USC trustee Rick Caruso resigned from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission on Wednesday amid criticism that his role with the university, which has expressed interest in controlling the stadium, has prevented him from serving the commission effectively.
The governing body, which comprises representatives from the state, county and city, is expected to negotiate a master lease with USC to transfer control of the Coliseum from the commission to the university.
“Given the concern raised by some members of the commission about my dual role as a Trustee at the University of Southern California and as a Commissioner, I feel my ability to continue my work to transform this Commission and the effectiveness to assure the future reliability of the Coliseum may be restricted in the future,” Caruso said in his resignation letter.
USC acknowledged its desire to take control of the stadium, which hosts USC’s home football games, at the end of August. The university is currently using the Coliseum as part of a 25-year agreement that requires the university to give the commission 8 percent of ticket sales and $1.8 million annually, under the condition that the commission upgrades the stadium.
The commission has until today to provide USC with a plan for implementing the upgrades, according to the lease agreement. If the commission does not meet this obligation, the university can declare a default, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks told the Daily Trojan in August.
Parks, who also sits on the commission and whose council district includes the stadium, opposes the master lease out of a belief that the Coliseum, a publicly owned stadium, should not be controlled by a private institution.
Parks urged the panel to exclude Caruso from negotiations involving USC. An attorney for the commission told Caruso earlier in the month he would have to recuse himself from talks about the school’s lease, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This commission may be well-intended, but I think they are lost. I think they’re absolutely lost,” Caruso said after the commission’s last meeting on Sept. 7. “They don’t understand business. … They don’t know how to manage, and they have allowed this facility to be completely mismanaged.”
Were the commission to default, the university could start the improvements to the stadium and bill the commission, with the possibility the commission might not be able to afford it, Parks said in August.
In his resignation letter, Caruso expressed support for USC’s greater involvement in the stadium’s operation.
“I strongly support the current direction of having USC take a lead operating role due to their historical and current use of the Coliseum, financial capability to ensure the viability of this historical landmark and positive commitment to the local community,” he said in his letter of resignation.
Both Parks and USC administrators declined to comment on Caruso’s resignation.