USC Starts Recruit Inquiry

Times Staff Writer

USC compliance officials are investigating whether NCAA recruiting violations occurred at a restaurant that is owned by a former player, a school official said Saturday.

The restaurant is Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro, where Trojan coaches often take prospective players who are visiting on recruiting trips. The establishment is owned by John Papadakis, who played linebacker for USC in 1970 and '71, and whose sons, Petros and Taso, also played for USC.

Stories recently published on a website and in a Texas newspaper alleged that the Greek eatery is used as a recruiting tool. An inquiry to USC from the newspaper sparked the review, Tim Tessalone, USC's sports information director, said.

The stories described how Papadakis entertains customers with music, belly dancers and the traditional breaking of plates.

According to the stories, Papadakis also makes impassioned speeches to potential recruits.

The question is whether, as a former player, Papadakis is considered a "representative of athletics interests," by the NCAA and is prohibited from speaking to recruits about the football team.

One of the stories also implied that USC might be in violation because of the cost of meals -- the highest-priced entree is just under $60, but many others run in the $20 to $25 range -- and the restaurant's distance from campus -- about 25 miles.

Schools are required to report violations to the NCAA's national office, said Erik Christianson, a spokesman for the NCAA, whose offices are closed through Tuesday.

Papadakis said Saturday that he had not spoken to anybody at the school about its inquiry. He said he treats all customers the same and has entertained parties from nearly all Pacific 10 Conference schools and Nebraska.

"When people come into my restaurant, my job is to serve them. That's what I do. I serve and entertain," he said.

Papadakis said he does not instruct recruits to choose USC.

"Who am I to tell them what to do?" he said.

Coach Pete Carroll and recruiting coordinator Lane Kiffin said they were aware of the review.

"You'd be surprised how many times people challenge us with stuff," Carroll said.

Kiffin said the staff was "under the impression we were in total compliance with what was going on."

Asked whether he was concerned about the review, he said, "You're always concerned about it any time a possible infraction comes up, but obviously it's not the No. 1 thing in our mind right now."

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