Livengood asked Floyd the tough question

May, 13, 2009
Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood said Wednesday that he had asked USC coach Tim Floyd a point-blank question about former USC star O.J. Mayo during an exploratory interview for the Arizona head-coaching job last month, and Floyd had told him there were no issues with Mayo's recruitment.

On Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports reported that Floyd had given Mayo's handler, Rodney Guillory, $1,000 in cash before Guillory went to Las Vegas for the 2007 NBA All-Star Game. The allegation was made by Louis Johnson, a former member of Mayo's inner circle, who said Guillory told him he had received the money in an exchange in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Johnson said he told the NCAA, FBI, IRS and the U.S. Attorney's office that Floyd had paid Guillory. Johnson said he saw Guillory meet Floyd outside a café while he drove around the block. He told them Guillory showed him $100 bills in an envelope. Johnson made allegations against USC a year ago on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and detailed a case against Guillory and the Trojans of extra benefits that were provided to Mayo.

Livengood, who said he has considered himself a "good friend" of Floyd's the past few decades, said Arizona would have investigated the Mayo matter further had Floyd become a serious candidate for the vacant head-coaching job.

"There would have been more questions. We would have been thorough. It was too important a hire," said Livengood, who pointed out he couldn't get information out of the NCAA because "they can't comment on it."

Floyd met with Livengood and Arizona president Robert Shelton in Tucson on April 2, but Livengood said it was because Shelton couldn't meet in another location.

"Quite frankly, it was overblown," Livengood said of Floyd's candidacy. He indicated that current Arizona coach Sean Miller was the target choice and said that had Miller been able to commit earlier when he was the head coach at Xavier, the hiring process would have already been over.

"I looked into a number of things, and the question was asked about O.J., and he was very candid about it," Livengood said. "I asked Tim, 'There's a lot of things being talked about the past year on O.J., tell me about it?' He said, 'There's no issue with O.J.'"

Livengood said Floyd left the meeting, then called back the next day and said they didn't need to talk further because he would stay at USC.

As a result, Arizona avoided an Indiana-type situation in which the Hoosiers hired Kelvin Sampson from Oklahoma after he had been sanctioned by the NCAA. More violations occurred while Sampson was at IU, and he resigned during his second season. The program is still dealing with the effects of hiring a coach who had an NCAA issue hanging over him.

Livengood said it would be easy to say Arizona dodged a bullet in hiring Miller and not going further with Floyd. But he didn't want to seem as though he was "piling on."

"It was an exploratory thing, that's all it was," Livengood said. "The end result for Arizona was excellent. Sean's doing a great job."

• USC doesn't have an official gag order, but the Trojans aren't commenting on the story. Reached Wednesday, USC officials made it clear there won't be anything to say during an ongoing investigation. Floyd is out of town this week, according to a school official.

• Here's what would happen procedurally, based on Yahoo! Sports' report: If Johnson told the NCAA of the alleged payment, the NCAA would conduct follow-up interviews to see whether anyone (valet, a café employee, etc.) saw Floyd and Guillory meet in Beverly Hills and would check to see whether there were receipts from a lunch. A follow-up with Floyd also could occur. Still, it ultimately could come down to a he said-he said in this case, especially when dealing with cash.

• The consensus among coaches and at least one administrator contacted Wednesday came down to one question: How could Floyd be so careless in dealing with a cash payment in broad daylight? If this is true, the arrogance -- the "stupidity," to quote one coach -- was beyond comprehension among those contacted.

• The ACC coaches met in Amelia Island, Fla., and agreed to keep the schedule as is with 16 games instead of 18. They also declined to look at splitting the conference into two divisions.

ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks said the coaches and athletic directors felt there is already so much parity in the league and didn't want to dampen the coach's willingness to play "big intersectional rivalries." Adding two more conference games could discourage that from happening. Although there was some debate as to whether two more league games might help teams' RPIs, the consensus was, "Why take two more opportunities out with more conference games?"

The athletic directors agreed. Hicks said that if the ACC were to go the divisions route, four teams would lose their two permanent partners and another eight would lose one, and it would "blow all that hard work up" of the current schedule.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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