In his first public comments since he recommended that the scholarships of three freshman basketball players not be renewed, USC Coach George Raveling said Tuesday that he believes that other schools attempted to recruit the players before they received their releases from USC.
Asked if it is a common practice for schools to recruit players already under scholarship elsewhere, Raveling said: "I don't know if it's a common practice, but it's an illegal one."
Raveling, however, said he would not report the schools to the NCAA.
"I just don't choose to do that," he said.
Neither would he identify the schools during Tuesday's press conference at Julie's, a restaurant near the USC campus.
Officials in the USC athletic department arranged the press conference to give Raveling an opportunity to explain his reasons for his recent action against the team's leading scorer last season, Tom Lewis, and two other freshmen, Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.
Raveling said he also has learned that persons claiming to represent the three freshmen contacted at least six other schools while the three were still committed to USC, saying that the players were interested in transferring.
Asked if that had been a factor in his decision, Raveling said: "Draw your own conclusions."
Raveling replaced Stan Morrison as coach March 27, and gave the players--Morrison's recruits--a deadline of April 25 to declare whether they wanted to remain at USC. Earlier, they had said that they wanted to be consulted on the hiring of Morrison's successor or they might not stay at USC.
When Raveling did not receive definite responses from them by April 25, he wrote to Athletic Director Mike McGee, recommending that the players' scholarships not be renewed for the 1986-87 academic year.
All three freshmen since have asked McGee to release them from their commitments to the university so they can seek scholarships at other schools.
Lewis and Gathers were members of the Pacific 10's all-freshman team.
One source close to the situation said that Raveling gave Gathers and Kimble an opportunity to remain at the university during a meeting Monday, but the source also said that the two players are not likely to accept the offer. Kimble and Gathers were unavailable for comment.
The source said he did not know whether the same option would be available to Lewis, who has not met with Raveling since April 21. Lewis, who has contacted UC Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan about the possibility of transferring there, has a visit scheduled to the University of Kentucky this weekend.
Raveling would not comment on his meeting with Kimble and Gathers. But in response to a question, he said he does not believe that the three freshmen will play for USC again.
"As far as USC is concerned, I don't see how they could return," he said. "If they are talking to other schools, I assume they are not interested in returning to USC."
Raveling said he felt it was necessary to establish a deadline for the players so that he would know the number of players he could recruit for next season's team. According to NCAA rules, a coach cannot sign players to letters of intent after May 15.
"I wanted to bring this to a conclusion, to find out who's going to be a part of the program and who's not," he said. "You can imagine what would have happened if these young men had come to me in July and said they weren't coming back."
Raveling said that the players received poor advice from people outside the USC program.
"I don't think they're anything but good kids," he said. "I feel sorry for them in a lot of ways. They've gotten more advice than Reagan's gotten on Libya.
"If you take the people from the exterior away from the three kids, and it had just been them and me, we could have worked this out weeks ago. But these people from the exterior have their own selfish motives. I think they were orchestrating this.
"I have great sympathy for the kids, but I was mandated to run the program and make decisions. I have no problems with any actions I've taken. I can live with myself. I can look at myself in the mirror.
"There are situations when you've got to stand up and do what you think is right and then accept whatever criticisms come with it. I try to make fair and honest decisions. That's the only thing I know how to do. But I know I'm not perfect, and I resent the hell out of that."
Raveling announced Tuesday the hiring of Ron Righter and Brian Hammel as assistant basketball coaches.
Righter, 33, has been an assistant under Raveling since 1982, the first two years at Washington State and the last three at Iowa. Before that, he was head coach for two years at Wilkes, Pa., College.
Hammel, also 33, assisted Raveling for the last two years at Iowa. He was the head coach at Bently College in Waltham, Mass., for six years beginning in 1979.
It was also announced that Dave Wiltz, regarded as one of the top junior college point guards in the nation this past season, has signed a letter of intent to attend USC next all.
Wiltz, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 assists as a sophomore at Delgado Community College in New Orleans. Delgado had a 31-1 record.