Willie Mack Garza stepped down as USC's secondary coach on Thursday,… (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles…)
An NCAA probe into a former Texas-based scout's relationships with several major college football programs reached USC's doorstep Thursday.
Two days before the Trojans' opener against Minnesota, secondary coach Willie Mack Garza resigned.
In a statement released through the school, Garza cited "some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address."
"I wish the Trojans the best and I am sorry I won't be with them in what I know will be a very successful season," Garza said.
Multiple websites reported Garza stepped down a day after USC officials were notified that he had been named during an interview NCAA investigators had with former scout Willie Lyles.
USC would not confirm those reports. Lyles has been tied to NCAA investigations involving Oregon and Louisiana State.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden has spoken of creating a "culture of compliance" at USC, which is on probation after being hit with some of the most severe NCAA sanctions in college sports history. The penalties included a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years.
Asked about Garza, Haden said only, "His statement is our statement."
Garza was not at practice Thursday morning. Asked afterward why Garza was absent, USC Coach Lane Kiffin said, "Willie's dealing with a personal issue. That's all I can say."
Asked whether he was still a member of the staff, Kiffin reiterated that Garza was dealing with a personal issue. "At this time, right now, that's all that I can say."
Kiffin informed players of Garza's resignation via text message at noon.
USC players took Garza's departure in stride.
"I know he left for personal reasons so I wish him the best," safety T.J. McDonald, a team captain, said in a text message. "But as far as our team and our unit goes — we will be fine without a doubt."
Former USC and NFL safety Sammy Knight is a graduate assistant on the staff and could oversee the secondary.
Garza, 42, came with Kiffin from Tennessee, where the 2009 coaching staff was recently found to have committed 12 secondary violations of NCAA rules.
Garza played at Texas and was in his 18th season of coaching college football. He was a graduate assistant at Texas and also coached at Western Michigan, Texas Christian, Tarleton (Texas) State and North Dakota State before joining Kiffin's staff at Tennessee in 2009.
Off color message
The Trojans do not play rival UCLA until the final game of the season in late November.
But Kiffin and his staff got the Trojans in the mood for the Bruins. During the final scrimmage portion of practice, scout team players donned powder blue jerseys with gold numbers.
"I guess they put them in UCLA jerseys to make it a statement as an enemy," tailback Curtis McNeal said. "It was pretty funny."
Kiffin said, "Hopefully they'll be motivated to get off service team so they won't have to wear the powder blue jerseys."
Were the jerseys a symbolic message?
"Not really," Kiffin said. "We were bored."
Jeremy Galten, a junior college transfer who enrolled at USC in January, worked with the first unit at left guard, putting him on track to start against Minnesota…. Kiffin said he had not decided on a starting tailback.