Commentary

Mike Garrett has some explaining to do

Updated: January 3, 2010, 9:16 PM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPN Los Angeles

At some point, USC athletic director Mike Garrett must stop hiding behind the words "ongoing investigation."

He cannot keep avoiding press conferences in favor of prerecorded messages that look and sound like bad political advertisements. He cannot continue to ignore the pressing questions from the outside about what is happening within the USC athletic department.

Seven months ago, Garrett and USC senior vice president for administration Todd Dickey recorded a message (posted on USC's Web site) in which they explained they were investigating the allegations of NCAA violations regarding former Trojans Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.

On Sunday morning, USC posted another prerecorded message from Garrett on its Web site, announcing self-imposed sanctions on its men's basketball program because of NCAA rules violations related to Mayo.

The timing -- while nine NFL games were under way across the country -- was transparent, and the message raised more questions than it answered. Garrett's delivering a prerecorded video statement was like breaking up with your girlfriend via text message because you were afraid of the fallout from a face-to-face meeting.

Life would be so much easier if we could prerecord everything. It would be great if we could have outtakes and do-overs; if we could simply make announcements without having to explain ourselves or answer questions.

But that's not reality, and the notion that Garrett cannot comment or answer questions about the NCAA infractions committed by his program until the NCAA concludes its inquiries is ridiculous.

There may be certain specifics about the cases he cannot address, but at some point he needs to step forward, be candid and work to restore the reputation of USC's athletic programs.

Garrett and USC didn't wait until the NCAA concluded its inquiries to announce their self-imposed sanctions, and they shouldn't wait to address the questions and criticisms surrounding the program. These are not just questions from the media and critics, but from boosters and fans who have invested time and money in the program, as well.

Are we really supposed to wait until the NCAA makes an announcement regarding its USC investigations before Garrett can answer questions about Bush, Mayo and Joe McKnight?

There have been cold-case-file mysteries solved in a fraction of the time it has taken the NCAA to investigate alleged infractions surrounding Bush, who left the school four years ago, and Mayo, who left two years ago. McKnight likely will be playing on Sundays long before we find out why he was driving around campus in an SUV.

Prohibiting the men's basketball team from participating in postseason play this season, and vacating all wins from the 2007-08 regular season, does little to allay suspicions and questions about the program as long as Garrett remains unavailable.

Each one of USC's alleged NCAA infractions has been first reported by the press before USC decided to investigate it, so it is hard to applaud the program for disciplining itself after it was essentially forced to do so.

And I find it hard to understand how no one in the athletic program thought to look into Mayo's continued involvement with Rodney Guillory, a Los Angeles event promoter previously alleged to have provided former Trojans basketball player Jeff Trepagnier (who was suspended during the 2000-2001 season) with improper gifts.

It seems clear the excitement of three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament blinded the program to its responsibilities. And today that blindness punishes a current group of players whose only crime was sticking by a team in disarray.

While Mayo is averaging 18 points per game in his second season with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Tim Floyd is coaching the New Orleans Hornets, current players and coaches must suit up each night knowing they will not be allowed to participate in either the Pac-10 or the NCAA tournament.

This year's promising team -- which has won eight straight games and leads the Pac-10 after the first weekend of conference play -- suddenly goes from being a feel-good story to a hard-luck story.

They can win the rest of their games and it won't matter; the hard work and perseverance of seniors Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson will be repaid by an early vacation come March.

How does Mike Garrett explain that?

I wish I could ask him.

Arash Markazi is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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