Former USC basketball player O.J. Mayo, a projected lottery pick in this year's NBA draft, received thousands of dollars in cash, clothes and other benefits in apparent violation of rules while he was still in high school and during his one year in college, a former Mayo associate told ESPN's "Outside the Lines."
Reached by ESPN.com after the show, Mayo denied the claims. He declined comment to "Outside the Lines" before the airing of the show.
Louis Johnson, who was a part of Mayo's inner circle until recently, said Mayo accepted around $30,000 in cash and gifts during the past four years from Rodney Guillory, a 43-year-old Los Angeles event promoter. In addition to cash, the gifts included a flat-screen television for Mayo's dorm room, cell phone service, a hotel room, clothes, meals and airline tickets for Mayo's friends and a relative, according to Johnson and others with knowledge of the gifts and store receipts.
When Mayo was in high school in Ohio and West Virginia, Guillory was receiving monthly payments from the Northern California sports agency Bill Duffy Associates. Johnson said that BDA provided Guillory with around $200,000 before Mayo arrived at USC, and that Guillory used most of the money to support his own lifestyle but also gave a portion of it to Mayo.
In exchange for the payments and gifts, Mayo entered a verbal agreement to allow BDA to represent him when he turned pro, Johnson told "Outside the Lines."
Reached late Sunday night, Mayo told ESPN.com, "I don't know anything about it. It caught me by surprise. I've got to get to L.A. to see what's going on. I'm just focusing on the draft."
Mayo, who talked to ESPN.com using the same cell phone number that Guillory had provided for him (according to T-Mobile phone records and independent verification by "Outside The Lines"), said he didn't speak with anyone from USC on Sunday and reiterated that he had no knowledge of money going from BDA to him. Attempts by ESPN.com to reach USC were unsuccessful Sunday.
"I had no knowledge of anything like that. I'll find out more when I meet with Mr. Duffy and Mr. [Calvin] Andrews [of BDA]," Mayo said.
Mayo said he talked to Guillory on Sunday after the story aired. Mayo said he didn't watch it but was told about the piece. He said he was back home in West Virginia visiting his mother for Mother's Day.
When asked specifically if he received any money from Guillory, Mayo said, "No sir, I did not receive any money from Calvin or Rodney or anything. It all caught me by surprise."
Providing athletes with money or other benefits is a violation, according to NCAA rules.
The NCAA released a statement Monday, saying: "The allegations of improper benefits received by O.J. Mayo before and during his enrollment at the University of Southern California -- as outlined in ESPN's May 11, 2008, segment of 'Outside the Lines' -- are 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."
In California, it's a misdemeanor for sports agents and their representatives to provide cash or gifts to student-athletes.
Mayo played one season at USC before declaring for the NBA draft in April. He named Andrews his agent.
Johnson also said that Duffy's company helped Guillory purchase a $50,000 Infiniti SUV from a Northern California car dealership co-owned by former USC and San Francisco 49ers defensive back Ronnie Lott and his 49ers teammate, Keena Turner.
After Duffy's company quit funding Guillory last year, Johnson says Guillory gave Mayo the flat-screen television, a hotel room and meals -- and paid for it with a credit card that belongs to a nonprofit organization called The National Organization of Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation. The organization has never been registered as a charitable trust with the California attorney general's office. Mary E. Brown, president and CEO of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, said she had never heard of the foundation through which Guillory charged purchases.
Johnson provided "Outside the Lines" with receipts and invoices for many of the purchases, including the cell phone service.
Mayo told ESPN.com: "I would just like to know if I did [get money], where did the money go? I was a struggling college student like everyone else. I bicycled to class. The truth will come out, even though the perception is reality."
On Monday, Duffy told The Associated Press: "From what I can see, those receipts were from his purchases. We had nothing to do with that. I don't even know who this Lou Johnson guy is."
Johnson said he believes USC officials were unaware that Guillory was providing cash and other benefits to Mayo. He did say that members of the USC coaching staff had regular contact with Guillory.
Johnson has had his own troubles in the past. A couple of years after initially meeting Guillory and Mayo, he was unemployed and received a suspended sentence and probation after being charged with selling cocaine.
He received support from Guillory and Mayo during that time.
"I was literally at the lowest point I've ever been in before, and that situation, that 'belonging' at that time for me was the boost I needed to keep me going," Johnson told OTL.
Guillory also was involved with former USC basketball player Jeff Trepagnier, who was suspended in 2000 for taking illegal benefits. (The NCAA ruled that Guillory had purchased airfare for Trepagnier and Fresno State's Tito Maddox; the NCAA later cleared Trepagnier of any wrongdoing.)
Of Guillory, Mayo said in a statement: "Rodney has been a positive influence on me as well as a strong African-American male presence in my life. Recently, my mother had the opportunity to spend time with Rodney as well, and has shared her appreciation for the way he has always treated me like I was family when I was so far away from home. I have nothing but respect for Rodney."
