USC fired head baseball coach Frank Cruz for knowingly violating NCAA Countable Athletically Related Activities regulations, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden announced Wednesday.
The announcement comes just two days before the Trojans start their 2013 regular season at Cal State Fullerton on Friday.
“It was unfortunate. I’m forever grateful for Coach Cruz,” junior infielder Kevin Swick said. “He allowed me to play here and he was a great coach while he was here.”
Cruz was suspended from all coaching duties last Thursday pending an investigation by the USC Office of Athletic Compliance, led by Vice President Dave Roberts. Roberts and his staff found that the baseball program exceeded the regulated number of CARA hours.
The CARA rules restrict the amount of time players spend participating in activities under the supervision of coaching staff. Student-athletes are limited to 20 hours per week during the season and eight hours per week during offseason.
The activities recognized by the NCAA include typical athletic practice, film review and even simply participating in a game of catch with a member of the coaching staff.
“Adhering to all NCAA rules is paramount for each one of our coaches, student-athletes and staff members,” Haden said in a statement Wednesday. “Those who knowingly break NCAA rules are subject to termination.”
USC also announced its decision to reduce the number of hours the team spends practicing for the upcoming season and the following season next year. The university notified the NCAA and the Pac-12 conference of the violations and its impending self-imposed actions.
Associate head coach Dan Hubbs, who served as interim head coach during Cruz’s brief suspension and is entering his third coaching year at USC, has been named head coach.
“It’s obviously bittersweet because I love Frank Cruz and he gave me the opportunity to come back to my alma mater,” Hubbs said. “He and I are friends. It’s never easy to see something like this happen to one of your friends.”
Hubbs, 42, earned All-American honors as a pitcher for the Trojans and served as pitching coach for 12 seasons at Cal. He also spent seven years pitching in the minor leagues.
“I’m confident that Dan Hubbs and his staff will lead our team to a successful season,” Haden said in a statement. “Dan is a good coach, he is highly regarded in the baseball community and he has strong Trojan roots.”
Hubbs said that moving forward, his plans for the team won’t deviate from the vision that the coaching staff developed as a whole, but that he might make tweaks as he sees fit. For now, he is focused on making sure his players are ready for their first game Friday.
“We’re trying to get as much as we can get done in a confined time frame,” Hubbs said. “But I think the team has been great in terms of their energy and their willingness to just keep moving on.”
In fact, the sudden change hasn’t had much of an effect on players yet, Swick said. They still have their goals set on playing well and eventually advancing to playoffs and regionals.
Hubbs echoed these sentiments and said that the main priority is the immediate future, specifically the start of the season and the team’s first game.
“My message to the team is we have one goal right now — we have one focus right now and that has to be Fullerton on Friday,” Hubbs said.