Garrett’s gruff manner has made enemies, but now he might need every friend he can get as NCAA storm clouds gather above his successful program. So he’s making a try at letting his guard down.

The frown that Mike Garrett often wears in public, an expression made of blunt features set hard as stone, gives way to something unexpected. His eyes glisten with tears.

“I frankly don’t know why I’m being so emotional,” he says.

This is not the USC tailback from the 1960s, bulling his way to a Heisman Trophy. Not the gruff athletic director who has presided over sports at his alma mater for two decades, winning championships by the fistful.

Garrett reaches for another tissue and says, “I guess I don’t usually talk to people.”

All these years, he has remained stubbornly guarded, reluctant to grant interviews or speak in public, but times have changed.

The university’s multimillion-dollar sports enterprise has suffered a black eye over allegations that star athletes in football and basketball received gifts from agents. Later this week, administrators will face an NCAA committee that wants to know if Garrett let his department veer out of control.