Mayo, officials at Bill Duffy Associates and officials at USC all declined to be interviewed by "Outside the Lines."
BDA sent a statement to ESPN.com Sunday night.
"Bill Duffy met O.J. for the first time shortly before O.J. selected BDA as his agency. Neither Calvin Andrews, Bill Duffy, nor any other BDA employee engaged in any conduct that could have remotely jeopardized O.J. Mayo's eligibility," the statement said. "Everything in the recent report that suggests otherwise is false. O.J. selected BDA based on our achievements and our commitment to work closely with O.J. to maximize his considerable potential on and off the court."
Late Sunday night, Duffy told ESPN.com by phone that he "didn't give Rodney any money. Did I set up a bank account for Rodney? No. That's absolutely ludicrous.
"My understanding is that Rodney mortgaged his house and was doing everything possible to maintain a close relationship with O.J. at O.J.'s request."
Duffy went on to say, "We didn't give O.J. one dime. I was told that O.J. had an exemplary year on campus and was riding his bike to class. We've got 80 clients who we put our heart and soul working for and we're not in a position where we have to buy clients."
Duffy's statement contradicts what a BDA representative told "Outside The Lines" reporter Kelly Naqi in January. The representative said at that time that Duffy had met briefly with Mayo "a couple of times" and that he was "a nice kid." The representative also said that Duffy felt it would be inappropriate to comment on Mayo at all based on the fact that Mayo was an underclassman and Duffy was an agent.
USC issued a statement, saying: "The NCAA and the Pac-10 reviewed O.J. Mayo's amateur status before and during his enrollment at USC, and did not identify any amateurism violations. Mayo and USC fully cooperated in these investigations. The University investigated and reported a violation involving Mayo's receipt of tickets to a Denver Nuggets game from his friend Carmelo Anthony. Mayo's eligibility was reinstated after he made a charitable contribution in the amount of the value of the tickets."
When asked by ESPN.com if he would meet with the NCAA to discuss the allegations, Mayo said, "Of course. I have no problem. I did it before [when he received Lakers tickets] and I'll do it again."
When asked if he was aware of any violations he may have committed, Mayo said, "Not at all."
The next step in the Mayo story will come from the Pac-10 and the NCAA.
A source with knowledge of the process told ESPN.com that the NCAA enforcement staff, along with the NCAA eligibility clearinghouse and a newly formed NCAA staff that deals with agents, gambling and amateurism, will evaluate the information and determine whether there is a hint of responsibility on USC's part. The questions will be: Did USC know, and should USC have known?
If Mayo did violate rules, the ultimate penalty, once the process is played out with a notice of allegations and a meeting with the committee on infractions, could be vacating of games and records.
USC released a statement on Monday regarding the school's reponse to an NCAA evaluation.
"We are in contact with the NCAA and the Pac-10 and are working with both in a cooperative investigation to review these new allegations."
Since Mayo signed with BDA, he lost his collegiate eligibility, so penalizing Mayo at this point is moot.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association will also look into the allegations that Mayo received payments while at North College Hill High School, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
It was not clear if the team would have to forfeit its Division III boys' basketball state titles from 2005 and '06.
"In digesting things for a day and talking to other staff members, it is more accurate to say that we cannot answer that [forfeits] question at this point," OHSAA assistant commissioner Bob Goldring told The Enquirer via e-mail. "We would have to know the exact details of the findings, have proof that they were indeed true and then determine if any of the bylaws would be applicable."
NBA commissioner David Stern, in Cleveland to attend the Cavaliers' playoff game against the Boston Celtics, said the league can work with the NCAA, shoe companies, USA Basketball, and high school and coaches associations to protect the athletes.
"Maybe this is the opportunity to do more education about what's right and what's wrong, who to trust and who not, and what the risks are for making bad decisions," Stern said. "It's not our primary sort of role here, but we understand there is a role to be played."
Johnson told ESPN he did not get paid but hoped to profit once Mayo made it to the NBA. He said he fell out of favor with Mayo because Guillory created a strain in the relationship by misrepresenting things Johnson allegedly said about Mayo and, eventually, sabotaging their relationship.
Mayo told ESPN.com on Sunday night that he plans to return to Los Angeles to "finish school." He also said that he would work out in Chicago under trainer Tim Grover before heading to Orlando for the pre-draft physicals May 27-June 2.
Mayo, who sat courtside for Game 4 of the Boston-Cleveland second-round playoff series Monday night, said he was hoping to get more information about the situation when he returned to school.
"I don't think it's good just because I'm really focused on the job, really wanting to do well on my workouts and my preparation, but at the same time it's kind of a road block, another obstacle," Mayo told The Associated Press. "I just want to get to the bottom of it and just find out what's really going on."
ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz contributed to this report.