The NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference on Monday opened an investigation into whether former USC basketball player O.J. Mayo received benefits in violation of college rules before and during the one season he played for the Trojans.
Allegations that the top NBA prospect received gifts totaling tens of thousands of dollars were made by former Mayo confidant Louis Johnson during a segment on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that was broadcast Sunday. USC issued a statement that it was working with both groups "in a cooperative investigation to review these new allegations."
At the center of the controversy is Rodney Guillory, a Los Angeles-based events promoter who Johnson said funneled to Mayo, in the form of a high-tech television, cash, clothes and other services, a portion of more than $200,000 provided to Guillory by Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management.
Last month, on the day he announced he was making himself available for the NBA draft, Mayo said that he had selected BDA's Calvin Andrews as his agent.
BDA in a statement denied "any conduct . . . that could have remotely jeopardized O.J. Mayo's collegiate eligibility."
Attempts by The Times to reach Mayo and Guillory on Monday failed. In a statement issued through BDA Sports to ESPN, Mayo denied he had taken part in any wrongdoing, supported Guillory as "a strong African American male presence in my life," and said he'd already been cleared during previous investigations by the NCAA and Pac-10.
Responding to the allegations on Sunday, USC in a statement also alluded to previous examinations of Mayo that "did not identify any amateurism violations." Those reviews, conducted by the school's compliance office in conjunction with conference and NCAA authorities, were extensive, said a source with knowledge of the situation who wouldn't speak unless guaranteed anonymity.
In a statement to The Times on Monday, the NCAA said the allegations made on the ESPN show were "new to the NCAA. This information was not available when the NCAA examined Mr. Mayo's academic and amateurism status prior to his collegiate enrollment, and we will review the information in conjunction with the institution and the Pac-10 conference."
There could also be criminal investigations. California law prohibits sports agents from providing cash or gifts to student athletes, and Johnson also alleged that Guillory used donation money from a fake charity for his expenses after BDA cut off payments to him last summer.
A check Monday found that the National Organization of Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation is not registered with the state attorney general's charitable trust office as required by law, although it has filed other state documents.
The sickle cell organization registered with the state Franchise Tax Board in 1999, and subsequently received tax-exempt status. A board spokesman said it appeared that the group had not filed any tax returns since then, perhaps because it had raised less than $25,000 each year, the threshold for submitting a return.
A search of a leading database of federal tax returns for charities also found no record of the foundation. The IRS has a similar $25,000 threshold for filing returns.
Attempts to reach Amonra Elohim, who is listed on state forms as the head of the foundation, were unsuccessful. ESPN identified Elohim as an alias for Guillory friend Tony Hicks, who also appears on the state forms as onetime chief executive of the group.
Times staff writers Gary Klein and Paul Pringle contributed to this report.
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The key players
The NCAA has opened an investigation into allegations that O.J. Mayo received cash and other gifts before he enrolled at USC and during the time he played for the Trojans basketball team, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. Here's a who's who of those involved in the story:
* O.J. Mayo -- A 6-foot-5 guard from Huntington, W. Va., he raised eyebrows with his choice of USC over more successful college basketball programs. The leading scorer for the Trojans last season as a freshman, he recently announced that he would enter the NBA draft and is considered a likely lottery pick.
* Louis Johnson -- Former Long Beach Press-Telegram sportswriter and Mayo confidant told ESPN that a Los Angeles-based events promoter provided the player with a flat-screen TV, cellphone service, cash, meals, clothes and other benefits dating to when Mayo first entered high school.
* Rodney Guillory -- The man Johnson says received more than $200,000 in cash and benefits from BDA Sports Management and used a portion of it to fete Mayo with gifts in violation of college rules. He has longtime ties to the L.A. basketball scene and was identified by the NCAA in 2001 as a "runner" for another sports agency, which led to sanctions against Fresno State and one of its players.
* Bill Duffy -- Chairman and CEO of BDA Sports Management, which allegedly paid Guillory to influence Mayo's choice of sports agents. Mayo recently announced that BDA would represent him as a professional.
* Calvin Andrews -- The BDA agent who Mayo says will represent him.
* Tito Maddox -- Former Compton High star and Fresno State player says Guillory, who befriended him in 1998, arranged for him and his family to receive about $30,000 and cars from a Las Vegas-based agent in violation of NCAA rules.
* Jeff Trepagnier -- Another Compton High product, he was suspended by USC during the 2000-01 season for accepting airfare to Las Vegas from Guillory. He plays for Pau in the French league.
* Ron Delpit -- Former president of now-defunct Las Vegas-based agency Franchise Sports, which the NCAA implicated in sanctioning Maddox and others.
Los Angeles Times