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What a Past NCAA Infractions Finding Foretells for Trojan Basketball (and Tim Floyd)

With good reason, the imminent release by the NCAA Committee On Infractions of its report on alleged violations by USC has led to much discussion on what said report will have to say regarding the school's football program, and what sanctions will be imposed on it. While there is justified concern that the also crooked basketball program will 'take one for the team', and absorb the brunt of the NCAA's wrath, there has not been much talk regarding what USC basketball did - particularly under Tim Floyd - and what sanctions are justified by that condict, given the history of NCAA enforcement.

While there are many allegations of rule violations against various athletic programs at USC, the recruitment of OJ Mayo to the basketball program was one of the more egregious violations linked to Heritage Hall.The story of OJ Mayo's route to USC, and the indicators of possible ineligibility has been told many times. Luke Winn wrote in the Spring of 2008:

[Rodney Guillory - P] the man who, in the summer of 2006, walked into USC coach Tim Floyd's office unannounced and asked, "How would you like to have the best player in the country?" Mayo, as the story goes, called Floyd later that night and committed to the Trojans. The first sentence on the New York Times article that laid it all out was, "It sounds like a fairy tale."

Winn's article lays out much of the impropriety alleged in the Mayo recruitment, including the open knowledge that Guillory was under the employ of a sports agent trying to curry favor with Mayo. Guillory himself purchased several thousand dollars worth of goods for Mayo before his enrollment at USC, according to a report by ESPN's Outside The Lines. While these examples alone are enough to make a student-athlete ineligible under NCAA rules, the coup-de-gras for USC came from a Yahoo Sports report alleging that coach Tim Floyd had made a cash payment to Guillory after Mayo's commitment to the Trojans, but before his enrollment.

There are not many examples of such an open and blatant violation of NCAA recruiting regulations, but there are a few such instances in the NCAA's enforcement database.

A local example of a Floyd-like major violation occurred at Berkeley in the mid-1990's, when the head coach of Cal's mens basketball team - desperate for a point guard in the wake of Jason Kidd's decision to enter the NBA draft early - offered the family of a recruit money if their son played for him. When their son (PG Jelani Gardner) transferred from Cal to Pepperdine after his sophomore year, Gardner's parents gave the NCAA evidence that Cal head coach Todd Bozeman had paid them $30,000 over the 2 years that Gardner had played at Cal. After a period of misleading and providing false statements to both Cal's administration and the NCAA, Bozeman admitted to the payoffs just before appearing before the COI. At the time that the payments were being made, the basketball program was under NCAA investigation regarding the recruitment of another member of the Men's basketball team (which had been found to be a secondary violation on the school's part).

In the introduction to its report on the matter, the committee considered the payments made by Bozeman to be " of the most serious cases that the Committee on Infractions has considered in recent years.". Finding the university's self-imposed sanction of forcing the resignation of coach Bozeman and the return of money earned from NCAA tournament play to be insufficient, the COI imposed the following penalties on Cal:

3 years probation, a reduction of 4 scholarships from the men's basketball program (2 per year for 2 years), a 1-year postseason ban, and forfeiture of all games in which Gardner had played.

Additionally, the Committee imposed a "show cause" order against coach Bozeman for a period of 8 years, a penalty that effectively prevents a coach or staff member from being employed by an NCAA member institution.

From the NCAA infractions report on Cal's major violation:

None of the intermediaries used by the head men's basketball coach have ever been or are
likely to be employed by an NCAA member institution, and they have no
connection with either the University of California, Berkeley, or intercollegiate
athletics other than their relationship with this head coach.
No representative of the institution's athletics interests other than the head men’s
basketball coach was involved in or had knowledge of these 1995 payments to the
student-athlete’s parents.

Like Bozeman, Floyd (allegedly) gave money to a person associated with one of his players, presumably in relation to that player having committed to his program. Unlike Bozeman's actions in providing money to the Gardner family, the Mayo intermediary that Floyd (allegedly) gave money to had a prior relationship with the USC athletic department.

While Rodney Guillory had never been employed by Heritage Hall, he had been implicated by the NCAA in a prior investigation involving his providing improper benefits to two student-athletes, including a USC men's basketball player while employed by a sports agent, which led to the NCAA suspending that player for a portion of the 2000 season. As a result of that investigation, as well as further conduct by him, it was common knowledge in the basketball world that Guillory was in the employ of one or more sports agents. While Tim Floyd was not associated with USC athletics at the time of Guillory's initial improper involvement with a USC player, the staff at Heritage Hall would have known of Guillory's prior history, and presumably have brought it to the attention of coach Floyd - as well as AD Garrett - once Gillory's involvement with Mayo was known. In particular, Mike Garrett had served as USC Athletic Director since 1993, and presumably would have recalled that his basketball program had been sanctioned. According to an article, Garrett was informed early on that Guillory was advising Mayo on his college selection, yet allowed Floyd to proceed with his recruitment and eventually receive an LOI.

A comprehensive report on the ongoing enterprise of NCAA violations that is Heritage Hall will certainly include a multitude of possible rule violations, in multiple sports. While football (rightfully, imo) gets much of the press, and men's basketball gets mentioned mainly as a possible scapegoat, do not overlook the fact that under Tim Floyd, USC basketball committed some legitimately severe NCAA violations, that if history is a guide will result in serious sanctions regardless of what is found to have occurred in other sports, or if the institution is a 'repeat violator'. As the NCAA noted in the Cal case mentioned above, a coach paying money to someone due to their relationship to one of his players is a serious matter, which is "in direct conflict with the basic principles underlying NCAA intercollegiate athletics competition.".

Taking the experience of Cal basketball under similar circumstances, it is reasonable to think that the NCAA will add onto USC's self-imposed sanctions with additional penalties. A multi-year probationary period regardless of the COI's findings in regards to the rest of the athletic program is a given, while additional scholarship cuts are likely. In addition to the institutional penalties that USC faces, Tim Floyd will likely be hit with a Show-Cause penalty by the NCAA, lasting for an indeterminate number of years. As Floyd is currently employed as an NBA assistant coach, the immediate effect of such a penalty is only to his reputation (JoeBruin15 reminded me that Floyd was recently hired by UTEP to be their new head coach. I am not clear on what effect, if any this would have on sanctions directed toward him), if it had not already been affected by his role in this scandal. The longer-term impact is that even if a school were willing to hire Floyd as a head coach, [after a coach is hit with a Show-Cause (ed, P)] the school would have to petition the Committee on Infractions to allow the hire. In effect, this penalty serves as a total bar to the impacted coach from working at an NCAA-member institution while the penalty is in effect.