“The key to this business,” Dicky Fox told Jerry Maguire, “is personal relationships.”

But when do said relationships start? And what do they entail? For Louis Johnson and Rodney Guillory, “runners” for Bill Duffy Associates Sports Management (BDA), a “relationship” with then USC-freshman O.J. Mayo meant a regularly BDA-subsidized Citibank account and over $200,000 total to help them “maintain” good relations with the budding star. Johnson (then a sports reporter) said that he was covering the 2003 Adidas ABCD basketball camp when Mayo, then 15, and Guillory, then 38, met for the first time. Lo and behold, when Mayo announced his intention to turn professional, he signed with one Calvin Andrews, BDA senior VP. 5 years and nearly a quarter million later, BDA landed their man.

No one is really surprised by the revelations, especially as they involve USC. Or as Captain Renault said, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” In fact, Kelly Naqi’s “Outside The Lines” probe documents what people in the know already knew or long suspected about the club promoter-cum-runner Guillory a long, long time ago. This guy’s no good. As HoopsWise author Ray Mernagh notes, “please save the misdirected scorn at Mayo for the following parties: USC, the NCAA, Johnson/Guillory, and to a lesser extent BDA (they’re likely just playing the game everyone else in the business is). USC has a very recent history with Guillory—research a high-flying kid named [Jeff] Trepagnier—and the problems he brings.”

So is that what it’s come to for firms like BDA? They’re just playing the game? What does that say about the state of big time college athletics? What does that say about our level of cynicism as fans? Is it even possible to survive as an agent anymore without a team of “runners” who make contact with prospective “clients” when they’re still in junior high, and without hundreds of thousands of dollars to “invest,” so to speak?

BDA claims it did nothing wrong, and that in fact it stopped funneling money to Mayo around the time his senior year in high school ended (at which time Guillory arranged to get an American Express card registered to a sham California charity called “The National Organization of Sickle Cell Prevention and Awareness Foundation” so that he could continue to fund his “relationship” with Mayo).

The most troubling thing is, maybe BDA is right.