Investigation of former assistant could affect Steve Sarkisian and USC

New USC Coach Steve Sarkisian says he "did everything to promote a compliant atmosphere" while coaching at Washington.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

LAS VEGAS — New USC Coach Steve Sarkisian could face penalties, including suspension, if allegations that an assistant on his Washington staff paid for private tutoring and online classes for a recruit are found to be true.

The allegations, first reported in The Times, surround the recruitment of Andrew Basham, a former defensive lineman at Lynnwood High in Washington, who signed a letter of intent with the Huskies in February but did not qualify academically to enroll.

Compliance officials from USC and Washington and possibly the NCAA are scheduled to meet Friday in Seattle with Mike Davis, who alleged that Tosh Lupoi, Washington’s defensive line coach, gave him $3,000 to cover private tutoring for Basham through a test preparation company. Davis also alleged that he received $1,500 from Lupoi to reimburse Basham’s father for online classes Andrew could use to raise his grade-point average.


Lupoi has denied violating NCAA rules in the recruitment of Basham.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden was part of a working group that developed the NCAA’s four-tier penalty structure and head coach responsibilities that became effective Oct. 30, 2012.

The bylaws state that a head coach is presumed to be responsible for violations occurring within his program, unless the head coach can prove that he has promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his staff. The penalties can include suspensions. Because the penalty structure is new and has yet to be testedwith a similar case, it is unclear how the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions would deal with a coach’s new school.

John Infante, a former compliance director at Loyola Marymount and Colorado State, said Thursday that if the allegations in this case were proved true, Sarkisian would need to show, “that he did enough in terms of promoting an atmosphere of compliance and that he monitored his program so that he should not be held responsible.”

Sarkisian is not coaching USC in the Las Vegas Bowl, but he attended the Trojans’ practice at a Las Vegas high school. Sarkisian reiterated to reporters that he “did everything to promote a compliant atmosphere” at Washington and would do the same at USC.

Asked if he was concerned that he could be penalized if the allegations regarding Lupoi were found to be true, Sarkisian said, “I don’t know if concerned is the right word. I know what I did on a daily basis and I know the environment that I promoted there every single day that I went to work there.

“If and or when … the NCAA wants to talk to me, I’ll feel confident in my ability to show, factually, the ability that I exhibited to promote that atmosphere. So I don’t know if concerned is the right word. But I will be prepared.”


Lupoi, who is part of a Washington staff preparing for the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl, posted a message to his Twitter feed Thursday that included the passage: “I won’t let these sorts of untrue attacks break my focus! I look forward to an honest & thorough investigation.”

Twitter: @latimesklein