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O.J. Mayo with USC basketball coach Tim Floyd in 2008.
(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES – USC men's basketball coach Tim Floyd made a direct cash payment to a man who helped deliver O.J. Mayo to the Trojans program, according to Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle.
Johnson, a one-time Mayo confidant, has told both NCAA investigators and federal authorities – including the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office – that Floyd gave at least $1,000 in cash to Rodney Guillory, a man who allegedly lavished Mayo with improper benefits while the guard starred for the Trojans.
Such an act would constitute a major NCAA violation for USC, which is the subject of an ongoing three-year investigation into alleged improprieties in both the football and men's basketball programs.
Approached by Yahoo! Sports at his California residence on Friday, Guillory declined to comment. A message left on Floyd's cell phone Tuesday was not immediately returned. The NCAA and USC also declined to comment.
"As you know, USC can't comment on any issue that's the subject of an ongoing NCAA and Pac-10 investigation," USC general counsel Carol Mauch Amir said.
The revelation involving Floyd is the latest allegation put forth by Johnson, who described Guillory to Yahoo! Sports as a long-time "runner" who steered Mayo to the Bill Duffy Associates (BDA) sports agency. Johnson said Guillory received between $200,000 and $250,000 from BDA Sports for his efforts, which resulted in Mayo initially signing with BDA when he left USC after one season for the NBA in April 2008.
BDA spokesperson Ilana Nunn declined to comment on the relationship between BDA and Guillory.
Johnson also said Mayo received approximately $30,000 in extra benefits from Guillory before he came to USC and while playing for the Trojans. He first made those allegations to ESPN's "Outside The Lines" in May 2008, producing a litany of receipts to back up his claims, including purchases of food, clothing and a 42-inch flat-screen TV for Mayo. Mayo broke off his relationship with BDA Sports shortly after the ESPN report aired. Mayo denied those allegations to reporters on several occasions. His agent, Leon Rose, didn't return calls to his office and cell phones.
Floyd's alleged financial involvement with Guillory is a potentially damaging new twist for USC. It was disclosed to Yahoo! Sports last week by Johnson's attorneys, Anthony V. Salerno and David Murphy. The attorneys confirmed that Johnson had gone on the record with his account of the payment twice: first in a group interview in front of the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office on May 28, 2008, and again in the second of two interviews with NCAA investigators, which took place last week. Two members of USC's outside counsel also took part in the second NCAA interview and heard Johnson's account of Floyd's alleged payment. Salerno added that Johnson's account to federal authorities carried the threat of potential prosecution if Johnson was found to be lying.
“It was clearly money in contemplation of inducing O.J. to go through with the decision [to play at USC]. That was the understanding that Louis had – that this was money from Floyd to Guillory for them to go out and have a great weekend. It was the inducement for Guillory's efforts in delivering [Mayo to sign with USC].”
– David Murphy, Louis Johnson's attorney
"Louis knew that if he didn't tell the truth in that meeting, he'd be in the same boat that Martha Stewart was in for deceiving federal authorities," Salerno said. "The agreement that he was under, the explicit agreement was that he had to be completely truthful in his statement. Lying to a federal agent is a whole crime unto itself. If you're going to talk to them at all, you have to tell the truth."
Johnson also confirmed his allegation of Floyd's payment to Yahoo! Sports.
"It's a complete and accurate depiction of the event I observed between Tim Floyd and Rodney Guillory," Johnson said.
Johnson told the NCAA and federal authorities the payment took place in the week leading up to the 2007 NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas – three months after Mayo committed to USC while finishing his final year of high school. His attorneys said Johnson perceived the payment as an extension of Floyd's gratitude for Guillory's delivery of Mayo to USC.
"It was clearly money in contemplation of inducing O.J. to go through with the decision [to play at USC]," Murphy said. "That was the understanding that Louis had – that this was money from Floyd to Guillory for them to go out and have a great weekend. It was the inducement for Guillory's efforts in delivering [Mayo to sign with USC]."
The following is Johnson's account of the payment as told to Yahoo! Sports.
On Feb. 14, 2007, Johnson and Guillory packed up Guillory's black Infiniti SUV and were preparing for the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to attend the NBA All-Star weekend. Before they left, Guillory informed Johnson several times that he had to meet with Floyd so the coach could give him cash for the trip. Sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Guillory and Johnson headed toward Beverly Hills to meet with Floyd. During the drive, Johnson listened as Guillory and Floyd exchanged several cell phone calls as Floyd explained where the meeting would take place.
