I caught up with former USC Coach Pete Carroll at the Seattle Seahawks practice facility for an interview. We sat down in his office to discuss the sanctions against USC, his role in the fiasco, and his honest feelings.
The following is a true depiction, word for word, point for point.
Me: Pete, what do you think of the sanctions against USC?
Pete: Hold on, I like my assistant to fan me while I do interviews. Cindy! It's interview time, baby, bring in the fan.
A very busty blond grad student enters with a bamboo fan. She's wearing a mini skirt and a cleavage-revealing blouse.
Pete: What was the question?
Cindy starts fanning.
Me: Let’s just cut to the chase. Did you pay players at USC?
Cindy: You don’t have to answer that question.
Pete: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?
Me: I think I'm entitled.
Pete: You want answers?
Me: I want the truth!
Pete: You can't handle the truth!!! Son, we live in a world that needs entertainment. And that entertainment has to be provided by men who sweat and bleed. Who's going to do it? You? Some fat media guy? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for loser schools and you curse the Top 25. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the loser’s deaths, while tragic, ensure the highest level of entertainment. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, entertains...You don't want the truth. Because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that field. You need me on that field.
At USC, we use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent standing for something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very entertainment I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a playbook and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!
Me: Did you pay your players?
Pete: I did the job you sent me to do.
Me: Did you pay your players?
Pete: You're goddamn right I did!!!
A long awkward silence as Coach Carroll’s face flashes death. Cindy can’t breathe.
Me: Cindy, I move for an immediate Article 39-A Session, the coach has rights.
Cindy stands up and exits.
Pete: What the hell is this? Cindy, where are you going?
Cindy: I just have to use the restroom. I’ll be right back.
Pete lights a cigar. A few moments pass and the tension dissipates.
Me: Let’s just continue.
Pete: Go ahead.
Me: Looking back, do you regret any decisions while head coach at USC?
Pete: That's a tough question. On one hand, yes, we should have done a better job covering up the payoffs. But on the other hand, no, because I have an $8 million salary to show for it.
Me: You said payoffs as in plural.
Pete: Oh what the f&#%, it doesn't matter anymore. Sure, payoffs. How do you think Matty (Matt Leinart) felt every time Reg (Reggie Bush) would show up with a new Jaguar? You gotta grease all the wheels.
Me: So how many guys were you "greasing?"
Pete: It started off as one and then just kinda snowballed. By the end we were giving second cousins cash. Of course, you got to start paying ex-girlfriends to keep their mouths shut, and then every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants a hand out. It's a hell of a lot of work.
Pete pours himself a glass of champagne.
Pete: Do you want some?
Me: Sure. What it it?
Pete: Clos Du Mesnil champagne. Takes the edge off for about $1,000 a bottle.
Cindy returns and resumes fanning Pete.
Me: I'm not sure if I should drink it or frame it.
Pete: Ha. Good one.
Me: So you don't feel at all responsible for the sanctions and the impending woes?
Pete: Are you kidding me? I made that f&*#ing school. Before USC started winning football games, nobody gave a sh*# about them. It's a crazy cycle; you start winning games, the university becomes more popular, the endowment increases, more kids apply, not just the dumb ones anymore, we were taking kids from Cal and Stanford. The whole university improves because of a little simple number: wins and losses.
Me: So if USC never dominated in football your ranking on U.S. News and Reports never would have improved?
Pete: I didn't say it made sense. But that's how it works. Look, you bang a hot hooker. Sure, you lose a little soul or whatever in the balance, but hey, it still feels great.
Me: I'll take your word for it.
Pete: And in the end, you've got a lot more money for cancer research.
Me: Because you banged the hot hooker?
Pete: Exactly. It's a strange world we live in.
Me: So why not win football games without paying the players?
