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USC’s Mayo reportedly took gifts that violate NCAA rules

Times Staff Writer

Allegations that a Los Angeles events promoter provided USC basketball star O.J. Mayo tens of thousands of dollars in cash and benefits, if proved, could lead to the Trojans facing forfeiture of victories or more serious sanctions.

Rodney Guillory provided Mayo with a flat-screen television, cellphone service, cash, meals, clothes and other benefits dating back to when the top NBA prospect entered high school, according to Louis Johnson, a former confidant of Mayo, who made the allegations on the ESPN show “Outside the Lines,” which aired Sunday morning.

Supplying expense receipts and money transfer orders to corroborate his account, Johnson said Guillory was acting as a representative for Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management, the agency who Mayo recently announced would represent him as a pro. In that capacity, Johnson told ESPN, Guillory received more than $200,000 in cash and benefits, including a sports utility vehicle, sharing only a fraction of what he received with Mayo.

And when the agency stopped paying Guillory the summer before Mayo enrolled at USC, Johnson said Guillory set up a fake charity and used donation money to fund his expenses.

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Neither Guillory, Mayo or Johnson could be reached by The Times on Sunday.

“The fact of the matter is, O.J. has been pimped by Rodney,” Johnson said in the ESPN report. Johnson, a former reporter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, recently had a falling out with Guillory and said he spoke because he wanted to bring the matter to the public’s attention and “force O.J. to make some changes in his life . . . that he desperately needs right now.”

Guillory’s alleged actions constitute the second set of potentially major violations recently to rock USC, which is still dealing with an NCAA investigation into whether former football running back Reggie Bush received improper benefits from a would-be sports marketer.

Asked whether her organization would look into the Mayo matter, NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said the organization’s policies prohibit any comment on whether investigations are pending or ongoing.

A compliance director for another West Coast university, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to comment about other schools, said potential penalties facing USC would hinge on whether school officials were aware of wrongdoing. Penalties could include forfeiture of victories, probation, loss of television appearances, scholarship losses or other recruiting restrictions.

Mayo denied any wrongdoing in a statement to ESPN, saying, “I have been through investigations by the NCAA, the Pac-10 and USC before I attended school and during the time I have been here. . . . If these claims were true I would suspect they would have been discovered by one of these organizations.”

Johnson said he and Guillory traveled to several of Mayo’s high school games when he was a senior at Huntington (W.Va.) High to build a relationship on behalf of BDA Sports Management in hopes that the phenom would eventually sign with the agency. Mayo, on the day last month he declared for the NBA draft, said he had hired BDA vice president Calvin Andrews as his agent.

BDA represents a number of NBA stars, including Denver Nuggets All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Mayo was forced to pay $460 to charity in January after saying he accepted complimentary tickets from Anthony to attend a Lakers game at Staples Center.

BDA, which is prohibited by law from providing cash or other benefits to college athletes, denied any improper conduct in a statement to ESPN.

“There were absolutely no illegalities in our recruitment of O.J. Mayo nor were there any agreements or understandings toward his selection of BDA,” the statement said. “O.J. Mayo’s decision to choose BDA as his representation firm had absolutely no bearing on anything other than O.J. recognizing our achievements and firmly believing that BFA will provide the guidance for him to reach his goals and attain great success.”

Guillory and Mayo’s friendship dates to 2003, when they met during a tournament run by Guillory, who later informed USC Coach Tim Floyd that Mayo was interested in playing for the Trojans.

Floyd could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, USC asserted that “the NCAA and the Pac-10 reviewed O.J. Mayo’s amateur status before and during his enrollment at USC, and did not identify any amateurism violations. . . . Mayo and USC fully cooperated in these investigations.”

Mayo told ESPN in his statement that Guillory “has been a positive influence on me as well as a strong African American male presence in my life. Recently, my mother had the opportunity to spend time with Rodney as well, and has shared her appreciation for the way he has always treated me like I was family when I was so far away from home. I have nothing but respect for Rodney.”

On “Outside the Lines,” Mayo’s mother was shown saying she didn’t trust Guillory.

Guillory had a previous association with former USC player Jeff Trepagnier, who was suspended a month by then-Coach Henry Bibby during the 2000-01 season in part because he had accepted complimentary airline tickets along with Fresno State’s Tito Maddox. The NCAA later cleared Trepagnier of any wrongdoing.

Former sneaker executive Sonny Vaccaro, a friend who said he had Mayo over to his home for several meals during the basketball season, said he did not believe Mayo was complicit in any misconduct.

“He’s a bright kid,” Vaccaro said. “I would be shocked if something was happening and he was part of it.”

Vaccaro said he advised Mayo not to let anyone “own your soul because you’re going to make a lot of money some day and to give it all out because someone gave you $5 today isn’t worth it.”

If Mayo was accepting lavish gifts, Vaccaro said, it didn’t show.

“He didn’t have anything,” Vaccaro said. “He told me he had a bicycle to ride around campus. There weren’t any material things that I witnessed. There were no watches and diamonds and chains around his neck. He couldn’t go home [for Christmas break] and stuff like that.”

Before he enrolled at USC, Mayo told The Times that he had distanced himself from any overtures from would-be agents.

“I haven’t gotten any benefits, nothing,” he said before playing in the McDonald’s All-American high school game in March 2007. “I still live in the same house, my momma drives the same car, she has the same job. . . . As long as we have goals, we’re not going to have time for the agents and stuff. We’re all going to be focused. We all have the same goal, to win a national championship.”

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ben.bolch@latimes.com


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