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USC's Garrett still has some moves, but others run interference

How many athletic directors need a guard to attend a bowl game? I would guess one -- the one on the run right now from accountability.

December 27, 2009|T.J. Simers
  • USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett strolls the practice grounds during summer camp.
USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett strolls the practice grounds during… (Los Angeles Times )

From San Francisco — I found Mike Garrett.

You just had to know where to search, the Nut Bowl, probably just where you might expect to find him.

I not only discovered the USC athletic director's hiding place, but had him trapped in his suite at AT&T Park -- all those Christmas cookies paying off as I filled the doorway.

I suppose he still could have made a run for it, but that would have meant leaving behind all kinds of free nuts, as well as his wife and a guard.

How many athletic directors need a guard to attend a bowl game? I would guess one -- the one on the run right now from accountability.

"I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes," I told Garrett, not exactly an unreasonable request given the national perception of his outlaw football program these days.

I remained outside his suite while throwing him a question because I wasn't sure if his wife or the guard were packing.

"We'll talk back in L.A.," Garrett said, and I just love it when he cracks jokes.

"What day? What month? What year?" I inquired. "You promise?"

"No," he said, while mentioning something about "negotiations" when it comes to talking, and that's when his wife approached me, a little surprised the former running back still has others running interference for him.

I got the feeling, though, before she said anything that she wasn't going to invite me into the suite to sample the cocoa-roasted almonds.

"I think it would be polite if you leave," she said -- none too politely, by the way, which got me to thinking that maybe she thought I was Dwyre. I'm telling you, I really did eat a lot of Christmas cookies.

Fortunately, Garrett called her off, and some folks think he's incapable of institutional control.

"Honey," Garrett said, and I don't think he was talking to me, "he's a grown man."

I guess that's why he then had a word with his guard, the guard coming over to close the door in the grown man's face -- just practice, I assume, for when the NCAA comes calling.

Lucky for USC fans, the NCAA will probably have to get past his wife first.

WHEN IT comes to institutional control, as soon as USC names a successor to Steven Sample in a few months, the first thing the new president has to do is order Garrett never to speak again.

I know, I'm trying to get him to talk, but then I'm always in search for comic relief, and as you know, not always successful.

I'm guessing the NCAA investigation into alleged wrongdoings at USC is taking so long because it has no idea what Garrett is saying whenever he's quizzed.

When he speaks, as a rule, he seldom makes any sense, which is why it was so important for Pete Carroll to become the athletic department's dominant voice and save Garrett from himself.

Carroll's success gave Garrett no reason to embarrass himself publicly, and as any die-hard Trojans fan would have to admit, they cringe when Garrett does weigh in.

The only time he's really said anything in recent years, though, it was a video interview released by the school after the Tim Floyd/basketball debacle. There was no indication, however, who wrote the script for him, or who was holding the cue cards.

Maybe his guard is versatile that way.

Now that USC appears to be fraying around the edges, a national outcry for what is taking the NCAA so long to rule and Carroll's words no longer accepted as gospel, the best thing that can be said about this season is: It's over.

Operation Stonewall continued all day Saturday, no one from USC saying anything about Joe McKnight until Carroll was forced to say something on ESPN as the Trojans took the field.

For those who now wonder about Carroll's program, it had to re-enforce their belief something is wrong with USC when Carroll has to admit on national TV his own school won't allow him to play McKnight.

TV is all about entertainment too, and it would have been so much more enjoyable for everyone had the Nut Bowl started with a microphone in front of Garrett's face and he was the one who had to explain what has happened to the Trojans.

SOME FOLKS here are suggesting no one will ever get to the bottom of the McKnight issue because there will be no reason to pursue it if he declares himself eligible for the draft. That also will keep the NCAA from looking into it.

"He won't do that," Carroll said of McKnight. "He told me he wants to stay here." Good thing credibility has never been an issue with McKnight.

AT THE postgame news conference, Carroll gushed about the week spent in San Francisco and the job the folks at the Nut Bowl did in putting on such an event.

So I suggested, "Maybe you can come back next year."

Carroll said if it worked out that way, the Trojans would be happy to return.

Yeah, and a graceful, gifted athlete such as Ron Artest knocked himself out of the Lakers' lineup after tripping.

BOSTON COLLEGE has to be the worst team qualifying for a bowl berth, although I'm going all the way to Washington, D.C., just to make sure Temple or UCLA don't prove me wrong.

THE TROJANS lost three players because of academic problems. Carroll tried to put a positive spin on it, saying this will make a big impression on the rest of the team for years to come.

A year ago, fullback Stanley Havili was declared academically ineligible and not allowed to play in the Rose Bowl.

For some reason it didn't make much of an impression on Anthony McCoy, Tyron Smith and Averell Spicer.

USC PLAYERS were allowed to make their own arrangements returning to L.A. after the Nut Bowl.

In the next day or so, you might want to keep a look out for a 2006 black Land Rover and check out who is driving it.

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