June 23, 2009
We already knew the odds were better than even that Mitch Mustain, the most celebrated recruit and later most beleaguered transfer in Arkansas history, was destined to fade into obscurity. After two years on Southern Cal's bench, the ex-golden boy's star had lost whatever remained of its shine following his flight from the unfolding Mexican soap opera in Fayetteville, and by all accounts he left spring practice third on USC's quarterback depth chart, behind two younger blue chips, Aaron Corp and Matt Barkley. At this stage in the game, a second transfer would leave Mustain not only with the reputation of a malcontent, but with precious little time to actually get on a field in any meaningful way, as unlikely as that looks with the Trojans.
According to the L.A. Times, though, eventual P.T. sounds like the least of Mitch's worries:
USC quarterback Mitch Mustain is attempting to resolve academic issues that could affect his eligibility for the coming season, Coach Pete Carroll confirmed Monday.
Carroll would not specify the issues and said there was "no timeline" or deadline for Mustain to resolve them. The Trojans report for training camp Aug. 7 and open their season Sept. 5 against San Jose State.
Asked if Mustain would be eligible if USC played tomorrow, Carroll said, "We don't have a game tomorrow." Mustain could not be reached for comment.
How very zen of Carroll, the only coach in the country who can afford to allow a former five-star, all-world prospect fall through his fingers like a couple pieces of loose change and not break a sweat. As for Mustain, we have no indication of how deep a hole he's in, academically, or the nature of said hole. But he's always seemed like the victim of circumstance -- if a booster at your school sent this e-mail to you at the end of a season in which you helped lead your middle-of-the-pack program to a division championship and its highest final ranking since it joined the conference 15 years earlier, you'd probably want to escape the spotlight of being the "local hero," too, especially if your old high school coach and teammates were also on their way out. From there, other than a simple numbers game against equally hyped competition, who knows what went wrong at SC.
As sordid a calamity as it was, the Arkansas Affair of 2006-07 actually worked out for almost everyone involved -- Houston Nutt is supposed to be scaling unprecedented heights at Ole Miss; Gus Malzahn is back in the conference after a barn-burning tour as offensive coordinator in Tulsa, this time getting to do things his way at Auburn; and Mustain's favorite target since high school, Damien Williams, seems to have adjusted much more smoothly to life in L.A. Only Mustain's arrow is still pointing down. There's still time to change that status, but the odds of him getting a chance without applying for another round of walking papers keep going in the same direction.