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Mike Garrett doesn't back down

Speaking to boosters in San Francisco, USC athletic director says he reads envy into NCAA sanctions. Lane Kiffin and Kevin O'Neill remain positive.

June 10, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from San Francisco — They arrived Thursday night just after dinner started, and that would be rude normally, but they had a good excuse.

USC football Coach Lane Kiffin and basketball Coach Kevin O'Neill had already had a long day, one that involved meetings with attorneys, university administrators, their players and the media.

Appearing inside a hotel ballroom to speak before about 180 USC sports boosters, therefore, wasn't so bad.

The coaches — along with USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett — appeared at a Northern California Trojans Club function just hours after learning from the NCAA what penalties they'll be dealing with for the next few years.

Garrett wasn't at all contrite.

"As I read the decision by the NCAA," he told the group, "… I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy. They wish they all were Trojans."

Later, he added: "Today I got a purpose for really wanting to dominate for another 10 years."

Kiffin said the day started with 56 players showing up for a 7 a.m. workout, and sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley telling him afterward that it was the most passionate and energetic workout the team had held.

O'Neill simply said that basketball was "going to move forward and be positive."

Not all of the Trojans fans, who paid at least $85 each to be there, were ready to swallow the university's claim that its employees didn't know about transgressions within the football program.

John Morea of Los Angeles, a 1969 USC graduate who also has a home in Vacaville, said, "It seems hard for me to believe they don't know what's going on."

Asked if Garrett should take the fall and be fired, he added, "Probably. I'm sure Pete Carroll knew a few things that were going on too. That's why, after all those years of teams pursuing him, miraculously he's in Seattle."

K.C. Hogan, a USC fan from Oakland, said Garrett should be held accountable but was noncommittal about whether he should lose his job.

"I'm not one to say he should be fired or not," Hogan said. "[But] it starts from the top down."

Garrett received warm applause when he took the podium, with some in the crowd standing and extending a two-finger victory salute.

Garrett said he "felt invigorated by all this stuff" because he had wondered how big the USC brand was and "with the penalty we got today I know we're bigger than life."

Before dinner, the mood in a foyer outside the ballroom seemed fairly jovial as Trojans supporters milled about sipping cocktails.

Wearing a dark suit and cardinal-and-gold striped tie, Garrett mingled briefly among boosters but declined to comment when approached by a reporter. Asked if he was worried about his job, Garrett patted the reporter on the chest and said, "I'm just worried about your job. You do a good job."

Several USC supporters said they thought the punishment leveled by the NCAA was overly harsh. Sean Hogan of Orinda, K.C.'s brother, said for the governing body to punish players who were 12 at the time of some of the infractions was "totally unfair."

On a day that will go down as one of the darkest in the history of the athletic program, Mark Gonzalez, a 1988 USC graduate, made a symbolic show of support when he put up a Trojans flag outside his San Leandro home. It was the first time Gonzalez had raised the flag since USC played in the Emerald Bowl in December.

"I'm a Trojan, so I'm going stand with the Trojans in good times and bad," Gonzalez said.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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