It's been speculated for some time now that Mike Garrett could be nearing the end of his 17-year run as head of the USC athletic department. But ever since the NCAA released a 67-page report in early June, highlighting a lack of institutional control at USC under Garrett's watch and placing the football program on 4-years probation, there has been a noticeable change in terms of the public perception surrounding Garrett. In short, most have begun calling for his head.
Previously, only a small section of the Trojan fanbase had been demanding that the former Heisman Trophy winner be relieved of his duties as athletic director. The football team was in the midst of an unprecedented run atop the college football world led by Pete Carroll, and that fact alone, largely overshadowed the ineptitude of a man such as Garrett. It made it easy to forget that Daryl Gross, not Garrett, was the one who actually hired Carroll in the first place. That Garrett's constant meddling with the basketball side of things forced the exits of two of the better hoops coaches in school history in Henry Bibby and Tim Floyd. Most of all, it made it easy to ignore the fact that Garrett single-handily turned the greatest college baseball program of all-time into the laughing stock of the Pac-10 through the firing of Mike Gillespie and hiring of Chad Kreuter. Now, with the NCAA findings being released, it finally appears as if the "Fire Garrett" wagon is starting to build up steam.
But rest assured, Mike Garrett is not going to be fired. USC's first Heisman Trophy winner will not be embarrassed and placed on the alter as some sacrificial lamb in front of the whole college football world. No, that's not going to happen. While there is no doubt that USC is interested in "bringing in some new blood," the higher-ups are not to do anything that would further damage the reputation of Garrett. And they really shouldn't.
Over the next 12 months, I expect two things to happen.
A.) Garrett, who is already 66 years old, is asked to resign, per request from new president Max Nikias, and he subsequently retires from his post as AD.
B.) Despite being asked to leave, he is bought out of his contract instead, and is told to either accept the buyout or be fired.
Make no mistake about it, the former option is not going to happen. Garrett, for lack of a better term, wants to clean up his own mess. As a former player, he's certainly a competitor, and there is no question that he wants to turn the program around before he sets off into the sunset. At least, that's how he sounds nowadays.
"As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was ... I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans."
That doesn't sound like a guy who's ready to accept the NCAA penalties and move on with his life. Judging from Garrett's tone around Heritage Hall these days, it appears as if he fully intends to take on the NCAA in the coming appeals process, while reshaping the athletic department in the meanwhile. He has no intention of stepping down and spending more time with the family. That's certainly clear.
Yet, the odd thing here is that Garrett does not sense that his job is in jeopardy at all. Last month, ESPN noted the following in a story regarding Garrett.
When a newspaper reporter asked if he were worried about his job," Garrett patted that writer on the chest as well and said, "I'm just worried about your job."
That's why I anticipate a buyout to eventually come Garrett's way. First, he wants to keep his job. But more importantly, the new USC administration isn't exactly too keen on the idea of retaining the head of an athletic department, which was just cited for a "lack of institutional control." In turn, it appears increasingly likely that we see a ton of money thrown Garrett's way on the premise that he retires.
And this isn't the first time such a scenario has been discussed.
Earlier this week, I learned that USC's president-elect Max Nikias, who will take over for Steve Sample in August, has been asking various boosters for their thoughts on Garrett. This shouldn't come as a major shock for most people in Nikias's shoes would want to gauge the level of satisfaction that the boosters have in regards to Garrett.
But Nikias isn't just some guy plucked from the east coast. He's been at USC since 1991, and certainly knows the ins-and-outs of the place. He may not have known all the inner-workings of the athletic department, for he largely stayed on the academic side of things, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Garrett has never been well liked by the boosters - even when USC was winning.
So that posses the question as to why Nikias is suddenly going around making calls to boosters, and asking them questions he would already know the answers to. Granted, it could be nothing more than a formality. But from what it sounds like, Nikias was taking the process seriously.
And that smells like a buyout is in the works. Why else would Nikias be calling the guys, who have money and the motivation to send Garrett packing? There's still the possibility that it's all but a formality, but a guy like Nikias wouldn't be spending the time and energy doing all of this if it was just that.
There remains little doubt that Garrett isn't the long-term solution as athletic director. He is not particularly wanted in the short term either. But with the transition from Sample-to-Nikias still underway, and an ongoing appeals process, he isn't going to be let go in the immediate future simply based on logistics.
But at the end of the year, when Nikias is firmly in place as president and USC's appeal is all but wrapped up, I would very surprised if Garrett was not given a pink slip and subsequently ushered out of Heritage Hall in the middle of the night.