Pete: I don't want to get too political, but why shouldn't the players get paid? Like I said, they're the impetus for a lot because they bring in the money. Nobody pays to watch Yin Ming Mang explain a physics theory. And then there's this nonsense about, then you have to pay all the athletes. No, you pay the ones who are worth something. If Jenny Finch can sell as many tickets as LenDale White then stuff the money down her throat, but she can't. A secretary doesn't make as much as a CEO? Everything in our society is stratified. Shit, they have laws to protect workers from exploitation. Then unions on top of that. So what, Reggie Bush doesn't deserve a nice car after he creates $15 million in revenue for one f*#%ing game. You're out of your mind. That's exploitation at its finest. A bunch of stuffy white suits making billions off of poor black kids that risk their necks. BS personified.
Me: Maybe, but the rules are still the rules.
Pete: So Florida and Texas and Alabama are clean? There's no extra perks at those universities? Duke basketball players never got a little extra something? S&*#, I guess Sam Gilbert never existed? Get your head out of the clouds, kid!
Me: Slow down, Pete. I think you're painting an overly corrupt picture to absolve yourself. Why don't you take responsibility for your actions?
Pete: Because guess what, everyone's got their hand in the cookie jar. And if you don't, you suck. USC is not the only guilty one here. We may be the scapegoat, but guess what, Mark McGwire wasn't the only one juicing. League wide. Get over it.
Me: I just don't believe Washington State is paying players.
Pete: That's why they suck. Direct correlation. Either way.
Me: You sound pretty jaded. Are you happy to move on to the NFL?
Pete: Yes and no. Money is not an issue anymore, but now we've got to hide the steroid use. There's always something. What can you say, it's the nature of competition.
Cindy: Can I take a break, my arms are tired.
Pete: Sure, send in Amy.
Cindy leaves and Amy comes in.
Amy: Front or back, Petey?
Pete: Back. Thanks.
Me: Why not just get an air conditioner?
Pete: What fun would that be?
Me: I guess you're right. So what do you think of the NCAA’s handling of this situation?
Pete: Hypocrisy hasn’t seen this much action since Ted Haggard was caught with his legs up. Look, they say college athletics should be “motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental, and social benefits to be derived." Who the hell are they kidding? If they stuck with the precepts of this guideline most of the kids in the big sports would be disqualified. They are singularly motivated by either the promise or possibility of pro sports. Pay day. Period. And who is the NCAA to determine motivation – that’s outright communism. Hell, if they actually achieved their goal of “amateur” sports they would be left with Division II entertainment. Bye bye money!
Me: Got it. So we need to cover a little more of the USC stuff, okay?
Pete: Yeah, just make it quick.
Me: It's your opinion that your championship is legitimate and it shouldn't be retroactively stripped away.
Pete: I don't even know how to answer that. It's kind of like the hooker thing. We're finished. So what, now she says she never really went down on us. Whatever.
Me: Come on, Pete. Be serious.
Pete: I am. Look, they can do whatever they want. Rewrite history. Whatever. In 2004 we went 13-0 and destroyed Oklahoma for the National Championship. I have a curriculum vitae that makes John Holmes blush. Nothing is going to change that.
Me: Okay, I'll take that as you feel everything was legitimate.
Pete: Like I said, you can't handle the truth.
Me: I think we’re done here, Pete.
As I stand up, the tape recorder in my pocket slips out and hits the ground.
Pete: What the hell is that? You said no recorders!
I quickly pick it up.
Me: It's just so I could remember when I write my article.
Pete: Then you make me a laughing stock on YouTube? No thanks, kid. Justin, come here!
Justin Forsett enters.
Me: Let's not do anything hasty. Everybody just relax.
Pete: Take his tape recorder.
Me: He's smaller than me!?
Before I can blink, Forsett grabs the recorder.
Me: How the hell did you do that?
Pete: Get out of here, kid.
Me: You know I have an excellent memory. I'm going to write everything we talked about.
Pete: I'm sure you will. But no one will believe you.
Me: Yeah, you're probably right.