Former USC men's basketball coach Tim Floyd once described the distant treatment he received from Trojans Athletic Director Mike Garrett as "a bitter pill."
Floyd's bitterness about the events that led to his resignation last June could be in evidence Thursday when the school goes before the NCAA's infractions committee at a hearing in Tempe, Ariz.
USC officials will defend their athletic department against college rules violations. Floyd's attorney said he would appear at the hearing.
Floyd quit shortly after a story by Yahoo Sports emerged with an allegation that Floyd once paid the advisor to former USC player O.J. Mayo an estimated $1,000 inside a Beverly Hills cafe. The allegation came from Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle and a past associate to ex-Mayo advisor Rodney Guillory, who helped orchestrate Mayo's move from a West Virginia high school to USC for the 2007-08 season.
In recent interviews with The Times and New Orleans Times-Picayune, Floyd has also talked about his displeasure with Garrett. "Mike's reputation took precedence over the truth;" Floyd said, adding that Garrett didn't support him when it mattered most, and that "the athletic director was more worried about himself than our program."
Floyd's appearance at the infractions committee hearing is not unusual, said Tom Yeager, a former chairman of the committee. Yeager said coaches tied to university scandals have appeared to "clear their name."
Floyd has told those close to him that he welcomes the opportunity to talk about "the truth" of his USC experience in the right setting.
The potential for a contentious NCAA hearing is ripe.
Yeager, the commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Assn., served on the infractions committee from 1997 to 2006. The most heated exchanges during hearings were between coaches and their former employers, he said.
"There were times where staff just kind of threw the ball into play and didn't say another word for another hour because the [former] coach and institution were going back and forth," Yeager said. "The committee really looked at protecting everybody's interest in the room. There were times where we felt an institution was throwing a coach under the bus improperly. One hearing we had, that became evident and [we] dismissed everything against the coach and said, 'Go home.' "
Floyd declined this week to answer questions about his infractions committee appearance. A USC spokesman declined to answer questions about Floyd's role in the hearing.
Floyd has previously said that USC blessed Mayo's entry into the school with full knowledge of his connection to Guillory. A Los Angeles events promoter, Guillory formerly had a relationship with another USC basketball player, Jeff Trepagnier, who was disciplined in 2000 for accepting airline tickets provided by Guillory. At the time, Guillory was tied to some would-be player agents from Las Vegas.
Garrett was USC's athletic director in 2000, and the school's veteran faculty athletic representative, Noel Ragsdale, was also familiar with Guillory's past transgression, Floyd has noted. Ragsdale could not be reached for comment this week.
"There was a sort of willful blindness" about USC's recruitment of Mayo, said Anthony V. Salerno, Louis Johnson's attorney. "People knew in AAU [club basketball] circles that Mayo was linked to [the player agency Bill Duffy Associates], that he would end up signing with them. An in-depth investigation wasn't required on USC's part. I'm sure they have recruiting contacts they could have checked with."
Floyd told the New York Times before the 2007-08 season how Guillory facilitated Mayo's arrival in Southern California. But no one publicly alleged that Guillory was again operating as an agent's "runner" until Johnson appeared on ESPN after Mayo's freshman season.
Mayo left USC after one season and now is a starter for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. Mayo has maintained that he did nothing wrong at USC.
USC's case will now be resolved by the NCAA's ultimate jury.
"The university did everything it could to find out if this guy was involved with an agent," Floyd once said of Mayo. "Someone from the university even said, 'Until we find out differently, it's irresponsible not to recruit him.' "
Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.