Upon arriving in Beverly Hills, Guillory pulled up to a stretch of cafes in the downtown shopping district, where Floyd was waiting on the sidewalk. Because there were no parking spaces, Guillory asked Johnson to circle the block in the SUV until Guillory was ready to be picked up. Johnson exited the passenger side of the vehicle, at which point Johnson saw Floyd and the two exchanged greetings. Johnson then got into the driver's seat and proceeded to circle the block while Guillory and Floyd met.
After approximately 15 minutes, Johnson saw Guillory waiting on the curb in front of the stretch of cafes and pulled over to pick him up. Once Guillory was inside the vehicle, he produced a white envelope with cash inside. Guillory told Johnson that Floyd had given him "a grand," and Johnson was able to view $100 bills inside the envelope. He said he believed there appeared to be "substantially" more than $1,000, although he did not count the bills.
A former sports writer who worked for the Long Beach Press-Telegram for 16 years, Johnson told Yahoo! Sports he befriended Guillory while covering the prep basketball circuit in California in the late 1990s. That bond eventually extended into a friendship with Mayo, whom Johnson said he got to know through Guillory in the summer of 2006. Johnson said he took several trips with Guillory to spend time with Mayo during the player's senior year at Huntington High School in Huntington, W.Va., in the 2006-07 season. And once Mayo arrived at USC, Johnson was a consistent member of the player's inner circle along with Guillory.
However, Johnson's relationship with Mayo and Guillory deteriorated in March 2008. He said his eventual break from the inner circle – and his decision to go public with allegations of extra benefits – occurred for two reasons. First, he became increasingly disturbed by what he viewed as Mayo being "pimped" by Guillory, whom Johnson alleged was receiving thousands of dollars on a monthly basis from BDA Sports. BDA declined to comment. Second, Johnson said he feared retribution from other members of Mayo's inner circle whom he believes felt threatened by Johnson's relationship with Mayo.
"The problem that happens in these situations is G-R-E-E-D, first and foremost, and then P-O-W-E-R," Johnson said. "Those two things kill these types of situations all the time. People get greedy and people get power-hungry. Once that happens, that's it.
"I tried to talk to Rodney about putting an end to what was going on [around Mayo] before it got any more out of hand. But he had no interest in that. He had blinders on. The money was all right there, and he didn't care necessarily what was going to happen."
It was that fallout that led to Johnson's appearance on ESPN's "Outside The Lines." He told Yahoo! Sports that he withheld the information about the payment from Floyd to Guillory at that time because he has family in Southern California and didn't want it to appear that he was "taking down USC." However, the information about the alleged Floyd payment was divulged to federal authorities, who sought an interview with Johnson as part of an investigation into Guillory and his dealings with Mayo.
The allegation regarding Floyd could be a significant point in the NCAA's probe of USC. The NCAA could determine that the school showed lack of institutional control or failure to monitor. According to NCAA guidelines, any cash payment from Floyd to Mayo or one of Mayo's associates would be considered an extra benefit. And a payment to Guillory would appear to be particularly damning because of Guillory's prior history with the NCAA.
Guillory previously was investigated in 2000 for his involvement with former USC basketball player Jeff Trepagnier and former Fresno State basketball player Tito Maddox. USC briefly suspended Trepagnier for his involvement with Guillory in 2000, but Trepagnier later was cleared of any charges. However, the NCAA found that Guillory had broken NCAA rules by purchasing airfare for Maddox. Later, Maddox painted Guillory as the go-between who helped arrange delivery of cars and cash payments – some payments coming directly from Guillory, according to published reports.
Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports that Guillory is under investigation by the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office for his alleged dealings with Mayo. Sources have told Yahoo! Sports that federal authorities are particularly interested in Guillory's use of a credit card linked to a fraudulent sickle cell foundation. Johnson said the card linked to the foundation was used to make purchases for Mayo after BDA Sports stopped providing Guillory with funds. The foundation was set up by one of Guillory's friends, Tony Hicks, who also is being investigated by the FBI for his involvement. Hicks could not be reached for comment.
Spokespersons for the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.
Charles Robinson is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Charles a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast. Jason Cole is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.