Who's to blame?

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

So the alliance between a Los Angeles event promoter with a history of NCAA trouble, a West Virginia high school hoops star and the University of Southern California has ended in a major media investigation concerning agents, illegal payouts and likely eligibility violations.

ESPN claims Rodney Guillory, on behalf of the sports agency Bill Duffy Associates, doled out some $30,000 to O.J. Mayo in cash, clothes and other gifts over the past four years. This includes his one at USC, which Guillory helped set up. Mayo turned pro last month and, of course, signed with BDA.

If you didn't see this one coming, don't feel bad, you're no more naive and gullible than NCAA president Myles Brand.

It's Mayo and the USC athletic department that are going to take the hits on this story and there is no feeling sorry for either of them.

Mayo knew the rules but couldn't live without the plasma in the dorm room.

USC knew about Guillory, who got one of its players suspended back in 2000, but couldn't live without Mayo's cross over.

Not telling coach Tim Floyd to take a pass on the most obvious recruiting red flag in years was about as foolish as the time USC figured nothing bad could happen by having Reggie Bush intern for a sports marketing agent who, surprise, surprise, wanted to sign him.

But as brazenly dumb as the entire O.J. Mayo/USC fiasco is, the entire circumstance was created when Myles Brand decided to sell the NCAA's soul to David Stern's 19-year-old age limit.

Brand welcomed the one-and-done phenom for whatever ratings bump they provide. In doing so, he stomped on everything his organization claims to stand for – education, amateurism, fairness, et al. He made the likes of O.J. Mayo inevitable.

The reality for college basketball isn't whether there was one potential lottery pick who got paid by agents; it's whether there is one who didn't.

Sunday one agent claimed barring the unusual exception, you can't sign "a top-15 player in the draft unless you have invested $100,000 with the kid (or his people) already."

Another source said at least four agencies were active in getting Mayo, BDA just won out. And last week agent David Falk told CNBC that one agent paid $500,000 for a player this year. Every agent knows which player he is talking about.

Half a million might sound outlandish until you do the math and realize an agent can get between four and 10 percent commission on various contracts, including endorsements. A great player can easily earn $100 million in just a few years.

What businessman wouldn't pay $500,000 to get, say, $7 million back?

What player or his handlers wouldn't ask for it?

Only Brand could pretend that NCAA rules can stop the machine of American capitalism. Only he could think that agents, financial planners, shoe companies and so on are going to just give up on making a buck and pretend they don't know O.J. Mayo's true worth.

The NCAA can run as many commercials as it wants but there are thousands of NCAA student-athletes and some of them know how to count.

Mayo, according to ESPN, made a verbal deal with BDA's Calvin Andrews in the ninth grade. This isn't uncommon for a prospect of his ability and reputation. Current New Orleans Hornets center Tyson Chandler once said he met his first agent when he was in junior high.

The difference is Chandler was never the NCAA's compliance headache. He was allowed to play professional basketball after graduating from high school. Mayo was forced to play charades.

Mayo never had much interest or use for college, which is fine. It's not for everyone. But Stern had in an interest to using college to clean the image and promote the play of incoming rookies, so off to campus it was for O.J. and dozens like him to pretend this made sense.

The NCAA went right along. It might always like to blame all its problems on the underworld of basketball but when the chance came to get a quick talent influx they invited it right back into the house.

Agents control the recruiting process for top players these days. They get them young and then divvy them off to schools to rent for a year and then get them back for the draft. It's the case for virtually all the major players at all the major schools.

And everyone inside the game knows it. The folks at NCAA included, they just pretend otherwise.

The blame will assuredly fall on Mayo since a supposed greedy kid is an easy target. The truth is he was forced to operate in a business model that can't work.

The best thing for the NCAA is to fight Stern's age limit as best it can and stop the forced hammering of square pegs into round holes.

Brand, of course, is doing the opposite. He even got CBS to run a propaganda special during the Final Four where he and Stern sat together and concluded they needed "more cooperation" – i.e. a 20-year-old age limit.

If Brand wants to continue to invite the inevitable evisceration of his rule book, he should at least increase the budget for investigators (for the agent scandals) and whiteout (for the vacating of the record books).

One thing you can be sure of, it won't be long before this most predictable of scandals ends in the most predictable of ways – the NCAA declaring the 2007-08 Trojans season never happened. Every game will be forfeited. O.J. Mayo's name will be stricken from the record books.

It'll be the ultimate cleansing for the sins of the father.

What to Read Next