Suspended USC quarterback Todd Marinovich was arrested on cocaine possession charges early Sunday morning, police said.
According to Newport Beach police, Marinovich, 21, was one of four young men loudly cavorting through a residential neighborhood a few doors from his mother's Balboa Peninsula home at about 4:15 a.m. The four were stopped by officers "who were concerned about possible disturbances to neighbors," Newport Beach Sgt. Andy Gonis said, adding that officers also suspected that the four might be intoxicated.
As the officers questioned the four men, "the subject, who was later identified as Todd Marinovich, was observed attempting to conceal something behind his back," Gonis said.
All four men were searched, and police said they found a "bindle" in Marinovich's waistband that contained about one gram of white powder believed to be cocaine. None of the other men were found carrying suspicious substances, and they were not arrested.
Marinovich was taken to Newport Beach city jail, where he was booked on one count of cocaine possession, a felony. After spending nearly seven hours in custody, he was released on his own recognizance at 11:10 a.m., pending his arraignment in Harbor Municipal Court, police said.
That hearing, according to one officer, probably will be Feb. 11. Marinovich did not return phone calls Sunday.
Marinovich's father, Marv Marinovich--who raised Todd under a strict training program to develop him into a star athlete--declined to comment at length.
"I'm numb," was all he would say.
Trudi Fertig, Marinovich's mother, said in an interview she also was stunned.
"I can't tell you anything because he was arrested for possession," said Fertig, who looked tired and conceded she had been up much of the night. "We don't know at this time if someone planted it on him or anything. I just don't want to get into what he was doing or who he was with."
Sunday's arrest caps a tumultuous year for Marinovich, a sophomore who has seen moments of glory interspersed with suspensions and persistent rumors that he was preparing to leave USC for the NFL draft.
After Marinovich missed several classes, USC Coach Larry Smith suspended him for one week, forcing him to sit out the Oct. 27 game against Arizona State.
He returned to finish out the season but closed with a disappointing performance in the John Hancock Bowl, which USC lost, 17-16, to Michigan State. Marinovich fumbled once and was intercepted three times in that game before being benched in the fourth quarter.
A shouting match erupted between Marinovich and Smith following the quarterback's benching and was seen on national television. Marinovich quarreled with an assistant coach in the locker room following the game.
His troubles continued after the season. He failed to register in time for spring classes, and missed a mandatory Jan. 11 players meeting because he was conferring with two agents in Anaheim.
Smith suspended Marinovich indefinitely the same day.
"By not attending the team meeting or registering for classes, that tells me that he doesn't really care or want to be here," Smith said following that suspension. "Our team and program is going to move on. I made the decision in the best interests of the program."
The precise terms of Marinovich's suspension were unclear, but a USC athletic department source said Sunday that the quarterback is barred from working out with the team, even from using the team weight room, at least until the fall. At that point, the source said, Marinovich might be allowed to rejoin the team, but only if he agrees to undergo psychological counseling and shows improvement in his grade-point average.
Marinovich registered for spring classes last week.
In a statement released through the university's sports information office Sunday, Smith said he was "shocked" to hear of Marinovich's arrest.
"We really feel badly for Todd and his family," Smith said. "A week ago, Todd was suspended indefinitely from our football program, but that suspension was not related to this problem. And, I might add, USC has a very strong drug-testing program for all its athletes, and in the time I've been here, it has worked very effectively."
Results of players' drug tests are confidential, and university officials would not release Marinovich's. But an official in the USC athletic department said that in the past year, USC athletes have been tested six times, and Marinovich was included each time.
"If anyone comes up positive, strong sanctions are imposed," the official said. No such sanctions were imposed on Marinovich.
Marinovich has until Feb. 1 to petition the NFL for draft eligibility, but he could wait and enter the supplemental draft. Steve Clarkson, a friend and adviser to Marinovich, said last week that he was weighing options that included returning to USC, turning pro or transferring to another school.
Times staff writers Jerry Crowe, Elliott Almond and Lynn Smith contributed to this story.
TODD MARINOVICH CHRONOLOGY 1987
Marinovich completed his football career at Capistrano Valley High School as the nation's leader in career-passing yardage. In four seasons--two at Santa Ana Mater Dei--he passed for 9,182 yards and 74 touchdowns. His senior season, Marinovich passed for 2,477 yards and 18 touchdowns before Capistrano Valley lost in the first round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
After being honored as the nation's top high school football player by several organizations, Marinovich decided to attend USC. He was a redshirt for the Trojans, who had Rodney Peete at quarterback.
Ten days before USC's opener, quarterback Pat O'Hara injured his knee in a scrimmage and Marinovich moved into the starting position for the Illinois game. Marinovich completed 14 of 27 passes for 120 yards in a 14-13 loss.
Former President Reagan telephoned Marinovich to tell him that the game-winning drive he led in a 18-17 victory over Washington State was among the most exciting he had ever seen. Marinovich threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-24 loss to Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind.
In the Rose Bowl, Marinovich led the Trojans on a 75-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drive that defeated Michigan, 17-10. He was named the nation's freshman of the year by several publications. For the season, he completed 219 of 352 passes for 2,578 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
USC Coach Larry Smith suspended Marinovich for a week because the sophomore broken an agreement they had by skipping classes.
Marinovich didn't start against Cal because he missed a team meeting the morning of the game. He returned from his suspension in the Trojans' second series. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns but the game ended in a tie, 31-31. Later in the month, Marinovich was benched in the second quarter of a 56-7 victory over Oregon State and led a fourth-quarter rally in a 45-42 victory over UCLA.
After Marinovich was benched in the fourth quarter of a 17-16 loss to Michigan State in the John Hancock Bowl, Marinovich and Smith were involved in a heated argument on the sideline. Lip-readers watching on TV believed Marinovich told Smith, "I'm out of here." Marinovich was also involved in a shouting match with an assistant coach afterward. For the season, he completed 193 of 322 passes for 2,423 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Jan. 11, 1991
Amid speculation that Marinovich might turn professional or transfer to another college, Smith suspended the quarterback indefinitely for missing a mandatory meeting and not registering for the spring semester.
Jan. 18, 1991
Smith told Marinovich that he would be re-evaluated in the fall and might be welcome to rejoin the team then, but he could not participate in spring practice.
Jan. 20, 1991
Early Sunday morning, Marinovich was arrested for possession of cocaine by Newport Beach police.