With rulings coming down recently against top NCAA programs such as Memphis and Kentucky for violations, USC may not have made it through the summer unscathed.
On top of previous allegations of improper payments to Heisman Trophy winning running back Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo, two more accusations have been added to the list of potential violations against the USC athletic program this summer: surpassing the allotted coaching staff limits and a personal injury stemming from a car accident.
A recent Los Angeles Times story reported that USC may have exceeded limits on the size of their football coaching staff because Pete Rodriguez, along with Alex Gibbs and other coaches with NFL experience, acted as additional coaches by attending practices, observing games and offering head football coach Pete Carroll behind-the-scenes advice during Carroll’s tenure at USC.
During Pac-10 media day in July, Carroll discussed these alleged violations and claimed that Rodriguez and the others served the role of consultants and not coaches during Carroll’s eight seasons with the Trojans.
College football teams are allowed nine assistant coaches and two graduate assistants, but Rodriguez was not listed by USC as a coach last season. NCAA guidelines prohibit consultants from “any on- or off-field … coaching activities,” unless they are counted against a team’s coaching limit. Specifically forbidden is “attending practices and meetings involving coaching activities, formulating game plans and analyzing video involving the institution’s or opponent’s team.”
Carroll confirmed that his consultants stayed within acceptable boundaries in performing as consultants. Carroll claimed Rodriguez — one of his old friends — had not been “evaluating players. He just watched.”
Carroll also said USC assured him the NCAA had cleared Rodriguez and the other consultants before they were permitted to attend practice and give advice.
“We took the proper channels. That’s how we’ve always done it,” Carroll informed reporters. “Everything was all right.”
Meanwhile, a personal injury lawsuit that could run more than $500,000 has been filed against former USC assistant football coach Dave Watson, a local car dealership and USC. On May 17, 2008, Watson was the driver of a car that struck Alaric Valentin, the passenger of another vehicle. Watson, who was allegedly battling a painkiller addiction at the time, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The suit claims that Watson had taken as many as seven Vicodin and several Soma (muscle relaxant) pills.
According to a recent LAist article, the lawsuit states that USC was negligent because the university provided the vehicle to Watson and “was aware of or should have been aware of [his] addiction to prescription pain medications.” The plaintiff, Valentin, also argues that USC’s own doctors knew about Watson’s addiction and had prescribed him pain medication.
However, USC’s General Counsel’s office believes that they do not belong in this lawsuit. Although Watson was employed by USC at the time (Watson left the team in January 2009), USC claims Watson was on his personal time when the accident took place.
Greg Patterson, an attorney who specializes in civil litigation in Los Angeles, told LAist that “an employer can only be held vicariously liable for wrongs that are within the scope of employment. This is determined by weighing several factors, such as whether the conduct benefited or was authorized by the employer, the nature of the conduct involved, and the time and place of the accident.”
Neither case has been fully resolved as USC continues to review the matters.