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Police Investigation Clouds USC Practice

LAPD says at least one member of the football team might be involved in alleged sexual assault.

August 18, 2004|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC's football program was rocked again Tuesday when the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed it was investigating an alleged sexual assault that might have involved Trojan players.

The investigation is the latest in a series of incidents to befall USC since the Trojans won a share of the national title last season with a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

According to a statement released by the LAPD, the Robbery-Homicide Division, Rape Special Section is handling an investigation, "that may involve a member or members," of USC's football team, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls and will open its season Aug. 28 against Virginia Tech.

"There is no additional information available at this time," the statement said.

After the Trojans' afternoon practice -- their second workout of the day -- Coach Pete Carroll said he learned of the investigation Tuesday morning. Carroll said he had informed his players and that he planned to "go further into what's going on," during a team meeting Tuesday night.

"We'll continue to seek information and we'll fully cooperate," Carroll said. "We'll do everything we can to help out in every way, and then at the appropriate time, we'll deal with whatever the situation allows. Right now, I don't know anything more than that."

Michael Jackson, USC's vice president of student affairs, spoke with Carroll after the afternoon practice, but he declined to answer questions from reporters.

According to police, the alleged assault occurred early Monday morning in Los Angeles.

Police sources said that a woman reported the alleged incident to a rape-crisis team in the LAPD's South Bureau, but the case was sent to the special section when South Bureau personnel realized the nature of the case and who might be involved.

Several USC players said after practice that they were unaware of the investigation. Others declined to comment.

Speaking generally about the Trojans' recent spate of off-the-field problems, senior defensive lineman Shaun Cody said, "We're being put in the spotlight and guys have to be careful and be responsible."

Four players affiliated with USC's 2003 team were arrested during the off-season.

USC also is in the midst of a controversial situation involving All-American receiver Mike Williams.

The school has petitioned the NCAA to grant a progress-toward-degree waiver and reinstatement of eligibility for Williams, who left school in February, hired an agent and announced he was turning pro.

Williams, who criticized teammates in the campus newspaper before he left, had sought to enter the NFL draft after a U.S. district judge ruled that the league's mandate that a player must be three years removed from high school to be eligible was a violation of antitrust law.

A federal appeals eventually reversed the decision.

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Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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