USC probe centers on control
This is one of the NCAA’s most complicated and ambiguous thresholds. Boiled into the simplest terms, institutional control comes down to two central questions: Were adequate institutional policies and procedures in place to facilitate a member school’s compliance with NCAA rules? And if the adequate policies and procedures were in place, were they being properly monitored and enforced by persons in “control” at the time of a violation?
In essence, institutional control comes down to what rules exist, who was making sure those rules weren’t being broken, and whether the persons in charge of monitoring those rules were doing their jobs. Whether a member school demonstrated a lack of institutional control can vary depending on the scope of failures which led to a violation, the types of rules violated, and the depth of knowledge and reaction of those in control at a member school.
This is essentially one step down from lack of institutional control. Often, being charged with a failure to monitor means that the NCAA believes adequate systems of compliance were in place at a member school, but that a school either didn’t pay proper attention to a limited area of its program, or didn’t pay proper attention for a limited period of time. Both individual programs and entire institutions can be charged with failure to monitor.
Sources: Pac-10, NCAA
LOS ANGELES – NCAA investigators appear to be building a case to show the University of Southern California has demonstrated a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor some aspects of its football and men’s basketball programs, multiple sources interviewed in the probe told Yahoo! Sports.
The NCAA’s investigation began in April 2006 and intensified after Yahoo! Sports reported allegations of improper benefits received by former USC running back and 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family. The NCAA probe has widened to include former Trojans basketball star O.J. Mayo, who played for USC in the 2007-08 season and led the team to the NCAA tournament. Yahoo! Sports has learned the NCAA investigation also has come to encompass various facets of USC’s compliance structure and the upper reaches of the school’s athletics department.
“I think [lack of institutional control] would be a very accurate interpretation of the angle the NCAA took in questioning,” said attorney David Murphy, who represents former Mayo confidant Louis Johnson. Johnson was a central figure in an ESPN report in May 2008 chronicling more than $200,000 in alleged improper benefits received by Mayo and Rodney Guillory, a sports agency recruiter. Johnson has been interviewed by the NCAA on two occasions, including one six-hour session in June 2008 and another one-hour teleconference this past Friday regarding his latest allegation – that USC men’s basketball coach Tim Floyd made a cash payment of at least $1,000 to Guillory in February 2007.
Asked if there was any way that USC could not have known of the financial relationship between Mayo and Guillory, Murphy said: “It is humanly impossible for them to not have known.”
That sentiment mirrors statements by Lloyd Lake, who has alleged he helped give Bush and Bush’s family nearly $300,000 in benefits when Bush still was at USC. Lake has filed a civil suit against Bush over the alleged benefits. Lake told Yahoo! Sports in 2008: “People at USC knew. How could they not? We were in the locker room. Some of their [coaches] were there when we partied with him. They saw the things we had [given] him.”
Bush has denied these allegations.
Yahoo! Sports has identified 17 individuals who have been interviewed at least once – and some multiple times – by the NCAA. However, that number is believed to only be a small portion of those who have met with NCAA investigators in connection with the USC probe. The NCAA also has been in contact with other ancillary individuals. That includes lawyers involved in Lake’s civil suit against Bush.
Two sources also have confirmed the NCAA has spoken with the FBI, which is investigating dealings between Mayo and Guillory. ESPN reported that Guillory received more than $200,000 to steer Mayo to sports agency Bill Duffy Associates (BDA) following his lone season at USC.
If the NCAA finds USC lacked institutional control and/or failed to monitor in the cases of Mayo and Bush, the school could face stiff penalties including probation, revocation of victories and possible loss of scholarships in both the basketball and football programs.
NCAA and USC officials declined to comment.
Among some of the aspects that sources say the NCAA is focusing on are the access that individuals like Lake and Guillory had to the Trojans’ athletic programs. For example, Johnson said that he and Guillory were regulars around Mayo and the USC men’s basketball offices, both before and after Mayo arrived on campus in 2007.
“We were in the locker room all the time, after every game, we sat behind the bench,” said Johnson, referring to the time before Mayo enrolled in school. Johnson said that USC did try to limit the contact between Guillory and the program once Mayo arrived but didn’t completely stop it.
“They tried to distance the relationship a little bit, but it was real obvious. [Guillory] was around the basketball office a lot, in the basketball office a lot. Everybody knew, everyone,” Johnson said.
Guillory also had previous ties to the USC basketball program. He was investigated by the NCAA in 2000 for his involvement with former Trojan Jeff Trepagnier and former Fresno State basketball player Tito Maddox. USC briefly suspended Trepagnier for his involvement with Guillory in 2000, but he was later cleared of any charges. However, the NCAA found that Guillory had broken rules by purchasing airfare for Maddox.
Johnson said Guillory’s connections to the BDA sports agency were well known to anyone in the basketball community, including players, youth coaches, college coaches and agents.
“Everyone knows who’s involved with what agent,” said Johnson, who previously worked for 16 years as a sports writer for the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “Everybody knows who’s delivering players to what agent because they hang out together at games. You see them all the time together at games in Vegas at these tournaments, so it’s real obvious.
“Was it a secret that [Guillory] had a relationship with BDA prior to O.J. going to USC? Only if somebody didn’t know anything about basketball. For the people who were heavily involved in basketball, it was obvious. You don’t know exactly what kind of relationship it is. I didn’t know how big it was until I got close to it.”
A BDA spokesperson declined comment.
Sources interviewed by the NCAA regarding Bush told Yahoo! Sports they had similar, visible ties at USC, including locker room access.
