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FALLING STARS

Times Staff Writers

USC’s football program, already embroiled in controversies surrounding Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and quarterback Mark Sanchez, now faces a new issue involving an upscale apartment that All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett shared with former quarterback Matt Leinart.

School compliance officials are investigating whether an NCAA rule was violated because Jarrett paid less than half of what Leinart’s father said was a $3,866-a-month lease.

Bob Leinart, who picked up the difference, said he has been told that Jarrett might have to repay him about $10,000.

Reached by telephone Saturday, Coach Pete Carroll said of the investigation: “They are trying to figure it out. We’ll know a lot more on Monday or Tuesday.”

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Bob and Linda Leinart, in New York to watch as their son was selected 10th in the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals, said they leased the apartment in a secured building last June because fans started showing up at Matt’s previous residence near campus, where he lived during the Trojans’ 2004 national championship season.

“I was freaking out for his safety because people were following him home,” Leinart’s mother said. “He would walk out of his front door and people were waiting there for autographs.”

Leinart’s father said he put his son and Jarrett on the lease at the Medici complex downtown. Matt paid $650 a month, Jarrett paid $650 and Bob Leinart said he paid the difference.

“I have checks and money orders to prove it,” the father said.

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USC compliance officials are looking into whether the football program received an unfair advantage because, while Bob Leinart would have been allowed to make up the difference for his son, he might not have been allowed to do so for another player.

Meanwhile, more questions have arisen about business dealings around Bush.

A New Jersey memorabilia dealer said that during last season, Bush’s soon-to-be marketing agent, Mike Ornstein, approached him about becoming the player’s official memorabilia representative.

Bob DeMartino said Saturday that Ornstein asked for a $500,000 payment in return for adding him to Bush’s team. The request suggests the possibility that Ornstein was acting as an official representative of Bush, who was still a college player, thereby potentially violating NCAA rules.

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Ornstein could not be reached for comment. On Friday, he told the Miami Herald that any talks with DeMartino were preliminary.

“All of that was based on only if I got [Bush] as a client,” Ornstein reportedly said. “It was only going to be if and when I signed him. No deal was ever consummated until Reggie signed with me after the season.”

DeMartino did not become Bush’s memorabilia agent.

The Pacific 10 Conference and the NCAA continue to investigate the relationship between Bush’s family and a fledgling marketing company. A lawyer representing New Era Sports & Entertainment said Friday that he was planning to file a $3.2-million lawsuit to recover, among other things, an alleged $100,000 in cash disbursements that New Era made to Bush’s family.

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New Era hoped to land the tailback as its first star client, but Bush, who was drafted second overall by the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, subsequently chose other representation.

If the NCAA finds violations, Bush could be deemed retroactively ineligible for last season and USC could be forced to forfeit games.

Bush’s stepfather and mother, LaMar and Denise Griffin, attended Saturday’s draft but declined to comment. Bush’s sports agent, Joel Segal, also declined to answer questions about the family’s business relationships.

David Cornwell, an Atlanta-based attorney who represents Bush and his family, has claimed that New Era is trying to extort millions from the athlete. He has contacted the NFL Players’ Assn., which is reportedly investigating the matter.

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On Friday, the NFL issued a statement saying that “based on the information presented by Reggie Bush’s attorney, our offices advised the attorney to consider referring these matters to law enforcement authorities.” League officials said they were “monitoring the situation.”

Cornwell attended the draft and said, “We will approach the appropriate independent third parties or agencies and present our evidence, and we’re confident the same conclusion will be reached.”

Cornwell said he also planned to contact NCAA, Pac-10 and USC officials Monday regarding an interview about the situation.

“We’re going to do this in a way that’s considered, focused and appropriate to protect my clients’ interest,” he said. “We’ll be able to work our way through it, I’m sure.”

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Sanchez, in competition with John David Booty to become the starting quarterback, was arrested last Wednesday after a female USC student told police that he had sexually assaulted her.

The freshman is free on bail and is scheduled to appear in court on May 17. USC put Sanchez on “interim suspension” but it is expected that he will be allowed to complete final exams, which begin Wednesday.

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Klein reported from New York, Wharton from Los Angeles.

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