USC Sanctions: Pete Carroll Should Not Be Blamed


Very rarely do I find myself in agreement with the opinion of Mike Florio. He typically presents unfair arguments against the Seahawks; unfortunately, the Seahawks haven’t been very good lately and his views have been quite accurate.

Florio recently wrote an article addressing the harsh sanctions placed on the University of Southern California. Inevitably, as the former coach of the Trojans, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was a prime target of Florio’s criticism:

"As to Carroll, he should lose his current job. Of course, he won’t; Seattle Seahawks president Tod Leiweke hired Carroll at a time when Leiweke knew or with the exercise of due diligence should have known that Carroll presided over a program poised to be slapped silly by the NCAA. And if the Seahawks had no qualms about it then, they should have none now."

Of course, I don’t necessarily agree that Pete Carroll should lose his current job. But I do think that there is something wrong when a head coach can bolt a program facing penalties for greener pastures. Carroll received a five-year, $32.5 million deal to become the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Although his legacy at Southern Cal is likely tarnished, the coach left Los Angeles mostly unscathed and a little wealthier.

I don’t think the Seattle Seahawks were wrong to hire Pete Carroll and put him in charge of resurrecting the franchise. Pete Carroll and Tod Leiweke are not to blame for this unfair cycle; there is something wrong with the system.

Pete Carroll should not be a scapegoat, and Florio is wrong to call for his job. Carroll is just doing what other coaches have done and the system needs to be changed before anyone can blame him.

Consider John Calipari, the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. Calipari left the University of Memphis when the school was likely facing sanctions from the NCAA – not even one year following his departure, Memphis was forced to vacate its 2007-08 runner-up finish and 38 wins because a star freshman player was “ineligible.”

Memphis suffered the consequences of Calipari’s scandalous methods. Calipari, on the other hand, had just signed an eight-year, $31.65 million contract laden with incentives to coach the Kentucky Wildcats.

And the worst part? Calipari had the left the University of Massachusetts to coach Memphis in the same fashion.

To continue Florio’s attack on Pete Carroll:

"Still, as a practical matter Carroll’s grace period just shrank. Whatever “plan” previously applied to him — five years, three years, two — the window necessarily shrank, because Carroll’s collegiate career lost much of its luster.And Carroll can disagree all he wants with the findings or the outcome, blaming everyone and anyone but himself for the damage done to the Trojans program. Folks who get it know that Carroll’s hands carry a thick veneer of grime. And they in turn recognize that justice won’t truly be served until the only coaching Carroll ever does entails holding an Xbox controller."

Sure, Pete Carroll probably could have done something to stop the Reggie Bush scandal from happening. But until the system is changed, the head coaches shouldn’t be blamed for playing the game.

Even Don James, glorified in Washington Husky football lore, admitted he didn’t pay any particular attention to what players did outside of football:

"“I don’t have any rules that say what the hell players do with their lives. That’s not my job…. There’s a lot of things that players do. I let them walk around with cellular phones, wear earrings, which I don’t particularly enjoy. But I don’t run their lives.”"

Of course, Washington was punished by the NCAA in the early 1990’s and received sanctions similar to those imposed on Southern Cal last week.

The Seattle Seahawks did not make a mistake earlier this year when they hired Pete Carroll to become their next head coach. They didn’t purposely – or wrongfully – ignore any information about Carroll’s tenure at Southern Cal, and the sanctions placed on the school shouldn’t make Tod Leiweke think twice about his decision to bring Carroll to Seattle.

There is, however, something wrong with the big picture.

The NCAA or some other presiding organization should be able to individually punish head coaches; coaches should not be able to leave schools facing penalty without any punishment themselves. The system should not allow Pete Carroll to leave Southern California in ashes and find riches in the National Football League.

But until the system changes, we should not blame Pete Carroll.

Shaun Dolence:
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