BURLINGAME, Calif. -- Hundreds of miles away from Heritage Hall and only a few hours after the release of an NCAA report that spelled out major penalties for USC, athletic director Mike Garrett broke his silence on the matter by telling a group of the school’s sports boosters that the report was “nothing but a lot of envy.”
“As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was … I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans,” Garrett said to cheers Thursday night at the San Francisco Airport Marriott.
Garrett made the statement on a previously scheduled coaches' tour stop for football coach Lane Kiffin and men’s basketball coach Kevin O’Neill, whose programs faced sanctions. Football took the brunt of the hit in the report with a two-year bowl ban among other penalties due to improper benefits received by Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. USC will appeal.
Declaring that “we can still split a national championship if we win all our games,” Kiffin also indicated he was heartened to learn 56 of his players appeared this morning for a voluntary 7 a.m. workout.
“Regardless of what happens in that appeal, we know this: SC is more powerful than anything else,” Kiffin said. “The university, the football program, the basketball program -- no matter what they try to do to us, it won’t matter.”
Before dining on seared fillet mignon and chocolate mousse cake, Garrett was greeted warmly with hugs and handshakes by USC fans who each paid at least $75 for event admission.
Wearing a striped cardinal-and-gold-colored tie -- and a smile -- Garrett had this to say when I approached him before the start of the event: “No comment. Don’t bother me. The world is great.”
While walking away with associates, he said, “Don’t talk to that guy. He’s the press.”
Later, when asked why he had not spoken publicly about the NCAA report or even issued a video statement, Garrett acted like he did not hear the question. He patted me on the chest and said, “God bless you.”
When a newspaper reporter asked if he were worried about his job,” Garrett patted that writer on the chest as well and said, “I’m just worried about your job.”
The crowd gave Garrett a standing ovation and also applauded and cheered when he mentioned the school would appeal the NCAA ruling.
“We’re fighters,” Garrett said. “As I told my staff, I said, ‘You know, I feel invigorated by all this stuff.’”
O’Neill, whose team faced few additional sanctions because the school had already self-imposed a postseason ban for this past season, said it was “a great decision by Mike” to go ahead with those sanctions in January.
O’Neill was not present at the school while star one-and-done player O.J. Mayo was being recruited, but he did address difficulty in maintaining institutional control.
“We can’t control people 24 hours a day,” O’Neill said. “That’s all there is to it. You cannot control people from the outside. You cannot control agents. You cannot control runners. Those kinds of things get away from you sometimes because you have no way of knowing. I do know this: We do the right thing every single day by the university, by the athletic department, by the student-athletes.”
Kiffin, playing to the crowd, compared the idea of institutional control to raising children.
“Imagine if you have 120 of them to control,” he said. “And imagine if you also have responsibility for every parent and every family member they have. It’s a pretty difficult situation.”