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Mike Garrett needs to hang on
Rich Linde, 10 January 2010

"Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy Hang on." Replace "Sloopy" with "Garrett" and you have the lyrics for a song that USC fans should be singing  -- instead of, say, humming "Conquest."

Athletic director Mike Garrett is under fire at USC. For one, a couple of columnists at the Los Angeles Times are hurling fusillades at him, namely Bill Plaschke and T. J. Simers. And then there were those anti-Garrett letters printed in the Times' "Sports Viewpoint" on Saturday, one of them including Garrett and O. J. Simpson in the same sentence, as in, "Like O. J. Simpson, Mike Garrett managed to screw up a pretty good gig."

I don't see their connection, unless it's by way of the Heisman Trophies Garrett and Simpson each won while playing football at USC. However, there's a big dent in Simpson's trophy, while Garrett's bears minor scratches.

I remember former UCLA basketball coach Gene Bartow, at his parting-of-the-ways party, blaming Sports Viewpoint for turning public opinion against him. Bartow was the unlucky fellow who followed the legendary John Wooden at UCLA.

There is no way of knowing whether a letter writer to Sports Viewpoint is either a UCLA or USC fan. Those anti-Garrett letters printed on Saturday were likely written by UCLA fans.

Garrett's resignation would be tantamount to admitting that, as an athletic institution, USC's was out of control -- as in "lack-of-institutional-control" (LOIC), a weapon of mass destruction the NCAA threatens to wield. UCLA fans are no dummies.

The act of calling for Garrett's resignation presupposes a guilty verdict on Garrett and his compliance office in that they should have been aware of the extra benefits allegedly given to two of their athletes and the family of another, they out of the hundreds of athletes who participate in USC Sports and religiously abide by NCAA bylaws.

As the Husky nation remembers, it was the Los Angeles Times that helped torpedo the Washington football program in 1993 when Don James resigned as its football coach, saying, "... We have suffered for nearly 10 months from media character assassination..."

The LOIC rap destroyed Washington's football program, taking it out of post-season play and robbing it of 20 scholarships, both of these sanctions, among others, meted out over a two-year period. 

Why did a tainted Alabama program field a team in the BCS title game this year? If the NCAA hammers the Trojans, they can always holler, "double standard."

Playing chess with the NCAA, Garrett opened the game with a gambit, sacrificing his basketball team in what appeared to be a brilliant move.

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

Simers than concocts a scenario in which Garrett is talking to Tim Floyd, former USC basketball coach, about the recruiting of O. J. Mayo and that Garrett should have told Floyd to tell the guy who promised to deliver Mayo to get lost.

Simers continues, "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."

How's that for turning a metaphor into reality?

In Simers' mind, I guess, Garrett should be out in the parking lot profiling the cars his athletes are driving instead of being asleep at the switch.

Before the Garrett gambit, Plaschke wrote, "The most damning part of The Times story is the Land Rover parked outside the Trojans' practice field with the emergency lights flashing while (Joe) McKnight socialized with his teammates and coaches before jumping in the car and driving away.

"Is there nobody at USC who would see this and wonder why this kid with no job from an economically disadvantaged background would be driving such a nice vehicle?"

What's the bluebook on a 2006 Land Rover? About $20K? Sounds like racial profiling to me.

In July 1994, in its review of the sanctions imposed on Washington by the Pac-10, the NCAA wrote, "Had the athletics department and, in particular, the members of the football coaching staff made even the most cursory examination of that (LA) jobs program during the 10 years of its operation, they would have discovered the violations.

If a member of the athletic department at USC had prior knowledge of those "improper benefits" allegedly given to the three personages in question -- namely, Mayo, McKnight and the family of Reggie Bush -- and the NCAA has proof of that, it would have an easier case to prove.

Note that Mayo's agent said that Mayo did not accept gifts or money while being recruited by or playing for USC. Floyd, who resigned as USC's coach last summer, has denied wrongdoing, according to the Times.

A Garrett resignation coupled with the hiring of Pete Carroll by the Seattle Seahawks certainly wouldn't help USC's defense in the collective mind of public opinion.

People will say that Garrett was piloting a rudderless ship and that Carroll jumped overboard to save his own hide.

To save the empire from total ruination, Garrett needs to keep fiddling as the flames surround Troy. At least, he won't be asleep at the switch.

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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