Former L.A. Times sportswriter Lonnie White has posted a remarkable first-person story for Fox Sports disclosing for the first time how he accepted a brown bag with $5,000 cash — in exchange for USC football tickets — while he was a star wide receiver and kick returner for the Trojans in the 1980s. He details other payoffs and violations of NCAA rules he was part of, says his brother Tim introduced him to their "money man," and doesn't think the coaches knew much of what was going on. Excerpt:
To this day, it’s something I’m ashamed about. Rent was overdue, and my household bills were delinquent. I needed the money to live. So accepting the $14,000 in different forms of “benefits” over my college years three decades ago was an act of survival....
It didn’t take long before I noticed that my brother seemed to have a great relationship with a wealthy USC football supporter. Whenever Tim had a financial problem, his answer man usually responded.
Unlike other upperclassmen, who often assume roles as deal brokers within a program (keeping first-year players from meeting their benefit sources), my brother loved taking me along to meet our “money man.”
We would use the meeting as a joyous occasion, but for most of my freshman year, I didn’t exactly know how the process worked. This was before cell phones, and my brother kept me in the dark when it came to details. I just remember taking a variety of items, from signed footballs to player-issued season tickets, to our benefits source in exchange for money, usually cash.
Even though I knew what I was doing was wrong, it seemed like everyone I knew who played college football enjoyed some type of extra benefits as a player.
White was at the Times for 21 years, leaving in 2008. He wrote "UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports," published by Angel City Press.
White doesn't explain why he came forward now. But this is interesting. In 1982, when the Trojans were sanctioned for NCAA violations, he portrayed himself as a victim of cheating players in a letter published in Sports Illustrated.
"The people responsible for the 'crime' are the ones who should be punished, not innocent players. It seems to me that the high school seniors who this year picked USC because they thought it was the best school for them are the ones who are being punished the most ... This means that I have to live with a penalty incurred by others or switch to another school and probably lose some of my eligibility. Why should I be punished?"