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Mayo denies he took improper benefits

He calls accusations 'a publicity stunt' and is convinced NCAA will find he did nothing wrong.

May 15, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Calling the accusations against him "a publicity stunt," O.J. Mayo on Wednesday emphatically denied allegations that he accepted cash and gifts in violation of NCAA rules and said his accuser might be striking back after he severed ties between them.

Mayo said he would cooperate with investigations by the NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference after a report he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in prohibited extra benefits before and during the one season he played basketball for USC.

"My family hasn't accepted anything, so I'm just waiting for the NCAA to do what they have to do to prove that I haven't done anything wrong," Mayo said.

Louis Johnson, a former Mayo confidant who worked as a sportswriter and has a cocaine conviction, claimed L.A. events promoter Rodney Guillory was given a new luxury sports utility vehicle and about $200,000 in cash, funneling a portion of what he received to Mayo on behalf of a sports agent.

Johnson, who made the accusations on a segment of ESPN's "Outside the Lines," said he was an associate of Guillory's before they had a falling out.

Mayo had just completed his last school final when he paused to speak to a reporter.

"I can't speak for what Rodney has done," he said. "God forbid, he hasn't done anything. But I know for a fact that I haven't accepted anything."

Johnson said the SUV and cash Guillory received came from Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management, and he produced receipts to show that Guillory had provided Mayo with food, clothes and other services.

When Mayo announced he was leaving USC to turn pro, he also announced that his agent would be BDA vice president Calvin Andrews.

Duffy told the SportsBusiness Journal late Tuesday that he had documentation proving his agency had not broken rules.

Mayo said he wasn't worried about the receipts because "you can get a [bunch] of receipts without any trail."

Johnson claimed a flat-screen television in Mayo's dorm room was a gift from Guillory, but Mayo said he had brought it with him from home in Huntington, W.Va.

Mayo also said he paid his own way when he went shopping and ate with Guillory.

"I understand compliance and I understand the rules," Mayo said. "Any meal, I wouldn't pay for everybody but I would at least pay my end. When I went to go shop every once in a while, [Guillory] might have taken me to the store in his vehicle, but he didn't pay for any clothes for me."

Mayo suggested Johnson was motivated by revenge. Mayo said he told Guillory to sever their relationship with Johnson because Johnson's conviction for attempting to sell cocaine "could be a distraction knowing how the NBA investigates" prospective players.

"I don't know if [Johnson] took it and wanted to come back after Rodney," Mayo said. "I heard that he's trying to do a book, so more than anything it could be a publicity stunt."

Mayo said he didn't feel betrayed by Johnson but that he was "mad at the fact that he said I accepted some money. I never have received money from Rodney, Louis, BDA or anything. All I got was a monthly $450 check from USC or I have friends and family that send me money."

Jeff Silberman, Johnson's attorney, denied that his client is motivated by publicity.

"The point of this story is to fix the system and avoid exploitation of future athletes and not in any way to hurt O.J.," Silberman said.

Mayo said that he and Guillory, who could not be reached for comment, had not spoken since the allegations surfaced and that he would rather keep their relationship "kind of distant until I get to the bottom of things."

"I pray and hope that Rodney hasn't accepted anything from any agents," said Mayo, adding that he was unaware of a fake charity from which Johnson said Guillory withdrew funds. "He definitely didn't persuade me toward BDA."

Mayo said he picked BDA because of his comfort level with Andrews and its list of clients that includes Steve Nash and Yao Ming.

Guillory's relationship with Mayo dates to the eighth grade, Mayo said, adding that his friend never attempted to steer him toward BDA or USC.

"I didn't come to USC because of Rodney . . . I came to better myself, get away from home," Mayo said. "That's why I got as far away as possible from home so I'd have time to focus on doing the right thing."

Mayo said he was aware of the trouble Guillory caused former college players Jeff Trepagnier and Tito Maddox, who came under NCAA scrutiny in 2000 for accepting free airline tickets from Guillory.

"I was looking for things like that and he never came across like that," Mayo said of Guillory.

Mayo apologized for the criticism directed at USC and Trojans Athletic Director Mike Garrett because of the allegations and said he was upset he had been portrayed in a light similar to that of former USC football star Reggie Bush, who has been accused of taking illegal extra benefits from a failed sports marketer.

"If you rode to my mother's house, it's still a two-bedroom house, one floor," Mayo said. "She still drives the same Toyota Corolla that she drove for the last three years and is still trying to meet ends. So for them to say I received $30,000 or whatever the case is, I definitely don't think that's enough to sell out myself and my family."

Following the interview, Mayo slipped into a new red Porsche Cayenne GTS with two friends and drove off, saying he was headed to Chicago for workouts in advance of next month's NBA draft.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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