Former USC basketball player shares more on Tim Floyd and O.J. Mayo
While graduation ceremonies were held on USC's campus this Friday, alumnus Chris Penrose was working up Figueroa in a downtown L.A. office high rise. As a former member of the Trojan's basketball team, he took some time to share his perspective on recent allegations that coach Tim Floyd handed money to O.J. Mayo's handler.
Penrose made the squad as a walk-on before Tim Floyd set foot on campus, and continued for two years under the current Trojan coach. He served as a recruiting host and helped new players (including Mayo) move in and get accustomed to college life during his final summer on campus.
In the interview, Penrose talks about seeing Rodney Guillory around the dorms, what it was like inside Mayo's room, what he thinks of Louis Johnson, and how the school's compliance office educates players on NCAA rules.
-- Adam Rose
Besides being a former player and a writer for WeAreSC, what's your official relationship with the USC basketball program right now?
I have no other relationship with the school. I was a student there, I played basketball there for four years. I still have friends who go to school there. Obviously I'm very close with everyone in the athletic department and USC basketball program, but there are no official ties in terms of employment or anything like that.
You've spoken on ESPN radio about Louis Johnson's allegation that Tim Floyd gave money to Rodney Guillory on Valentine's Day of 2007, and pointed out that it was a travel day for the basketball team. The team's itinerary indicates that practice at USC was in the early afternoon and the plane left a few hours later. With those parameters, a morning meeting seems feasible. Why don't you think it couldn't have happened on a travel day?
Coach Floyd is usually in the office around 6:30 a.m. just watching tape. There were times, especially my junior year (his first year), I'd get a workout in at 6 a.m. and I'd go through Heritage Hall to go to the locker room. I'd see the light on, I'd walk in, and Coach Floyd would be sitting there eating some food and watching tape at 7 in the morning. He was usually always there in the office, especially during the season, especially during Pac-10 play, with Coach [Phil] Johnson just watching film all day long. You never really saw him go anywhere during the daytime.
If [Louis Johnson] said this happened on a Tuesday at 9 o'clock in the evening, then I would have nothing to say. But he's not saying that. He's saying it happened in broad daylight in Beverly Hills, a place where he could be recognized. That's what doesn't make any sense.
Why else do you doubt the accusation?
He's saying it happened in Beverly Hills. If something like that were to go down, why would it be in Beverly Hills, which is right next to UCLA? I've seen Coach Howland walking up and down that street [Rodeo Drive] many, many times during the day. You have UCLA students walking down there all the time. Celebrities walk down that street. Paparazzi's all over the place. They would see Coach Floyd walking around. It would be pretty obvious. If you were going to do something like that, you wouldn't do it in a place where you could be recognized, you'd do it somewhere off the beaten path.
You also said that you saw Rodney Guillory and Louis Johnson around O.J. Mayo's dorm room. Didn't it strike you as odd to see these sorts of characters around?
Not really. Just about every recruit has someone like that, who's either an AAU coach, an uncle, or somebody who calls up the coach, gets a package of recruiting letters, gets recruiting going. Everyone has someone like that who's helping the recruiting process. I just thought these guys, from what I heard, they were advisors. They were the ones handling his recruiting and had all the contacts and were talking to all the coaches. What was a little weird is that they were always around the dorm room. Whenever I was at the dorms, I would see his car outside or something like that. I didn't know if he was a family member or what, but it didn't really strike me as odd because every recruit in the country has someone like that who's "advising" him on where he should go.
When the car was around, was Guillory there, too? Any thought cross your mind that maybe it was being used as O.J.'s car?
No. In fact whenever I saw O.J. get in, he would get into the back seat.
Guillory was apparently not allowed to get tickets from Floyd, per the administration. Were you, or anybody on the team that you know of, ever given any instructions about him?
Not at all. The first time I ever heard anything negative about Guillory was the ESPN Outside The Lines thing.
You didn't hear anything about earlier concerns with Guillory and Jeff Trepagnier?
No, I was shocked when I heard that. I would have thought that information would have been very clear before we even started recruiting O.J. I didn't hear anything about that until it came out last year ... I think it shocked me in a different way than it shocked other people. Usually when somebody brings in a player, you tend to hear if they've brought in somebody before.
What does USC's compliance office do to educate players about NCAA regulations?
Everything! It's a complete pain! They have so many lectures. They want to make sure that you know the rules. Before you can even practice with the team, you have to fill out almost two hours of paperwork, you have to go through a seminar, and they make you take a test. Throughout the season they'll have a compliance meeting where they'll play a game to help you learn information. They're always doing something to remind players and coaches about the rules. There are always fliers on the doors, posters in the locker room from the NCAA and USC compliance office, just always reminding players of the consequences of their actions if they do something against NCAA rules.
Have you noticed other measures that the school, specifically the compliance office, takes to prevent potential violations?
Not really. As a player, I just did all the paperwork. It seemed to get bigger and bigger every year. The two-hour compliance meeting turned into a two-and-a-half hour compliance meeting, which turned into a three-hour compliance meeting. The NCAA is always changing the rules and the compliance office wants to make sure the student-athletes understand the changes in the rules. Behind the scenes they probably make tweaks when a rule change happens that you or I would never really know.
A big school like USC, their compliance office is going to be on their game 24/7. They're going to make sure that they take all the necessary steps to make sure these kids are eligible and make sure the players and school won't get in trouble for any rule infractions.
Have you talked to Coach Floyd recently?
I haven't. I talked to him maybe a couple weeks ago, stepped into his office to say hi and talk to him about what he thinks about next year.
What else do you want people to know about this situation?
That it doesn't make sense. You have to look at the source. Look at the guy who's saying all this. This guy [Johnson] has provided no direct facts, no evidence ... We're taking the word of a guy who's leaching on to a 17- or -18-year-old kid, hoping to reap the benefits of O.J. Mayo playing in the NBA? Louis Johnson is like a guy whose girlfriend just left him for another guy. He's so [angry], he's trying to take down his girlfriend, ruin her reputation and the reputation of that guy she left him for. It's just a scorched earth policy. He's going down, and he's taking everybody down with him.
Another thing is that people are saying, "He wouldn't lie, he went to the feds." We've seen professional baseball players who have families, who have nice houses, cars, a lot of money -- they have a lot to lose -- who have lied in court. Louis Johnson? The guy has nothing to lose ... He can go out there and throw accusations in the air, not really caring what happens.
Has anybody from the school asked you to speak out about this situation or place that original post on WeAreSC?
Not at all. As a matter of fact, I tried to call the office just to talk to someone, and nobody will even return my call ... not even coaching staff, I'm talking about the ladies in the office, managers, nobody's returning calls (or texts).
Back to the dorms for a second. When you helped Mayo move in, did you ever notice anything that might have raised a red flag?
Nothing at all. I moved him and Marcus Simmons in. The only way you could tell their rooms apart were pictures on the walls. O.J. Mayo had a bunch of USA Basketball stuff from when he played for the US youth team. Otherwise nothing. It was your typical college dorm room.
Did you spend time in his room after he moved in or in the spring semester?
Nope. I moved him in, saw him there a couple days afterward. That was it.
Photo: USC's Chris Penrose (10) as a senior. He doesn't buy Louis Johnson's allegations against coach Tim Floyd involving Rodney Guillory and O.J. Mayo. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times