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College Football

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INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Trojan Horseplay

Bungled handoff at USC

by Ivan Maisel

Posted: Wed December 24, 1997

Sports Illustrated When Mike Garrett won the first of USC's four Heisman Trophies, in 1965, he was known as Ten to Two for his splay-footed running style that left defenders wondering which way he was going. Garrett has retained that style in his five years as athletic director at his alma mater, albeit without the success he enjoyed as a player.

The awkward manner in which he fired coach John Robinson on Dec. 16 is a case in point. It's not so much that Garrett informed Robinson of the dismissal by leaving a message on his home answering machine—Robinson probably sniffed out what was in the wind and knew better than to be home—but that Garrett left Robinson and his staff hanging for 3 1/2 weeks after the Trojans' last game while he tried to find someone he thought better suited for the job.

Garrett's choice of a successor for Robinson was a surprise too: Paul Hackett, who made a mess at Pittsburgh from 1990 to '92. When Hackett was dismissed after going 13-20-1, he left the Panthers with less talent than when he arrived. Hackett, who had been an assistant with four NFL teams, returned to the pros as offensive coordinator in Kansas City, where before this season all anyone could talk about was the Chiefs' lackluster offense.

It's rare that a coach is forced out of one school for losing and resurfaces later at a more prestigious program. Hackett, like Garrett, has a unique way of doing things.

Issue date: December 29, 1997

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