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Trojans' McKnight investigated for NCAA violations

Dec 18, 2009, 8:18 PM EDT

(Writer’s Note: I know this story doesn’t have anything to do with Notre Dame, but it DOES have something to do with Notre Dame’s main rival, the Trojans of Southern Cal.)

In a story that feels like deja vu, USC is investigating a star running back for improper benefits, including the use of a luxury SUV owned by a local business man.

This time the running back is Joe McKnight, who has been driving a 2006 Land Rover registered and owned by a Santa Monica businessman that also happens to be the registered owner of the website “4joemcknight.com.”

More, from the Los Angeles Times’ investigation:

Joe McKnight, star tailback of USC’s football team, has been driving a
sport utility vehicle owned by a Santa Monica businessman, an
arrangement that the school is investigating and may be in violation of
college rules.

The NCAA, which governs major college sports,
prohibits student athletes from accepting benefits from marketing
representatives or agents or “extra benefits” based on their athletic
ability.

For several weeks, McKnight has been seen driving a
well-kept 2006 Land Rover that, according to California Department of
Motor Vehicles records, is registered to Scott Schenter.

Schenter,
47, has a background that includes marketing, and a company he owned
registered a website called 4joemcknight.com. It is unclear whether
Schenter has any ties with USC or the school had knowledge of his
activities.

If it’s found that McKnight is in violation of NCAA
rules, it could affect his athletic eligibility. USC’s football team
will next play against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 26 in
San Francisco.

McKnight, when contacted by the Times, was emphatic that he’d done nothing wrong.

“I never drove the vehicle, I’ve never driven it,” McKnight said. “I know I can’t drive cars I’m not supposed to. If somebody said they spotted me driving, they’re seeing wrong. I don’t even have the keys.”

That doesn’t quite jive with this account from the Times article:

On Nov. 25, the SUV was parked outside the entrance to USC’s practice
facility, its emergency lights flashing as players, coaches and
athletic department personnel exited the gate. Several coaches stopped
to greet McKnight’s girlfriend, who was seated in the passenger seat.
McKnight came out of the locker room carrying his son on his shoulders,
exchanged pleasantries with Coach Pete Carroll, who was walking with
visitors, and made his way to the street where the Land Rover was
parked.

The next day, McKnight left practice and drove away
alone in the vehicle. He was also by himself as he drove the SUV from
practice last Saturday
.

Schenter, the businessman in question, also claims to have done nothing wrong.

But according to documents filed in the Los Angeles County Registrar’s office, Schenter filed papers in May 2008 to operate businesses called “Brighter” and “USC Marketing.” He’s also the contact name associated with 4joemcknight.com and ojaymayo.com, a web domain likely named for the basketball player OJ Mayo that played one controversial season at USC before moving on to the NBA and leaving behind a slew of unresolved NCAA investigations.

NCAA bylaws directly prohibit student-athletes from accepting transportation or other benefits from agents or marketing representatives. USC’s athletic department is already involved in a ongoing investigation dating back five years to improper benefits provided to 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. 

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