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Why USC Should Take Down Mike Garrett's No. 20 from the Peristyle End of the Coliseum

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Why USC Should Take Down Mike Garrett's No. 20 from the Peristyle End of the Coliseum
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Former USC athletic director Mike Garrett's No. 20 sits retired in the peristyle end of the L.A. Memorial …

COMMENTARY | If a civilly liable double-murderer convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery can't get his No. 32 removed from the peristyle end of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, it might be hard to justify taking down the number right next to it.

It's true, you can't compare the misdeeds, alleged and otherwise, of O.J. Simpson to fellow USC Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Mike Garrett.

But with the NCAA's wrist-slapping of the University of Miami's football program Tuesday, it has become increasingly clear that the relatively much harsher sanctions imposed on USC in 2010 stemmed not much from the severity of the violations but from the handling of the process by former athletic director Garrett.

Maybe USC should reconsider its whole peristyle-end retired-jerseys strategy, which excludes any player who didn't win a Heisman.

NCAA basically just confirmed Mike Garrett screwed up #USC's case worse than any administrator ever has.

- Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) October 22, 2013

When faced with allegations that the parents of yet another Trojans Heisman-winning back, Reggie Bush, improperly received a house from sports agents, Garrett's strategy was to deny that anyone int he USC athletic program had knowledge of the misdeed. The NCAA didn't buy it, and docked USC two years of bowl participation and 30 scholarships.

Other accused programs -- Ohio State, Oregon, Miami -- have subsequently avoided the NCAA's wrath by falling on their swords, implementing policy changes and curtailing their own post-season participation before the athletic governing body imposed its verdict.

Following his mishandling of the NCAA's due process, Garrett then went out and hired Lane Kiffin.

Of course, Bush's over-sized No. 5 jersey once stood among those of USC's six other Heisman winners, Simpson, Garrett, Charles White (No. 12), Marcus Allen (No. 33), Carson Palmer (No. 3) and Matt Leinart (No. 11). The No. 5 was removed after USC was put on probation and Bush's Heisman was revoked.

For several years, the running joke in Coliseum is that a violent criminal can keep his jersey enshrined, but take a free house ...

I would argue that the man in charge of the athletic program that abdicated all responsibility for Bush deserves to go down, too. I say take down No. 32 and No. 20, as well

You're worried that that peristyle end will start looking pretty barren? Well, USC has plenty of legends, who maybe didn't win Heismans but who have lived upstanding lives of service and leadership off the field.

How about the No. 16 of former Trojans quarterback Rodney Peete, who was the Heisman runner-up in 1988 to Barry Sanders? Forget that none of the seven Trojans handed the trophy probably could have beaten out Sanders during his record-breaking 2,628-yard rushing year at Oklahoma State.

After a 16-year pro career, Peete has become an inspiration to parents all over the world, eloquently conveying his experiences raising an autistic son through books and public speaking.

Or how about the No. 42 worn by Ronnie Lott, one of the most decorated defensive players the game has ever seen? A successful businessman, Lott is now lauded for his vigorous philanthropic work.

Or how about the No. 10 worn by Pat Haden, the two-time National Championship-winning quarterback and Rhodes Scholar who has taken time out from lucrative enterprise to clean up Garrett's mess as USC's athletic director?

These are just three good choices of standout Trojans players whose off-the-field presences serve as an inspiration for students, alumni, fans and hangers-on, not an embarrassment.

Daniel Frankel is the founder and editor-in-chief of TitleTownNews.org, the voice of Southern California sports.

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