Pete Carroll reportedly is blaming Louisiana State fans for the controversy involving Joe McKnight, because Tigers fans are unhappy the prized running back recruit left the state and chose USC.
"The LSU people are going crazy with it," the USC coach told the Los Angeles Daily News. "Everyone down there is raising a stink. There's nothing to worry about. It absolutely did not happen."
McKnight signed a national letter of intent with USC on Wednesday and made comments during a news conference that seemed to suggest communications involving former Trojan and Heisman winner Reggie Bush, who is now with the New Orleans Saints.
Former players are forbidden by NCAA recruiting rules from telephoning prospective recruits, their relatives or guardians.
Carroll has vehemently denied any phone calls were placed to or received from Bush in the recruit's presence.
“It didn't happen,” Carroll told the Los Angeles Daily News. “So we won't get penalized. You can look at the phone records. I'm not worried about it one bit. That conversation with Bush never existed. Reggie and everyone else will tell you it didn't happen.
Bush's lawyer told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that the running back didn't have any communication with McKnight and has had no involvement with USC's recruiting activities.
Carroll, who said McKnight's comments on Wednesday were "twisted," spoke with the recruit on Friday.
Alex Brandon / AP
Louisiana's Joe McKnight was the top-ranked running back in this year's recruiting class.
“Joe felt terrible that all this came about," Carroll told the Times.
McKnight’s high school football coach J.T. Curtis said the recruit misspoke during the news conference.
“He said when they came in his house, the discussion was brought up about probation and that’s when the conversation came up that they had talked to Reggie, but Joe was not there,” Curtis said. “He said, ’I was not on the speakerphone. I never called him and he never called me. I want to make it clear I never spoke to Reggie and he never spoke to me. I just messed it up. I shouldn’t have said it that way (at the news conference).”’
The NCAA and the Pac-10 Conference are investigating whether Bush or his family received “improper benefits” from agents while he was playing for USC.
Regarding McKnight, Mike Matthews, associate commissioner of compliance for the Pac- 10, said boosters are not supposed to be involved in the recruiting process but could not comment without knowing specifics. NCAA spokeswoman Crissy Schluep also said she could not comment without knowing more.
Curtis said McKnight may have been overwhelmed by the attention and scrutiny that accompanied his announcement.
The Daily News reported that even if an illegal conversation took place between Bush and McKnight, the NCAA would likely consider it a secondary violation, which doesn't result in significant penalties.
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
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