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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Garrett Runs Interference Hoping to Avoid a Sack

October 13, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

The answer to the first question is, "No," USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett said, he does not believe the fate of Coach Paul Hackett should be tied to his own.

I would think if you're Garrett, this is a very good thing to say on the eve of what might very well be another butt-kicking for the USC football team.

I will also pause now for a moment to allow Trojan fans who wish to swear, disagree with Garrett or scream, "You got to be kidding," so the rest of the story is not shredded in a rage.

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"I FEEL I should be judged on the totality of our program," Garrett said, and I presume he thinks women's volleyball will be his saving grace.

"If I do a bad job of supporting our people or providing the resources to be successful," Garrett said, "then my job should be in jeopardy."

Contrary to what many people told me before Thursday's chat with Garrett, I expected this ogre, winded from running from the pressbox to the locker room to yell at players and coaches for making him look bad.

Instead, I got reasonable Trojan blabber, which is what he is paid to deliver. Some of it even made sense.

But things do seem a little out of whack in Trojanland. And unless you are wearing Cardinal and Gold, which means you sometimes lose touch with reality, you might wonder why there is any discussion of jobs in jeopardy when the football team is 3-2.

"In college athletics," said Garrett, refusing to release any pressure, "it's just like what you do in the newspaper. If they stop reading you, you're in deep [crud]. I know as athletic director, I have to win here."

This week's question: Who lasts longer--the newspaper guy or the AD?

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USC does seem to be a tougher place to work. Even the student athletes here, who have to wear those ugly colors, talk as if there is no tomorrow when the team loses, although there will be six more games after Saturday.

"We can't afford another loss," safety Ifeanyi Ohalete told Times reporter David Wharton earlier this week. "If we have three losses, this team could go in the tank."

I would think they would all line up in single file, and the alumni would take turns pushing each player into that tank. We've got a guy in the office here who loses it every Saturday--just like USC--and who has already volunteered to shove Hackett with both hands.

We're not so quick to judge here, of course, so Garrett was given the chance to put everyone back on track with the reminder that this is not some kind of gladiator fight to the death.

But he didn't bite. If anything, he increased the pressure with a recruiting pitch for USC.

"USC is a very demanding place," he said. "We lost in water polo to UCLA and I was upset, and got calls. I talked to some of our golfers and told them if you went somewhere else you wouldn't hear a thing, but here you lose a match, the boxscore is in The Times, and I'll get calls.

"There are always expectations. That's why I like being athletic director here. We tell our recruits there is pressure at USC, and in Los Angeles you're expected to win--that's the excitement of playing in L.A."

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SO HACKETT EITHER makes it exciting, or makes for the exit?

"I won't comment on that," Garrett said. "If I answer yes, or no, I can't win. It's like asking when was the last time you beat your wife."

Quicker than you can say Kevin Malone and Davey Johnson, however, he did say, "I like our team. I like our talent, and I think we can improve ourselves and be a good team. We have the potential to be good in time, and I want to give [Hackett] all the time he needs."

Let's face it, if Garrett is packing a hangman's noose, it has to remain well concealed until after results are in on the UCLA and Notre Dame games. And if there's any hint that higher-ups at USC consider Hackett and Garrett attached at the hip, there's no way Garrett is going to rush to judgment.

"I get e-mail from people who are upset that we lost the last two games, and we didn't play well. But I also got e-mail after the Penn State game and the guy was the second coming. You have to balance it off. After three wins, now they want to bury him after two losses.

"I'm not so fickle."

That reminds me, I need to place a call to USC President Steven Sample.

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A YEAR AGO at this time you could walk up to JaRon Rush on media day for the UCLA basketball team, and chat about potential, and promise and the expectation that one day he might have a fine NBA career.

The 2000-01 UCLA basketball team met Thursday for media day in Pauley Pavilion, and Rush, who would have been a junior, is now looking for a job.

He didn't get picked in the NBA draft, didn't get an invitation to any of the NBA camps, and after being selected in the fourth round of the International Basketball League draft by the St. Louis Swarm, his rights were dealt Wednesday to the San Diego Stingrays, who are expected to go out of business this year if they can't make the move to the Anaheim Convention Center.

The Ft. Wayne Fury selected him in the third round of the Continental Basketball Assn. draft, and team officials said he will be given a chance to make the roster as one of two rookies who will be kept from a group of five.

If Rush makes it, UCLA will have already competed in the John Wooden Classic by the time Ft. Wayne opens against the Gary Steelheads on Dec. 15.

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THIS WEEK'S LOCKS: Bruins by 10, and Trojans by 9.

Also the Redskins, Raiders, Rams, Vikings, Cardinals, Colts, Broncos, Patriots, Bills, Steelers, Panthers, Cowboys and 49ers.

Shakiest pick: The team with Sebastian Janikowski kicking the ball.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Tom:

"If Daniel Snyder had any influence with clemency officials, he'd be charging $10 to witness an execution."

Norv Turner will be the test case.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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