USC Should Be Punished for the Mayo Debacle

Ross Coleman

USC has been under fire for almost a year now for allegations that Reggie Bush may have received nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts during his stint as a Trojan – gifts that included a new home for his parents.

Taking gifts or money, as a college athlete, is an illegal act that can damage not only the school, but also the image of the athletes.

Now USC is back in the spotlight for having another questionable athlete on one of its sports teams.

O.J. Mayo has been labeled as a “can’t miss” basketball product since he was in junior high. As a result, his every move has been scrutinized. In a September 2007 article in Slam Magazine the world was introduced to Mayo’s confidant, Rodney Guillory.

Guillory is a name that USC should have remembered when they were recruiting Mayo. In 2000 Guillory was responsible for getting star USC player Jeff Trepagnier suspended for accepting airfare to Las Vegas.

Even then Guillory was someone who befriends potential clients and gives them gifts to entice them to sign with certain sports agencies.

That agency is BDA Sports, with whom Mayo signed last month when he announced that he would forego his final three years of eligibility at USC to enter the NBA draft.

It’s also the same agency that allegedly set up a credit card for Guillory in order to pay for Mayo’s plasma TV in his dorm room, hotels for Mayo and his friends, and many other expenses that most college students can’t afford.

The biggest question raised from the situation is what should the punishment be and who should be punished?

Well, both Mayo and Bush are no longer USC students. However, USC has a duty to keep tabs on any illegal activities of current students. That means USC should be held responsible for the actions of these two high profile students.

But what should the punishment be?
In the NCAA bylaws there is a seldom-used punishment that is referred to as “the death penalty,” the harshest punishment that the NCAA can use and it has only been enacted two other times in history.

The death penalty prevents a school from competing in certain sports for one to two seasons. It is the penalty that USC should face due to its blatant disregard for keeping tabs on its athletes.

The NCAA has been very careful about doling out the death penalty after the last time they used this harsh punishment.

In 1986 Southern Methodist University (SMU) faced allegations that football players were being paid to attend. This was just one year after the college was placed on three years probation for recruiting violations. As a result of the ensuing investigation SMU was given the death penalty.

The 1987 football season was canceled for SMU. Also all home games in 1988 were cancelled, they were banned from bowl games until 1990, the probation was also extended until 1990, the school lost 55 scholarships over the next four years, and finally, the football program was allowed to hire only five full-time assistant coaches instead of the customary nine.

Prior to the death penalty, SMU had a proud football program that many viewed as one of the top football schools in the country.

They played in the Southwest Conference, where they headlined the program. As a result of the death penalty, many players were unwilling to stay at, let alone come to SMU, to play. However, the most devastation was felt by the entire conference.

The Southwest Conference folded in 1996 because of the money lost during the punishment of SMU. The punishment was so devastating that it has never been given since, even during times when the punishment seemed fair.

Because of the activity that USC has allowed to occur with their two largest revenue producing programs, they should be given the death penalty.

It seems like there has been a blatant disregard for fair treatment of students on campus. It is evident that athletes are treated differently by the school. There is a lack of institutional control that needs to be enforced until the programs are clean enough to have an even playing field.

Yes, the death penalty has been labeled the atomic bomb of college sports, but USC is a different school than SMU.

During the time that SMU was punished, they were on the rise. The death penalty was really a death penalty. If it were given to USC, it would be more of a pruning. Cut out the bad and allow the healthy to grow.

The Pac10 Conference is one of the few conferences in college athletics that could sustain a team suffering the death penalty.

There are enough high-profile teams to keep the revenue of the conference at a maximum even without one of its top teams.

We may find that this is a norm in college sports, athletes being treated differently than everyone else. But it is important to make an example of such a high-profile school in order to scare all other schools into following the rules of the NCAA.