To no one's surprise, decorated USC great Mike Garrett is out after 17 years as the Trojans' athletic director. He'll be replaced by decorated USC great Pat Haden. University president-elect Max Nikias, set to take over on Aug. 3, is expected to announce the transition at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Brace yourself for some highly entertaining parting shots from Mssr. Garrett.
The L.A. Times describes Haden, a starting quarterback on the Trojans' 1972 and 1974 national championship teams who also happened to earn a Rhodes Scholarship, as a "longtime USC favorite son."
But so was Garrett, an L.A. native who won the 1965 Heisman Trophy and later did color commentary for USC radio broadcasts. (Haden will be best known to younger fans for his broadcast work, too, although he only calls USC games when he crosses the Trojans' path on his long-running NBC gig for Notre Dame games.) And though Garrett was quickly redeemed for his unpopular decision to hire Pete Carroll as his fourth or fifth choice to resurrect the sagging football program in 2001, he'll never be remembered as much for hiring the guy who built the Trojan dynasty as he will for being the guy who fiddled while the empire burned. And then accused everyone of being jealous of the rubble.
Probably no athletic director in America could survive devastating NCAA sanctions against both the football and basketball programs at the same time, especially when both were brought to their knees by the same issue: A superstar player and assorted hangers-on taking verboten cash. When you add the apparently lackluster compliance efforts under Garrett's watch and his staggering denial in the wake of the sanctions, and especially his reputation for antagonizing pretty much everyone, he didn't stand a chance. (His decision to hire Lane Kiffin at a reportedly exorbitant salary probably didn't help.)
Haden is considered a much more likable, accessible guy. (He's already made a popular first hire, too, tabbing former USC teammate John McKay Jr., son of their legendary coach, as assistant A.D.) With brand-new coaches toiling under heavy restrictions at both major programs, he'll certainly be given an extended honeymoon: From an administrative perspective, there's nowhere to go but up.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.