Our Daily Dread: Check out that package

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The USC basketball team’s arrangement to have Daniel Hackett attend as a walk-on, with his father, Rudy, on Tim Floyd’s staff as a strength and conditioning manager, apparently sends up a red flag to the whistle blowers at ESPN, who will investigate that as part of a Sunday “Outside The Lines” story on “Package Deals” in college sports — where a college hires a recruited player’s relative, former coach or associate in return for getting the player to sign.

The show (6 a.m. on ESPN/9 a.m. on ESPNEWS) says that “the NCAA has told ESPN that it is ‘looking into’ the Hackett arrangement. In 2005, USC hired Rudy as its coach. A year later, Daniel committed to USC. Since Rudy is a university employee, Daniel gets free tuition. And since he is considered a walk-on, USC does not have to use one of its 13 scholarships allowed by the NCAA.

Another part of reporter Darren Lyn’s piece is on Kansas — last year Mario Chalmers took Kansas to the national championship with his father, Ronnie, watching on the bench as director of basketball operations.

Says NCAA associate director of enforcement LuAnn Humphrey, quoted in the story as she’s involved in the USC case (and speaking of “package deals” in general): “In the past, we have had a difficult time addressing that issue, but in the last several months since the formation of the basketball focus group we have tried to become smarter about the basketball recruiting environment. I think that snowball is rolling down the hill and we need to stop the bleeding.”

After USC’s win over Washington State on Thursday, Floyd offered a preemptive strike to the story (linked here):

“All I can tell you is that that bridge was crossed three years ago with the NCAA, with the Pac-10, with our compliance office and we have not done one thing wrong. As far as Rudy Hackett being at this university as our basketball coach, he was here a year before Daniel Hackett got here and he’s far more qualified than 95 percent of the assistant coaches in the United States of America. He played in the NBA, he played on a Final Four team at Syracuse, coached and played in Italy and was highly recommended by the number one team in Southern California. (Pat Barrett, president of the AAU Southern Cal All-Stars) recommended him, I hired him and I’m very glad we did. That’s all I got to say.”

The cliche about seeing smoke and sensing a fire already turns to smoldering stench around the program that arose less than a year ago, when ESPN reported (story linked here) some funny business about how O.J. Mayo received money and gifts while on Floyd’s USC roster for one season (remember those courtside Laker tickets from Carmello Anthony?). It caused an ESPN columnist, Pat Forde, to go so far as to say (story linked here) that the Trojans deserved a “death penalty” punishment soon.

But more related to this latest hunt, in 2006, Floyd caused even more eyebrows to raise when he got 14-year-old Dwayne Polee Jr. to verbally accept a scholarship before he had yet to play a high-school game at Westchester.

A year later, Dwayne Polee Sr. was named Floyd’s new director of basketball operations.

A reverse package deal?

“I think he’s more qualified than 90 percent of the assistants that come into college basketball based on his playing experience and what he can bring to the table for us at SC through his contacts in our area,” Floyd said of hiring the 44-year-old Polee, a former high school legend at Manual Arts High more than 20 years ago before going to Pepperdine and playing for the Clippers.

The “package deal” situation isn’t illegal by NCAA standards, just creepy. It should be investigated. Loop holes should be closed. Advantages that one program has over another need to be monitored and assessed.

And then what? Make the kid pay for the adults’ missteps? That’s what ends up happening. No wonder some may want to just bypass some of these tangled webs and go straight from high school to the NBA, which has its own set of land mines one must avoid.

What has Floyd done wrong here? Nothing, apparently. And everything, if you’re the other 300-plus D-I basketball programs who hasn’t already tried it and failed.

He’s made it a family affair at USC, one more conspiracy theorists say grows like a sequel to “The Godfather.” Another of his walk-on players is James Dunleavy, the son of Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy. Another of his walk-on players is J.J. Meyers, the son of Lakers play-by-play man Joel Meyers. Does that mean Floyd is laying the groundwork for even more hirings on his staff and broadcast team?

Does Oprah have a kid eligible yet?

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And what do people out there make of Lil’ Romeo sitting on the Trojans’ bench (story linked here), where it’s assumed he was only part of another “package deal” with star freshman forward DeMar DeRozan.

It only makes Percy Miller want to prove everyone wrong. And, at the same time, stay out of the NCAA’s hyprocrical swipe at finding justice.

“One day I saw him wearing a warm-up suit and I told him I liked it,” Floyd said in that story linked above. “He said, ‘Coach this is my own line of clothes. If you want one, I could give you one.’ ”

You don’t think there’d be even more NCAA folks on his tail if he accepted that gift?

Give us your take here or at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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