Garrett, USC have own case to make

With an NCAA committee set to hear allegations against big-name former USC athletes later this week, Athletic Director Mike Garrett insists that his department abides by the book.

“We have two cases like that, and it was such an anomaly for us,” Garrett said during a recent interview. “That’s not our nature and never will be our nature.”

Although Garrett declined to discuss specifics, school officials appearing before the NCAA infractions committee this week are expected to challenge the notion that they knew of misconduct or otherwise failed to monitor their athletes -- most notably former Trojans stars Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.

“If you talked to Reggie Bush or if Mayo were here, they would defend the university,” Garrett said. “They love the university.”

Seeking to avoid punishment beyond what was self-imposed on the basketball program this year, administrators might argue that much of football tailback Bush’s alleged misconduct took place far from campus, in his hometown of San Diego, and that Mayo had already left for the NBA when allegations against him came to light.

“It happened with a basketball coach and a football coach,” Garrett said. “I said, ‘Let’s get after this and get to the bottom of this so it doesn’t happen again.’ ”

But with the investigations spanning months and years, USC has been criticized for not being more aggressive in trying to interview key accusers.

And Garrett’s comments did not address other allegations: Former football coach Pete Carroll, now with the Seattle Seahawks, allegedly had a consultant act as an assistant coach in 2008, putting his staff over the size limit.

Also, former tailback Joe McKnight was seen driving a Land Rover owned by a Santa Monica businessman last season, which could constitute an NCAA violation. USC compliance officials held him out of the Emerald Bowl in December and he subsequently decided to leave school for the NFL.

It was unclear whether the NCAA would wrap these incidents into its combined investigation of Bush and Mayo.

University President Steven Sample, while declining to comment on the case, sought to deflect some responsibility from Garrett and the athletic department.

He noted that USC compliance officials report to the president through a faculty athletics representative and the school’s vice president of academic planning and budget.

“I’m responsible, we’re all responsible, for trying to be compliant with NCAA rules and regulations,” Sample said. “I happen to think that’s very, very important.

“But if we’re not doing it right,” he said, “it probably has more to do with things outside the athletic department.”

Garrett seemed eager to present his case to the infractions committee.

“If you told me that our kids are running rampant, doing evil things, not graduating, and coaches are doing horrible things, that’s a little different than a case here and there,” Garrett said. “All I’m saying is, those things we looked at and we know we have that before the NCAA.”