It was only six months ago — before the NCAA hit USC with a string of penalties — that Mike Garrett sat in his office and dismissed any notion of stepping down.
The athletic director had come under fire for numerous, serious violations that occurred under his watch, but said there was more he wanted to accomplish.
"I'll tell you when I'm finished," he said. "Then you can talk about retirement."
Those plans changed Tuesday with news that former quarterback Pat Haden will replace the 66-year-old Garrett. It was the latest twist in a decades-long relationship with USC that has spanned Garrett's career from Heisman Trophy winner to controversial administrator.
Though Garrett was not available for comment Tuesday morning, he recently spoke about the highs and lows that have marked his career.
As a star athlete at Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights, he dreamed of playing for UCLA but the Bruins considered him too small.
After legendary coach John McKay offered a scholarship, Garrett found himself amid a privileged USC student body that did not welcome minorities on fraternity row in 1962. And there was another reason to feel intimidated.
"I didn't read or write so well," Garrett recalled.
But the short, powerful tailback soon became a star in McKay's I-formation offense, winning the school's first Heisman, in 1965. He also became a stronger student.
"USC changed my life," he said.
After college came eight years of pro football, including two Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs, before Garrett walked away from the game at 29.
He tried real estate and construction, went to law school and worked for the San Diego district attorney. He twice ran for public office in San Diego, losing both times. In 1988, he took an executive position at the Forum.
"I watched 'SC from afar, and we weren't doing very well," he said of a period when the Trojans struggled in football. "I remember commenting one day to my wife, 'That doesn't make sense.'
"And she said, 'Why don't you quit complaining and become the athletic director.' "
The university asked Garrett to return as an athletic department assistant in 1990 to help with budget matters. Three years later, he was promoted to the top spot.
It was not an entirely popular move. Some considered Garrett unqualified and gruff and, from then on, he cut a polarizing figure.
His supporters point out that, during his 17 years, graduation rates met NCAA standards and the department raised $375 million in gifts and donations.
Just as important, the football team returned to glory and the university finally made good on a long-delayed promise to build a basketball arena.
But with a personality variously described as shy or arrogant, Garrett did not make many friends.
Fans criticized him for the messy firing of football coach John Robinson in 1997. They blamed him for the failure of the next guy, Paul Hackett, and for hiring a basketball coach, Rick Majerus, who backed out of the deal a few days later.
Much of the goodwill he earned for subsequently choosing Pete Carroll and basketball coach Tim Floyd evaporated with the NCAA violations that occurred under both men.
"My job is to take the hits," Garrett said wearily in January.
Still, the embattled athletic director remained determined in the face of rumors that his job would be in jeopardy when university President Steven Sample retired this summer.
Garrett talked about what he had accomplished as athletic director and hinted that he had one more big project in mind, saying: "Give me six months to a year and I'll tell you about my mission."
On Tuesday, his time ran out.