Southern Cal brushes off distractions
SAN FRANCISCO - Star running back Joe McKnight being investigated for driving somebody else’s SUV? Three players declared academically ineligible?
If these recent developments are weighing on Pete Carroll and Southern Cal, there was no evidence at yesterday’s news conference promoting Saturday’s Emerald Bowl between the Trojans and Boston College.
“I go with what I know,’’ Carroll said. “What I know are the guys who are here.’’
McKnight’s status for the game is up in the air. He did not travel with USC to San Francisco, staying behind to work on some paperwork, according to Carroll. USC is investigating whether McKnight was driving an SUV registered to a Los Angeles businessman. Scott Schenter claimed he purchased the car for McKnight’s girlfriend, Johana Michelle Beltran, who works for him. McKnight told the Los Angeles Times he doesn’t drive the car and that it belongs to his “baby mama’s boss.’’ Beltran is the mother of McKnight’s 10-month-old son.
Carroll said McKnight’s case “raised some issues that the compliance office takes very seriously. They hope to find out more in the next day.’’
On Monday, USC announced that starting tight end Anthony McCoy and starting tackle Tyron Smith, along with reserve defensive end Averell Spicer, were academically ineligible.
“The fact that they weren’t able to get it done . . . that’s very disappointing,’’ Carroll said. “They should be here.’’
Carroll said the Trojans are used to having people step up when others miss games, whether because of injury or other reasons.
“We have a mind-set about handling guys who aren’t available,’’ he said. “Our running backs in this program are dying for this opportunity [if McKnight misses the game].’’
Safety Taylor Mays said none of this would be a distraction on Saturday.
“It’s a tough situation,’’ Mays said. “Our guys are able to focus and block out distractions. We should be able to do that one more time.’’
“You can’t really set the stage any better,’’ senior linebacker Mike McLaughlin said. “This is my fifth year and this is the last college football game I’ll ever play. SC - that’s the mecca of college football. Especially on the East Coast, that is West Coast football. It’s like playing the New England Patriots.’’
Said senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell, “It’s like playing Notre Dame. They’re one of the greatest programs in college football history.’’
On the smarts of 25-year-old freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie, who delayed his college football career by playing minor league baseball: “He graduated from Mt. Carmel High School and jumped right on the bus for the minor leagues. I don’t think that’s what Dr. Phil would recommend.’’