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NCAA probes allegations of improper benefits to former USC athletes

NCAA is looking into allegations that two former USC athletes, running back Joe McKnight and basketball player Davon Jefferson received perks from former assessor's office employee Scott Schenter.

September 04, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • The NCAA is looking into accusations against former USC running back Joe McKnight.
The NCAA is looking into accusations against former USC running back Joe… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)

The NCAA is investigating allegations that two former USC athletes, running back Joe McKnight and basketball player Davon Jefferson, received cash and other improper benefits while competing for the Trojans.

"Any time the NCAA receives credible, new information regarding potential major violations we will look into the issue," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said Tuesday. "USC has been working cooperatively with us regarding the matter."

The Times reported Saturday that Scott Schenter, a key figure in the ongoing corruption scandal at the Los Angeles County assessor's office, said he gave cash and perks worth thousands of dollars to McKnight and Jefferson while they were still in school.

After The Times asked about the alleged payments, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said the school immediately informed the NCAA about the claims. After the report was published, Haden said the school would thoroughly investigate and "take any and all necessary actions."

USC Coach Lane Kiffin reiterated Tuesday that the Trojans would not be distracted by the McKnight situation and that they were focusing on Saturday's game against Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J.

Asked if the team would be distracted by the allegations, quarterback Matt Barkley said, "No," adding, "We don't talk about that stuff."

The NCAA has a four-year statute of limitations on rule violations. McKnight, now in the NFL with the New York Jets, played for USC from 2007 to 2009. Some of the alleged perks fall into that four-year span. Speaking generally, if it were found that violations occurred, a school could potentially be subject to penalties, Osburn said.

USC is on NCAA probation for violations related to former Trojans running back Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo. Penalties handed down in 2010 included a two-year bowl ban and the loss of scholarships.

If the NCAA were to find that violations occurred before the sanctions were handed down in June 2010, USC would not appear to be subject to "repeat violator" sanctions.

"For a school to be considered a repeat violator, at least one major violation must have occurred within five years after the penalty for the previous case," Osburn said, speaking generally and not about USC specifically.

The Times obtained Schenter's county work emails from the assessor's office under the California Public Records Act. A May 2008 email from Delta Air Lines to Schenter includes a receipt for his purchase of a $625 flight from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The listed passenger: "Joe McKnight." Schenter also told The Times that he gave McKnight a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which was referred to in a 2009 email from an automobile insurance agent.

Start spreading the news

Barkley and teammates are looking forward to playing at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and the Jets.

"It's a fun thing, especially to get some East Coast love," Barkley said of the trip.

The Trojans, who have not done stadium walk-throughs under Kiffin, will do one on Friday.

"It will be awesome just to see what it's like to play in an NFL stadium for the first time," receiver Robert Woods said.

Receiver Marqise Lee is looking forward to getting onto the field.

"They've got the turf so it's going to be really fast," he said. "Just to have the chance to go out there and play in a stadium like that is amazing."

Running back Silas Redd, the Penn State transfer, is looking forward to playing closer to his Connecticut home.

"It should be a fun, great atmosphere," he said. "I'm a Giants fan so it will be nice to play in their home field."

Quick hits

Aundrey Walker said it was "cool" to have his first start at left tackle behind him. "I was nervous but I thought it went well," he said of his performance against Hawaii. "I know I need to do better."… USC is 4-0 against Syracuse, including last season's 38-17 victory at the Coliseum.

gary.klein@latimes.com twitter.com/latimesklein

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