Suspended USC quarterback Todd Marinovich was arrested on cocaine possession charges early Sunday morning, police said.
According to Newport Beach police, Marinovich, 21, was one of four young men loudly cavorting through a residential neighborhood a few doors from his mother's Balboa Peninsula home at about 4:15 a.m. The four were stopped by officers "who were concerned about possible disturbances to neighbors," Newport Beach Sgt. Andy Gonis said, adding that officers also suspected that the four might be intoxicated.
As the officers questioned the four men, "the subject, who was later identified as Todd Marinovich, was observed attempting to conceal something behind his back," Gonis said.
All four men were searched, and police said they found a "bindle" in Marinovich's waistband that contained about one gram of white powder believed to be cocaine. None of the other men were found carrying suspicious substances, and they were not arrested.
Marinovich was taken to Newport Beach city jail, where he was booked on one count of cocaine possession, a felony. After spending nearly seven hours in custody, he was released on his own recognizance at 11:10 a.m., pending his arraignment in Harbor Municipal Court, police said.
That hearing, according to one officer, probably will be Feb. 11. Marinovich did not return phone calls Sunday.
Marinovich's father, Marv Marinovich--who raised Todd under a strict training program to develop him into a star athlete--declined to comment at length.
"I'm numb," was all he would say.
Trudi Fertig, Marinovich's mother, said in an interview she also was stunned.
"I can't tell you anything because he was arrested for possession," said Fertig, who looked tired and conceded she had been up much of the night. "We don't know at this time if someone planted it on him or anything. I just don't want to get into what he was doing or who he was with."
Sunday's arrest caps a tumultuous year for Marinovich, a sophomore who has seen moments of glory interspersed with suspensions and persistent rumors that he was preparing to leave USC for the NFL draft.
After Marinovich missed several classes, USC Coach Larry Smith suspended him for one week, forcing him to sit out the Oct. 27 game against Arizona State.
He returned to finish out the season but closed with a disappointing performance in the John Hancock Bowl, which USC lost, 17-16, to Michigan State. Marinovich fumbled once and was intercepted three times in that game before being benched in the fourth quarter.
A shouting match erupted between Marinovich and Smith following the quarterback's benching and was seen on national television. Marinovich quarreled with an assistant coach in the locker room following the game.
His troubles continued after the season. He failed to register in time for spring classes, and missed a mandatory Jan. 11 players meeting because he was conferring with two agents in Anaheim.
Smith suspended Marinovich indefinitely the same day.
"By not attending the team meeting or registering for classes, that tells me that he doesn't really care or want to be here," Smith said following that suspension. "Our team and program is going to move on. I made the decision in the best interests of the program."
The precise terms of Marinovich's suspension were unclear, but a USC athletic department source said Sunday that the quarterback is barred from working out with the team, even from using the team weight room, at least until the fall. At that point, the source said, Marinovich might be allowed to rejoin the team, but only if he agrees to undergo psychological counseling and shows improvement in his grade-point average.
Marinovich registered for spring classes last week.
In a statement released through the university's sports information office Sunday, Smith said he was "shocked" to hear of Marinovich's arrest.
"We really feel badly for Todd and his family," Smith said. "A week ago, Todd was suspended indefinitely from our football program, but that suspension was not related to this problem. And, I might add, USC has a very strong drug-testing program for all its athletes, and in the time I've been here, it has worked very effectively."
Results of players' drug tests are confidential, and university officials would not release Marinovich's. But an official in the USC athletic department said that in the past year, USC athletes have been tested six times, and Marinovich was included each time.
"If anyone comes up positive, strong sanctions are imposed," the official said. No such sanctions were imposed on Marinovich.
Marinovich has until Feb. 1 to petition the NFL for draft eligibility, but he could wait and enter the supplemental draft. Steve Clarkson, a friend and adviser to Marinovich, said last week that he was weighing options that included returning to USC, turning pro or transferring to another school.
Times staff writers Jerry Crowe, Elliott Almond and Lynn Smith contributed to this story.
TODD MARINOVICH CHRONOLOGY 1987