doing the only thing he knows to negotiate the road before him."
Questions I have before I am ready to decide in my own court of opinion... 1) Why did Johnson go to media? I assume there was some kind of falling out involving Johnson and Guillory. Was there an attempt to reconcile privately? Did Johnson ask for or demand money before unloading on ESPN (similar to Lloyd Lake in the Reggie Bush case)? I think Louis Johnson's motives are absolutely fair game. 2) Louis Johnson GUESSED that OJ got $30,000 from Guillory. He produced some receipts, but several were expenses related to Johnson and Guillory courting OJ, which is not an NCAA violation. 3) Show me the money trail between BDA and OJ. Remember, it is not remotely illegal for a sports agency to employ a runner. The $250,000 figure Johnson threw out there sounds like a lot of money, but it's really not in the grand scheme of the business of professional basketball. I would have a problem if Guillory did not disclose his relationship with BDA to OJ, but that's a private matter and definitely not an NCAA issue. 4) Regarding the cell phone and other receipts--that might be damaging evidence, but there are several instances where the NCAA has restored eligibility after an athlete serves a suspension and repays the benefit or makes a charitable donation (as OJ was required to do when he received free NBA tickets from Carmelo Anthony). 5) Is it possible that Bill Duffy and Calvin Andrews were duped by Guillory? Duffy is a smart guy. Until I see how this shakes out, I will give the benefit to Bill and Calvin that they would not so blatantly jeopardize their sports empire. It's not like OJ is BDA's breakthrough client. They represent some of the NBA's biggest stars: Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Melo, Greg Oden, etc.