USC says it can't respond

Responding to criticism that it has failed to independently investigate or publicly address allegations that led to a probe of its athletic program, USC posted video statements Thursday evening from two top administrators.

Todd Dickey, USC's senior vice president for administration, and Athletic Director Mike Garrett appear in the videos, which were posted on the school's athletic website.

The NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference have launched an investigation into allegations involving former football star Reggie Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo.

Bush allegedly accepted thousands in cash from fledgling marketers and his family lived rent free while he was playing for USC. Mayo is accused of accepting gifts from a middleman representing a sports agency.

Tim Floyd, who resigned this week as the Trojans basketball coach, also had been recently accused of providing money to the middleman.

Dickey and Garrett said USC has refrained from speaking publicly about the allegations to ensure that the investigation is not compromised.

"Announcing or publicizing information about the investigation or what has been discovered in one interview before all of the individuals . . . have been interviewed, could pollute or influence another person's recollection, as well as the final conclusions of the investigation," Dickey said. He added, "NCAA rules require us to maintain the confidentiality of the investigation until the investigation is complete."

However, NCAA rules do not preclude college staffers from defending themselves against allegations. USC officials also have declined to take questions about Floyd's resignation, the alleged payment to the middleman or the state of the program as players left for the pros and recruits asked out of their scholarships.

A USC spokesman said Dickey and Garrett were not available for further comment.

In his statement, Dickey contradicts statements made to The Times in a May 31 article by attorneys of two key witnesses -- Lloyd Lake in the Bush inquiry and Louis Johnson in the Mayo case-- that USC failed to attempt to question them.

Dickey said, "USC repeatedly asked to participate in the NCAA's interview of Mr. Lake. However, Mr. Lake and his attorneys refused to allow the university to participate in either his interview or the interviews of his relatives."

Lake's attorney, Brian Watkins has told The Times the school did not attempt to make contact with his client until last fall, more than two years after the accusations became public and 11 months after the NCAA interviewed him.

Dickey's statement also referred to a letter the school sent to Lake's attorney requesting an interview. Dickey said "neither Mr. Lake nor his attorney agreed to that request."

Watkins responded Thursday: "I called [USC attorney] Kelly Bendell and left about four voice messages. She never responded, so I just let it go."

Dickey also said USC had tried to interview Johnson, who made the accusations that led to the Mayo inquiry and also the allegation regarding Floyd's cash payment to middleman Rodney Guillory.

Both sides agree that USC sat in on two interviews with Johnson conducted by the NCAA and Pac-10.

However, Anthony V. Salerno, a Johnson attorney, said Thursday night, "I wouldn't say in my opinion that [USC] investigated in any way, that they did anything on their own to try to find out what was going on, at least with regard to Louis. . . . They appeared to take it seriously once the NCAA developed the information and they really had no choice but to deal with it."

Of USC's critics, Garrett said, "People who say that we have something to protect are partially right. What we have to protect is the integrity of the athletic department. And that means doing this right. And that is what we are doing."


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