USC vows to investigate allegations of Joe McKnight perks
USC on Saturday vowed investigate allegations that a former county appraiser provided a car and a plane ticket to former USC football star Joe McKnight.
The Times reported Saturday that a key figure in the ongoing corruption investigation at the Los Angeles County assessor's office said he gave cash and perks worth thousands of dollars to McKnight and former basketball player Davon Jefferson.
In a statement released Saturday, USC said: "We have just learned of new allegations presented by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. We have discussed those allegations with the NCAA and PAC-12, and we will thoroughly investigate them and take any and all necessary actions.
Here is the full statement from USC athletic director Pat Haden:
When allegations regarding Joe McKnight's use of a Land Rover arose in 2009, USC fully investigated the matter. All of the information related to the investigation was sent to the NCAA. The NCAA staff accepted the report, and no violation was processed. "We have just learned of new allegations presented by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. We have discussed those allegations with the NCAA and PAC-12, and we will thoroughly investigate them and take any and all necessary actions.
Since my 2010 appointment as USC's Athletic Director, in conjunction with USC President Max Nikias and Dave Roberts, our Vice President for Athletic Compliance, we have diligently worked to enhance a culture of compliance throughout the Athletic Department and the University. We have been a national leader in athletic compliance matters, holding national conferences on issues impacting intercollegiate athletics such as agents, non-scholastic football 7 on 7 competition, high-profile student-athletes and other issues.
These events were attended by representatives of the NCAA, Pac-12, professional sports leagues, collegiate conferences and Division I institutions. We have increased the staff in our Office of Athletic Compliance and we will continue to stress and emphasize rules education and compliance to all of our constituents, including our student-athletes and their relatives, coaches and University staff, alumni, boosters and the media. Just last week, as the fall sports season kicked off, Dave Roberts and I met again with our football team and staff to discuss and emphasize the importance of these rules and the need to be ever-vigilant in fulfilling our compliance obligations. Similar meetings will be held with all of our athletic teams this fall.
I can personally assure you that USC takes its compliance obligations with NCAA and Pac-12 rules extremely seriously and we are dedicated to playing and competing the right way."
The new allegations are contained among hundreds of Scott Schenter's county work emails that suggest the former appraiser provided football star McKnight with a car and an airline ticket, and Jefferson with about $3,700 in cash. The Times obtained the emails from the assessor's office under the California Public Records Act.
Among Schenter's emails is a 2009 message from an agent for Mercury Insurance saying the company believed a Chevrolet Monte Carlo listed on Schenter's policy was in McKnight's possession.
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." The football player is from Louisiana.
Schenter, in a brief interview at a recent court hearing, told The Times that he gave money to Jefferson and the Monte Carlo to McKnight, who he said then wrecked the vehicle. Schenter did not return messages seeking additional information, including whether he gave McKnight the airline ticket or additional money.
It's unclear why Schenter would help the two athletes, or where the $80,000-per-year property appraiser would have obtained the money. But in the emails, Schenter says he was trying to start several private business ventures and hoped Jefferson and McKnight would help him market them. His connection, if any, to USC is also unclear. He describes himself in the emails as a fan of the University of Washington, a Pac 12 rival to USC.
An agent for McKnight, who now plays for the New York Jets, did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls. A Jets spokesman said he would not pass the newspaper's questions along to McKnight.
Jefferson, who has been playing basketball overseas, could not be reached. His agent did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
--Jack Dolan, Ruben Vives and Gary Klein
Photo: Joe McKnight and Davon Jefferson. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times