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By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001
TAMPA -- As word of athletic director Paul Griffin's forced resignation made its way across the USF community, some, such as former basketball coach Bobby Paschal and current baseball coach Eddie Cardieri, expressed disbelief and a deep sense of loss.
Others, such as basketball player Dione Smith, whose racial discrimination lawsuit was the catalyst of the controversy that led to Griffin's departure, said his resignation solves little.
Paschal appeared to be holding back tears as he sat on a bench outside a conference room at the Marshall Center after Friday's news conference announcing Griffin's resignation. He refused to accept that the legacy of his longtime friend should be anything but positive.
"There will definitely be people out there who don't really know what went on that might remember Paul for the wrong things," Paschal said. "But for people who know him, the people who worked with him and under his leadership, that won't be the case. People know that Paul is respected throughout the country."
Cardieri, in Tempe, Ariz., with the baseball team for a weekend series at Arizona State, said he was shocked Griffin resigned given his former boss' tendency to fight things through.
"I would say that this is the darkest day in the entire history of our athletic department," said Cardieri, who was notified by Griffin via a voice mail message Friday. "I can't see Paul involved in anything in an inappropriate manner. The thing about Paul is that although he was tough, he was always fair. So for him to be accused of doing anything inappropriate just doesn't seem right."
But in the downtown office of Jonathan Alpert, the attorney for Smith and seven other former women's basketball players who filed lawsuits against the university, the mood was less sympathetic.
"No one asked for Paul Griffin's resignation," Alpert said. "No one asked for these actions to be taken, and we are sorry about them. We do not look at this as any kind of victory.
"If someone had asked me if Paul Griffin should resign, I would have said no. It is an institutional problem."
Smith, the first of eight players to accuse former women's basketball coach Jerry Ann Winters of racial discrimination, said she didn't want Griffin to resign.
"I wanted it to all be resolved," Smith said. "It was not about pointing fingers at one person and saying get them out of here, or get them out of here. That's not going to clear up all the sugar that is there. In order to wipe the sugar off the table so that there won't be any more ants or roaches, you have to wipe everything clean. You have to start with the whole institution."
Over the last 15 years under Griffin, USF has won 63 conference titles, has helped the bay area become a host site for three NCAA men's basketball tournaments, including the 1999 Final Four, and has pioneered one of the fastest growing college football programs ever.
"I'm very disappointed," basketball coach Seth Greenberg said. "Paul is a great friend and he has been a mentor to me. He has always been very supportive."
Mike Slive, commissioner of Conference USA, said Griffin's resignation will be a big loss to the 5-year-old league.
"I think Paul has made very significant contributions to the development of our conference," Slive said. "He's chaired a lot of our committees and been a staunch supporter of the league. I also think of Paul as the architect of the most successful football launch in modern history. I will miss him, both personally and professionally."
- Staff writers Darrell Fry, Ernest Hooper, Antonya English and Sharon Ginn contributed to this report.