Lake, a partner in failed sports marketing agency New Era Sports & Entertainment, is suing the running back over alleged benefits Lake claims were provided as the firm tried to woo Bush as a client. The NCAA requested a copy of a photo Lake said he had of himself, former New Era business partner Michael Michaels and USC football coach Pete Carroll posing together in the locker room after a game. Carroll has declined to comment. Lake also provided the NCAA with financial documents and audio tapes of Bush and Bush’s stepfather, LaMar Griffin, talking about the alleged improper benefits. Bush’s family has denied the allegations.
Michaels already has reached a settlement with Bush. Yahoo! Sports reported that Michaels received $300,000 to settle the case and agree to a confidentiality clause.
Another point of interest was USC’s clearing of Bush to work as an intern for sports marketing agent Mike Ornstein in the summer of 2005, before Bush’s final season. Bush and his family also have been accused of accepting money and other improper benefits from Ornstein during Bush’s final season at USC. Bush has denied these allegations.
Ornstein was a guest on the USC sideline during games on at least two occasions. Since the Yahoo! Sports investigation into Bush broke, a source close to Ornstein said the agent no longer is welcome around the program.
The NCAA investigation into the alleged illegal benefits reportedly received by Mayo and Bush has been concurrent since the news about Mayo broke, escalating the case. The NCAA has had the same investigators working on charges surrounding both athletes since that time.
Sources who have been interviewed for the probe told Yahoo! Sports that NCAA officials Angie Cretors and Richard Johanningmeier have been on the case throughout the investigation. Cretors is an assistant director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities for the NCAA. Johanningmeier, a veteran of numerous investigations, is an associate director of enforcement.
The NCAA repeatedly has declined to elaborate on any facet of its investigation into USC, which dates back to April 2006, when Yahoo! Sports first broke the story of alleged extra benefits given to Trojans running back Reggie Bush and his family. However, various sources confirmed to Yahoo! Sports individuals who have been questioned by NCAA investigators. These individuals are believed to represent only a small fraction of the interviews that have taken place during the course of the probe.
Lloyd Lake: The co-founder of failed marketing company New Era Sports & Entertainment. Lake alleges that he and former partner Michael Michaels doled out nearly $300,000 in extra benefits to former USC running back Reggie Bush and his family during Bush’s sophomore and junior seasons. Lake provided an eyewitness account and materials to back up his claims, including receipts, documents and audio tapes of conversations with Bush and Bush’s stepfather, LaMar Griffin.
Barbara Gunner: The mother of Lloyd Lake. Gunner provided an eyewitness account to Bush and his family’s financial involvement with New Era Sports. She also turned over financial documents.
Lisa Lake: The sister of Lloyd Lake and an investor in New Era Sports. Lisa Lake provided an eyewitness account regarding Bush and his family’s involvement with the failed firm.
Lem Campbell: The former brother-in-law of Lloyd Lake. Campbell was a potential employee of New Era Sports and provided an eyewitness account to Bush and his family’s involvement with New Era Sports. He also backed up a claim by Lake that USC football coach Pete Carroll had contacted Bush’s stepfather inquiring about the new house the family had been provided by New Era founder Michael Michaels.
Lee Pfeifer: A former business partner of one-time Bush marketing agent Mike Ornstein. Pfeifer provided receipts for travel purchased by Ornstein’s firm for Bush’s family during the running back’s junior season at USC, including airline tickets, limousines and forms approving a hotel stay for Bush’s aunt under Ornstein’s credit card.
Bob DeMartino: A memorabilia dealer and former business associate of one-time Bush marketing agent Mike Ornstein. DeMartino provided an eyewitness account of a cash payment from Ornstein to Bush’s family prior to the 2005 Heisman Trophy ceremony. DeMartino also provided an account of emails he sent to the USC athletic department warning them of Bush’s involvement with Ornstein, as well as copies of emails from Ornstein soliciting marketing deals for Bush during the running back’s junior season with USC.
Maiesha Jones: The former girlfriend of Lloyd Lake. She provided eyewitness testimony to Bush’s involvement with New Era Sports, as well as corroboration of cash payments made from Lake to Bush.
Tommy Williams: Bush’s former USC teammate and roommate in an off-campus apartment. He was interviewed regarding various facets of the investigation.
Pete Carroll: The head coach of the USC football team. He has been questioned about various facets of the investigation.
Todd McNair: An assistant coach for the USC football program, he was questioned regarding his alleged relationship with Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels, as well as other facets of the investigation and Bush’s involvement with New Era.
Louis Johnson: A former member of USC basketball player O.J. Mayo’s inner circle. Johnson provided an eyewitness account to nearly $30,000 in extra benefits given to Mayo by Rodney Guillory, a known runner for sports agencies. Johnson also provided documents and receipts to back up his claims, as well as a first-hand account of a cash payment from USC basketball coach Tim Floyd to Guillory in February 2007.
Alisha Mayo: O.J. Mayo’s mother. She was interviewed about Mayo’s relationship with Rodney Guillory, as well as other facets of the investigation into the men’s basketball program.
Todd Mayo: O.J. Mayo’s brother. He was interviewed about Mayo’s relationship with Rodney Guillory, as well as other facets of the investigation into the men’s basketball program.
Tim Floyd: The head coach of the USC men’s basketball team. He has been questioned about various facets of the investigation.
Bob Cantu: An assistant coach for the USC men’s basketball team. He has been questioned about various facets of the investigation.
Mike Garrett: The USC athletic director. He has been questioned about various facets of the investigation.
Brian Barrio: The former director of compliance for USC. He was interviewed regarding various facets of the investigations into both the football and men’s basketball programs.
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