Mike Williams and USC had a very messy divorce. After declaring last February that he would try to crash the NFL draft as a sophomore, Williams blasted his teammates for being unmotivated. When coach Pete Carroll's staff reportedly told NFL teams that it was Williams who had slacked off during the Trojans' 2003 co-national-championship season, Williams responded by saying Carroll ran an "undisciplined" program. Such ugliness put both sides in an awkward spot when on April 22 a Federal Court of Appeals in New York City ruled against Ohio State sophomore Maurice Clarett, upholding the NFL rule that says you must be out of high school three years to be drafted. Last week, however, Carroll declared peace in our time, saying the two had cleared the air in Williams's hometown of Tampa when Carroll was there on a recruiting trip in May. "Mike was being pulled in a hundred different directions," says Carroll. "Whatever he said in the heat of that moment is forgotten. We want to move forward." The rapprochement is not surprising, since Williams has nowhere else to play and Carroll gets back the nation's best wideout.
Or does he get him back? Williams now must mend fences with the NCAA. After Clarett's initial court victory (a U.S. District Court judge ruled in the running back's favor on Feb. 5), Williams, thinking he was home free, hired an agent, Mike Azzarelli. Then he did what many a likely first-rounder does: spend his agent's money (reportedly more than $100,000). After Clarett lost the next round, Williams cut ties with Azzarelli, but to regain his amateur status he will likely have to repay what he borrowed. Carroll says the matter will be settled with the help of Williams's foster parents, Kathy McCurdy, a lawyer, and her husband, Jack Says Carroll, "It shouldn't be a problem." The same can't be said of Williams's pursuit of a "progress to degree waiver"—essentially a pardon from the NCAA for missing school since the fall. Williams, whose petition is expected to be filed soon, may argue that he was misled by the courts into thinking he didn't need to stay in school due to the first Clarett decision. "We can only hope the NCAA sees things our way," says Carroll, "and helps out a kid who thought he was doing the right thing."