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Q&A with USC's new VP for compliance

8/22/2010

David M. Roberts was announced as USC's new vice president for athletic compliance at the same time Pat Haden was announced to be Mike Garrett's successor as athletic director.

Roberts, who took over his new position on Aug. 1, met with the media for the first time during Friday's practice and answered a variety of questions, ranging from his previous familiarity with the Trojans to his expectations for the job.

Here are several excerpts of the conversation:

What do you see as your biggest challenge coming into this and setting it up the way you wanted to?

Roberts: The first one -- and I know I have the commitment from everyone in the administration -- is to get a compliance office that's a little more healthy-staffed than we have now. We've got 19 sports, almost 700 athletes, and if you've seen the NCAA manual, it's pretty daunting. So that was the first thing, to get us staffed up and organized and communicating well. No. 2, it's to establish a new relationship not only with the NCAA and the Pac-10 but with our whole athletic department. I'll work hand-in-hand with them. I've told them, with an athletic background -- I'm an athlete first, believe it or not -- and I want them to compete. I want to solve problems, I don't want to be a barrier to all them. And the third one is to really make sure our guys have fun. My four-year college experience playing football was great. It was at a different level than this level is, but I truly believe that we're not here to look up every orifice they have, we're here to let them play and have fun. And I've gotta do it the right way.

Have you had any involvement with the NCAA case? Is your office in any way involved with the legal people here and the outside legal people as well. Do you have any connection to that?

Roberts: Let me put it this way: I started on August 1, so obviously I personally don't. Since that time, they do consult with me. I have a legal background, so obviously I have thoughts on things -- how they should be phrased, what we ought to be doing -- but the real issue on that is handled by the legal department, so I wouldn't want to say that it's otherwise. Have they talked to me about it? Yes. Have I shared my opinions and thoughts? Yes.

Has the way the NCAA case went down made it harder to establish a new relationship with them -- with the way some people feel about how that thing proceeded?

Well, I'm not gonna speak for other people, but from my perspective, it's a new day. The things we're doing out here now should show the NCAA that we understand what they said. We may not agree with everything they said, but we understand it. We're taking the actions that they want to have taken. Quite frankly, I think everybody I've spoken with in the athletic department or administration understands that we want to compete honestly and within the rules and at the highest level. I'm sure people will see friction -- there is an appellate process going on right now -- but today is a new day and I anticipate having a great relationship with the NCAA.

When Lane Kiffin came to USC, he had about half a dozen minor NCAA flare-ups at Tennessee and had built up a sort of reputation. Are you working with the coaches themselves?

We do. And that's a big part of my belief in how to establish a good relationship is to talk to the coaches, to educate coaches, and they know what's going on but in compliance we deal with these things every day. So the answer is yes, I've spoken with Lane. He and I get along very, very well. I've spoken with a lot of the other coaches as well. I'm a little embarassed I haven't been able to get to every one of the 19, but I had a very large meeting with them yesterday and promised I would get to all of them and their teams. Absolutely, interfacing with the coaches and having them trust me and visa versa is a very important part of my job.

Would the new staff and the new organization been able to recognize and pick up everything that needed to be picked up with the last case to prevent it from happening?

I'm not gonna second-guess what's happened in the past, but I will say this. We're gonna have an office that's going to have the resources to be vigilant and to pick up signs when they see them. I'll say that standing from afar, being a lawyer that worked with USC, everybody can second-guess and Monday morning quarterback a job. I think we're gonna have a department that's gonna catch everything that's reasonably catchable. Is that gonna stop someone who's doing something way, way removed from an uncle or aunt that I don't know anything about? It's pretty hard to stop that, and you all know what the NCAA rules are. They're pretty extensive -- so kind of strict liability, so to speak. The answer is I think we're going to do a darn good job in the future. I would not want to comment about what I could've done in the past. That's too speculative.