Trading Blows: Should Mike Garrett be Fired?

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When it comes to sports, there aren’t many issues that Danny Savitzky and Alejandro Madrid agree on. Here on Reign of Troy, we’ll exploit that constant sense of disagreement with a periodic feature entitled Trading Blows, which will pit the two editors against each other on a key issue regarding USC athletics. This week’s topic: Should Athletic Director Mike Garrett be Dismissed?

Mike Garrett should be fired from his position as athletic director at USC. While he built up some of the programs, the athletic department is currently in shambles due to his negligence. The NCAA came down hard on USC because it found a lack of institutional control. The Trojans failed to properly monitor their football, basketball and women’s tennis program. At one point, USC had only one member on staff for football compliance. To be that understaffed is inexcusable. Although the enforcement aspect isn’t Garrett’s job, he failed to put the proper measures in place to ensure compliance within his department.

As athletic director, Garrett is responsible for overseeing the continued maintenance and success of the university’s various sports programs. Under his leadership, which began in 1993, USC’s varsity teams have gone on to win numerous championships, paving the way for the school to become a benchmark for athletic performance nationwide. While “a lack of institutional control” is certainly his problem, we both know that phrase is a generic summation of USC’s violations of NCAA protocol that completely avoids description. Garrett can’t micromanage his coaches to the point that he becomes a pest, and regardless of how hawkeyed he was, he couldn’t have foreseen the handouts to players like Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo; that was all done in private. As for not implementing the measures to prevent this type of misconduct, he is under immense pressure to churn out quality teams. Trying to achieve an impossible balance between recruits who are talented on the field and those who have good heads on their shoulders is a daunting task, so it’s not really his fault that these things transpired.

: According to the NCAA, USC should have known about these violations. In the case of basketball, USC was sanctioned in 2001 because one of the players had illegal dealings with Rodney Guillory. When Guillory showed up years later with Mayo, Garrett should have denied access to a man that had sunk USC before. He doesn’t have to micromanage but he has to make sure the people beneath him are doing their job or that there are even people in place to do that job. While Mike Garrett has presided over a glorious period at USC, the success has come at a price. For now, USC’s reputation has been damaged and the dominance on the football field is tainted because of the sanctions. Furthermore, Garrett isn’t the only athletic director in the country to produce quality teams. Why can teams like Florida, Texas, and Ohio State be perennial national title contenders and not have run-ins with the NCAA? Without a doubt, he could have been more proactive about the situation instead of sitting back passively.

: He couldn’t have been more proactive with regard to something he didn’t know about. While the NCAA might think that he should know the most private interactions of all of his players, that’s just not realistic. The players who engage in this kind of behavior know that it’s unacceptable. As a result, they keep it under wraps because they want to keep playing. With respect to Guillory, how can you ban the man known as “the mayor of prep basketball in Southern California”? As an event promoter, he’s one of the finest in the nation. Moreover, his connection to Mayo was profound, extending back to Mayo’s days in middle school. If Guillory weren’t around, we never would have signed Mayo, who was one of the top NBA prospects in the nation. Again, is it worth it to diminish talent on the court to sideline a promoter with a mostly excellent reputation?

: He certainly could have been more proactive by just having a sufficient amount of people on the enforcement staff. In the Reggie Bush case, the department never followed up on the blank areas of Bush’s car registration that should have raised red flags. While this isn’t directly Garrett’s fault, he is to blame for not hiring enough people to be able to make sure everything was on the up and up. Regardless of Guillory’s clout within the community, his proximity should have been a warning sign. Since his appearance spelled doom for USC before, his appearance should have set off a red alert in Heritage Hall. The mission of USC should not be to just sign the best players; it should be to sign the best players and avoid trouble from the NCAA. If that means not signing Mayo, then so be it. After all, his one year at USC wasn’t worth the trouble. The Trojans were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The handwriting was on the wall and Garrett failed either to pay attention or to care and both are cause for termination.

: Hindsight is 20-20, Alejandro. Of course signing Mayo wasn’t a good idea looking back at it. But before his recruitment, you never could have predicted it. Even if Guillory were on the athletic department’s radar, there’s no guarantee his misconduct would have been evident. In fact, I’m sure USC did have people looking into him if he spurned them before, but they didn’t come up with anything warranting drastic measures. With respect to Reggie Bush: sure, a nice car might be odd, but jumping the gun on investigating it would have screamed racial profiling, subjecting the university to a whole other set of ramifications. The letter of intent doesn’t mention anything about disclosing information pertinent to lifestyle, so Bush wouldn’t have been forthcoming about it anyway. No matter how many staff members the university had policing the players, they wouldn’t have been likely to come up with anything.

: While I do believe USC would have dabbled in profiling by investigating Bush’s car, the NCAA report makes it clear that that is what USC should have done. Although it doesn’t seem right, USC is governed by the NCAA and should follow their guidelines in order to stay compliant. If Bush cried foul, USC could have hid behind the NCAA rule book. As for the car, USC may not have uncovered anything, but the NCAA probably would have handed down a lighter sentence if USC had made a good faith effort to cover all bases. Yes, this situation is not completely Garrett’s fault. However, when the entire program comes under fire, the heat needs to be turned up at the top and Garrett should be fired.

Have suggestions for topics we should debate? Leave a comment, send an e-mail to reignoftroy@gmail.com, or tweet us @reignoftroy.