On the day USC was supposed to come out from under the clouds, opening the season as the No. 1 team in the nation thanks to the "perfect storm" head coach Lane Kiffin speaks of in terms of endearment, there has been a touch of rain on its season-opening parade.
Two former USC athletes have been accused of receiving improper benefits, according to a report Saturday morning by the Los Angeles Times.
Former Trojans running back Joe McKnight and former basketball player Davon Jefferson were targeted in the report to have received improper benefits during their time as Trojans from Scott Schenter, a former Los Angeles County assessor's office employee.
McKnight could have potentially received more than $30,000 worth of benefits. That is unclear according to the Times report, because Schenter has a business associate named Joe Galliani and the tax documents with the aforementioned amount were only listed as payments to McKnight.
McKnight was allegedly given a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, which he wrecked, and in 2009 was seen driving a 2006 Land Rover leaving USC practice, which was registered to Schenter.
There was also a plane ticket worth nearly $700 in McKnight's name for a flight from LAX to New Orleans, where McKnight is from.
After reports arose about McKnight and the Land Rover, he was held out of the Trojans' 2009 Emerald Bowl win against Boston College. He never played again for USC.
"When allegations regarding Joe McKnight's use of a Land Rover arose in 2009, USC fully investigated the matter," said USC athletic director Pat Haden in a statement. "All of the information related to the investigation was sent to the NCAA. The NCAA staff accepted the report, and no violation was processed."
According to the report, Jefferson received payments totaling $3,370.
"We have just learned of new allegations presented by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times," Haden said. "We have discussed those allegations with the NCAA and Pac-12, and we will thoroughly investigate them and take any and all necessary actions."
According to the report, Schenter was hoping McKnight and Jefferson would help him market future business ventures.
Schenter faces 60 counts of falsifying records and up to 30 years in prison for his involvement in the Los Angeles County assessor's office corruption scandal.
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McKnight is in this third season with the New York Jets, while Jefferson is playing basketball overseas. Last season, he played for Triumph Lyubertsy in Russia, where he led the team with 20.3 points per game in Russian League play.
Since being imposed with severe sanctions in 2010, the USC football team has made changes to better deal with compliance. It has beefed up the compliance staff from two members to 11. Practices that were wide open during the Pete Carroll era are now only open to family members and media, who have to be cleared by the school's Compliance Department.
Haden said the school has been a "national leader in compliance matters," since he was named the school's athletic director in 2010.
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."
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