Veteran athletic director returns to community where he was raised at a time of historic change for University
Mike Garrett will become the executive director for athletics at Cal State LA, the University announced Friday during a packed and emotional gathering of alumni and friends.
Garrett oversaw athletics at the University of Southern California for 17 years. Most recently he served as athletic director at Langston University in Oklahoma. He was a standout athlete at Roosevelt High School and USC, where he won the Heisman Trophy, and in the National Football League. He was also drafted three times by Major League Baseball teams.
“Mike Garrett is the perfect person to guide Cal State LA athletics to a new era of excellence,” President William A. Covino told students, faculty, staff and community members who had gathered to welcome back the Eastside legend. “He reflects in so many ways the ideals we hope to realize in our athletic program.”
Cal State LA fields 11 teams in NCAA Division II. Garrett’s goal is to help student athletes achieve excellence on the playing field, in the classroom and in the community.
“I’m coming home to a place that reflects who I am. I’m an Eastside kid who took everything good from this community with me to help me achieve everything I was able to in life – not just in football,” Garrett said. “This a chance for me to give something back.”
Garrett stood at a podium next to the Physical Education building, where he was flanked by student athletes. The crowd that had filled the area included some of Garrett’s childhood friends, as well as his football coach at Roosevelt High and his Little League coach at Evergreen Park in Boyle Heights. Several of his friends are University alumni.
Also on hand was Garrett’s sister, Geraldine Garrett Hurley, who is a Cal State LA alumna.
“It’s great to be a Golden Eagle,” Garret said, donning a black and gold Cal State LA baseball cap. His voice was filled with emotion as he talked about growing up on the Eastside and the people who helped shape his life. “It is great to be back home.”
Raised in East Los Angeles and the Boyle Heights neighborhood near Cal State LA, Garrett lived in the Maravilla and Pico-Aliso housing projects. He played sports at local parks. As a teenager, he and his friends visited the campus regularly and knew it well.
“We used to go to Cal State LA to play basketball,” Garrett recalled, adding that he frequented the library after graduating from high school. “I just stayed there and studied every night.”
At USC, Garrett’s illustrious football career continued. He played running back and in 1965 won the Heisman Trophy. During his eight seasons in the NFL, Garrett was a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs and won a World Championship ring with the team in Super Bowl IV. He later played with the San Diego Chargers. After his sports career ended, Garrett earned a law degree and became a leader in business and college athletics.
USC won 23 national championships while Garrett was athletic director. Under his leadership, the university’s fundraising efforts led to the construction of the state-of-the-art Galen Center.
The decision to hire Garrett comes as the University marked the start of the new academic year with the unveiling of a new brand, a fresh commitment to pushing boundaries, and the highest student enrollment in its history. Washington Monthly has named Cal State LA among the top ten master's universities in the nation.
Garrett said he was attracted by Cal State LA’s renewed energy under Covino, and his familiarity with the University.
“All I want to do is win and graduate student athletes who will do good things in life.” Garrett said.
Garrett will guide the Golden Eagles athletic program as it continues to build on a legacy that includes 19 Olympic medals. He takes the helm from longtime athletic director Daniel Bridges, who will retire in December.
“We are pushing the boundaries of expectations and possibilities at Cal State LA, in academics and public service,” Covino said. “A first-rate athletics program is part of that equation, contributing to the atmosphere of all-around excellence we are creating.”
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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 240,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex, TV, Film and Media Center and the Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good. For more information, visit CalStateLA.edu