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USC shouldn't be letting Mike Garrett run an end-around

T.J. SIMERS

There is talk about how the basketball program is assuming the role of sacrificial lamb in the hopes its slaughter might mitigate any football punishment, but that also takes the blame off Garrett, who deserves it all.

January 05, 2010|T.J. Simers

Institutional control, or just common sense?

Let's retreat a few years, USC already has the Reggie Bush investigation on the NCAA table, and so you would think Athletic Director Mike Garrett might occasionally visit with basketball coach Tim Floyd.

And maybe it goes something like this:

Garrett: "Tim, how are you doing?"

Floyd: "Who are you?"

Garrett: "Heisman Trophy winner. Scored 30 TDs. Oh, almost forgot, school's athletic director, too, and so I better ask how recruiting is going."

Floyd: "You know, the usual collection of good, but not good-enough athletes that this program always seems to attract."

Garrett: "Did I mention I won the Heisman?"

Floyd: "I know how much you want to show off the Galen Center and I've got something that might help. Just ran into someone you might know, Rodney Guillory."

Garrett: "Guillory. Sure. Jeff Trepagnier was suspended for almost a third of a season because the NCAA determined Guillory paid for Trepagnier's airfare. It wasn't like he was driving a Land Rover, though."

Floyd: "Whatever. Guillory says he can deliver O.J. Mayo."

All together now, what should Garrett have said?

"Tell him to get lost."

Never happened because Garrett was asleep on the job, and quite literally Monday, Times reporter Baxter Holmes -- my new hero -- telling Garrett to "wake up" after Garrett had fallen asleep during the Trojans' afternoon basketball practice.

We'll never know how things might've been different for USC had Holmes been given the chance to remind Garrett every so often to keep his eyes open.

And yet as it was, Garrett didn't need to do any homework, make any calls or think about it when it came time to keeping USC's basketball program out of trouble. First mention of Guillory's name and the next word out of his mouth should have been "No."

When it comes to sanctions and poor judgment, why isn't USC spanking Garrett?

There is lots of talk about how the basketball program is assuming the role of sacrificial lamb in the hopes its slaughter might mitigate any football punishment, but that also takes the blame off Garrett, who deserves it all.

There is no way Garrett should have allowed Mayo to pull on a Trojans jersey. To do so was a gamble, and the NCAA frowns on that as well.

That's what makes the latest statement coming from Garrett so preposterous, if not self serving.

"USC takes allegations of NCAA rules violations very seriously," Garrett said.

If USC takes allegations of NCAA rules violations very seriously, how does Garrett allow Floyd to have a second conversation with Guillory, let alone ever meet Mayo?

"When allegations were made regarding our men's basketball program," Garrett's statement continued, "we immediately began an investigation and worked closely with the NCAA and the Pac-10 in an attempt to ascertain the truth."

Garrett could have prevented any investigation as soon as he was made aware Mayo was tied to the hip of the same guy who had already gotten USC into hot water.

"When we've done something wrong," Garrett continued in his statement, "we have an obligation to do something about it and that is exactly what we are doing here."

Garrett ran for 3,221 yards in his career but by the sound of it, it was too far to walk across campus to the Galen Center to stay on top of Floyd. His statement reads as if he had no idea of the link between Guillory and Mayo, and yet it was no secret.

Floyd told the media it was Guillory who contacted him, wanting to know whether he was interested in Mayo. In this day and NCAA age, any kid who is just dropped into a coach's lap comes wrapped in a red flag.

How much easier does institutional control get than telling the basketball coach "No, you can't have Mayo" after hearing he's a gift from Guillory?

If there are no wrongdoings between Guillory and Mayo, as Floyd suggested, isn't Guillory's past dealings with a USC basketball player enough to avoid him and his protege?

Here's where it gets really preposterous, Garrett coming across like some sanctimonious NCAA official, meting out penalties now that wrongdoings have come to his attention.

Now that they have come to his attention?

I know USC President Steven Sample has announced he's retiring later this year, but has he quit already?

Where is Sample's sense of institutional control? How does he allow someone under his command to shirk their responsibilities and then later blame everyone else when questions of responsibility are raised?

Why isn't Garrett being held accountable?

This has all happened on Garrett's watch, which makes one wonder why he turned his head when Guillory's name was mentioned.

Did he do so because of the Galen Center, and the importance of putting an exciting product on the court after opening the new building? Was he just hoping to buy one year from Mayo to kick-start his basketball program and appease boosters?

At last week's Nut Bowl in San Francisco, I tried talking to Garrett, but he said he'd do so when we returned to L.A.

Back in L.A., I asked to speak to Garrett on Monday, while also being open to talking to Garrett's wife, who likes to talk for him, or better yet, the school's "statement writer," since he speaks so often for Garrett.

A school spokesman said Garrett would not be talking because Page 2 had been rude to him and his wife at the Nut Bowl.

For the record, I never said a word to Garrett's wife, who walked across their football suite to tell me to leave. I never entered the suite, so it was hard to leave.

As for Garrett, he had a guard shut the door in my face. Maybe it would've been different had I shown up with Guillory, who seems to have a better in at USC than I do.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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