Although fall football camp is less than two months away, the main story around USC this week has to do with basketball. But more about that later. Let’s start off with the good news.
Mark Sanchez inked a five-year $50 million contract yesterday with $28 million guaranteed. Even though he hasn’t taken his first NFL snap or thrown his first pass, he nevertheless has become the highest paid player in New York Jets history.
The negotiations between Jets GM Mike Tannebaum and David Dunn, Sanchez’ agent, were relatively quick and painless considering how long and drawn out some deals for top quarterback draftees have been in the recent past.
Sanchez’ contract could max out at $60 million if he leads the Jets to multiple Super Bowls. But the question right now is: will he be the Jets’ starter?
Head Coach Rex Ryan isn’t tipping his hand just yet.
"I understand about the money and all that," Ryan said yesterday, "but my job as coach is to play the best guys and what gives you a chance to win. I am judged on wins and losses and I have to do what's best for our football team."
"If that means playing a rookie at quarterback then so be it. If that means playing Kellen Clemens at quarterback then that's great. The one thing I always say is that they are going to have to earn that job."
There’s also some other news on a recent USC draftee. In a story I did for Bleacher Report in April on USC players in the draft, I wrote that, "I’m not saying that (Kevin) Ellison will ever be a (Troy) Polamalu or a (Rodney) Harrison, but wherever the Chargers decide to play him, he will produce and energize their defense. Kevin Ellison is my ultimate sleeper pick."
Why a "sleeper" pick? Because all the NFL teams listened to scouting reports instead of watching Ellison’s game films. Anyone who watched any of his games would realize this guy was much better than a sixth round draft choice. If you don’t believe me, just ask DeSean Jackson, a former Cal Bear now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ellison, in only a few weeks of practice with the Chargers, has made quite an impression according to the San Diego Tribune.
The Tribune article maintains, "It is clear that [sixth]-round draft pick Kevin Ellison is a player. He appears healthy, is in the right spot most of the time and is similar to Eric Weddle in that he seems to know how to find the ball. Philip Rivers has been particularly complimentary of Ellison."
Back to this year’s squad.
This week, eight Trojan players were named to the pre-season All Pac-10 Team—five on offense and four on defense. The first-teamers are wideout Damian Williams, offensive tackle Charles Brown, offensive guard Jeff Byers, center Kristofer O'Dowd, defensive end Everson Griffen and safety Taylor Mays. Stafon Johnson and safety Josh Pinkard were named to the second team.
Now for the bad news and the main headline concerning USC this week—the resignation of head basketball coach Tim Floyd.
Allegations accusing Floyd of paying out $1,000 to O.J. Mayo handlers in an effort to get him to commit to USC surfaced a couple months ago. This forced the NCAA to combine its basketball investigation with its on-going investigation of Reggie Bush’s and the Bush family’s dealings with another sports agency.
The captain always goes down with his ship. Well, almost always. Floyd did not bail before his main crewmen and deck hands got off the sinking ship that was the USC basketball program.
After most of his starters bailed for the NBA Draft when only one or two of them have even the slightest chance of making it in the NBA and after his main recruits de-committed, Floyd finally abandoned ship.
But the news didn’t even come form Mike Garrett’s Athletic Department. Instead, Floyd’s letter of resignation was published in the Clarion (Mississippi) Ledger of all places.
So, yesterday I wrote an article on the USC Basketball page: USC AD Mike Garrett Needs to Step Up Not Back
Essentially, it said that Mike Garrett must step up and address some of the recent occurrences that have caused even the most devout USC alumnus and fan to wonder what is taking place. Garrett also needs to step up and address the situation of frontline players opting for the NBA Draft and why several of Floyd’s recruits have de-committed.
Garrett should also explain why Floyd’s letter of resignation was published in the Clarion (Mississippi) Ledger before it even reached his desk. Or had it reached his desk, and he withheld the announcement?
Or did Floyd, who maintains his innocence, actually resign or was he ousted?
Finally, Garrett needs to make it quite clear that his next hire is not about wins and loses but about integrity. He must make it perfectly clear that the next hire is not only about basketball, but about building character. He needs to emphatically promise that the person he chooses will lead by example.
And then Garrett must go out and fulfill this promise by picking a person of exemplary character who is beyond reproach.
Some names are already being thrown out there by the media, including former Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus, former Seattle Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, and St. Mary's head coach Randy Bennett
At least one ESPN commentator mentioned former Indiana and Texas Tech head coach Bobby Knight, now a college basketball analyst with ESPN.
An article in the Los Angeles Times also mentioned Lakers assistants, Jim Clemmons and Brian Shaw, might have an interest in the USC job. So, I will throw out another name.
How about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
But before any of this happens, Garrett must first clear the air. Even though he cannot discuss the past and matters that relate to any of the allegations, he can and must address the future.
Garrett needs to issue a policy statement outlining the steps his athletic department will take to insure situations like these do not arise in the future. He needs to take a hard line with recruits and their parents regarding their association with professional sports representatives.
Too much has gone down on Garrett’s watch. He can no longer afford to step back behind a stone wall. He needs to either step up or step down.