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Jerry Buss Defends Mike Garrett

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Despite graduating from USC with a Ph.D in Chemistry during the late 50s and being a prominent figure in Los Angeles, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss typically stays out of the limelight when it comes to USC athletics. In many ways, he could have been a USC version of T. Boone Pickens, but because of his involvement with the Lakers and inclination to pal around with Hugh Hefner, he has largely left the board of trustees and President Sample take charge when it comes to this university. While he does often attend a few football games each season and has been spotted at the Galen Center a few times, Buss has largely stayed out of the USC spotlight. However, in this week's Los Angeles Times, Buss does come to the defense of the recently "retired" Mike Garrett:

There doesn't seem to be much love shown for Mike Garrett and I would like to correct this if I may. I think in the future, the last 17 years will be known as one of the Golden Ages of USC sports. It is doubtful to me if we will ever win as many NCAA championships in such a short period of time as we have done under Mike. The football was fun; the basketball was fun; the track & field a glimmering of its past glory under impossible circumstances (the limitation of scholarships imposed on USC).

I would also like to point out that for 50 years as a loyal Trojan, I prayed for someone with the ability, foresight and courage to attempt to build our own sports arena. This was accomplished by Mike Garrett even though there were numerous predecessors who attempted unsuccessfully to do the same thing.

Let's not kid ourselves - things were wonderful under Mike and although I hope things will be even better under Pat Haden, I think we owe Mr. Garrett a very deep debt of gratitude.

While I obviously disagree with several of Buss's points, particularly in regards to the Galen Center, his argument does have some validity.

There remains little doubt that Garrett was not a particularly great athletic director, especially toward the end of his 17-year run. But he wasn't atrocious either. A lot of things were problematic during his tenure, but at the end, things could have been a lot worse. Over nearly two decades, Garrett oversaw USC teams win 23 national championships and raise nearly $400 million in total revenue. Granted, those numbers could and should have been higher, but a completely incompetent individual doesn't oversee an athletic department that has that much success.

I don't mean to sound as if I'm gushing over Garrett on his way out, but at the very least, Buss's remarks do keep Garrett's departure in proper perspective. It was time to let an athletic director, who was atrocious in recent years, go, but at the same time, it would be preferable for 'SC fans to avoid giving Garrett the Reggie Bush treatment (i.e. disownment).