LOS ANGELES — Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian believes he shares blame with the athletic department for publicizing cornerback Josh Shaw’s fictitious story about injuring his ankles while saving his nephew from drowning.
Sarkisian also said Thursday that the suspended Shaw could “potentially” return to the Trojans at some point this season, news that was welcomed by Shaw’s attorney.
“Obviously there’s some other things that need to take place,” Sarkisian said Thursday after USC’s practice. “But in the meantime, he’s got to take care of his health and take care of himself, and when the time is right to bring him back, we will.”
The first-year coach said Shaw still hasn’t told the Trojans exactly how he sprained both of his ankles last weekend, extending this curious distraction into the weekend of Sarkisian’s debut game. No. 15 USC hosts Fresno State on Saturday.
Shaw admitted his elaborate story of heroism was a lie Wednesday in a meeting with USC officials, but offered no alternate explanation.
Shaw was accompanied by attorney Donald Etra, who said no criminal activity was involved in Shaw’s injuries.
“The injury was caused by a fall from his balcony at his apartment,” Etra told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He is very remorseful. He accepted responsibility for telling the untruth. He has apologized to USC, and he’s looking forward to putting this behind him.”
Shaw lives at a large apartment complex on Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles, sharing a place with teammate Kevon Seymour.
The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned – but not as a suspect – in a report involving a break-in at a downtown apartment building Saturday night. The department has not made the report public.
Etra said his office is still “doing further investigations” into the circumstances of Shaw’s injury, which is why the fifth-year senior hasn’t fully explained his injuries to the school. Etra has represented Rihanna, Snoop Dogg and other prominent clients.
Shaw still hopes to earn the chance to play for the Trojans this season after his injuries have healed, Etra said: “I think that would be a very positive outcome.”
Sarkisian didn’t seem concerned that Shaw hadn’t given him the true explanation for his injuries.
“He was unable to,” Sarkisian said. “(When) he actually admitted to us that he was lying, it was in the presence of his attorney, and so really that’s a better question for his attorney. He didn’t tell us, and we weren’t really privy to ask, quite honestly.”
While attempting to move his focus toward his debut game, Sarkisian also expressed regret for USC’s decision to publicize Shaw’s story, saying it “had as much to do with me as anybody else.”
“Moving forward, we’ll be a little bit more patient,” Sarkisian added. “I just felt like the last thing we needed was Josh Shaw rolling around in a wheelchair and everybody saying what happened. We tried to get in front of it, and it didn’t work out for us. It’s disappointing, but we’ll always continue to support Josh in his efforts. He’s a Trojan. He made a mistake, which kids make, but we’ve got to be here for them and help them get better.”
USC kept with its usual policy of making no players available to reporters on Thursdays before games. Sarkisian said the Trojans showed no signs of distraction while they went through a spirited practice for Saturday’s season opener at the Coliseum.
Practice had barely ended before Sarkisian faced a new imbroglio: Senior running back Anthony Brown has quit the team and apparently accused Sarkisian of racism on social media. Brown, a former starting cornerback, was unlikely to play a major role for the Trojans this season.