USC Football: 9 Ways History Will Judge the Pete Carroll Era

Rick McMahan@@RickMcMahanSenior Writer IJune 23, 2011

USC Football: 9 Ways History Will Judge the Pete Carroll Era

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    History as a discipline often requires revisionism to accommodate the passage of time and a reflection of facts as they become available.

    Once, we thought Christopher Columbus discovered the new world; now that notion is scoffed at.

    And sports history is no different.

    The Pete Carroll era, as any good Trojan fan will be happy to tell you, was a golden time in USC football history.

    Yet, it didn't make its mark unblemished.

    And that is where the passage of time and the possibility of facts yet to be discovered come into play.

    What won't change, despite the best efforts of the NCAA, is the fact that USC was a ridiculous powerhouse during the Carroll era.

    If not for some bewildering losses during the run, the Trojans might have had more national championships than the two AP titles they claim.

    However, the specter of impropriety looms over the Carroll era, and try as one might, there is no getting around the doggone thing.

    How history looks at the Pete Carroll era depends on who is doing the viewing.

    Possessing an MA in history, this author will try to put aside any bias and look at the Pete Carroll era from an objective point of view.

    And one that will be shared by history itself.

Pete Carroll Rescued a Moribund USC Football Program

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    One thing you can't argue with is facts.

    And the facts are that while at USC, Pete Carroll won 83 games and lost 19.

    Ted Tollner, Larry Smith and Paul Hackett, the three recent coaches who went before Carroll, went a combined 89-63.

    Those are facts too.

    Beyond the hard, cold, descriptives of numbers is another fact.

    The USC football program was going nowhere before Pete Carroll arrived and they were getting there much quicker than their fans liked.

    After a one-year feeling-out period where Carroll went 6-6, the Trojans took off and for the next few years, they were one of the dominant, if not the most dominant, teams in the nation.

    And because of that...

Carroll Made USC Relevant Again

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    Prior to Carroll's arrival, the Trojans had struggled since the first John Robinson era.

    The shine had come off the cardinal and gold.

    Trojan fans had to swallow prolonged losing streaks to their hated rivals Notre Dame and UCLA and life on the gridiron for most people associated with the Trojan football program was dismal at best.

    Pete Carroll changed all that.

    And he and everyone who followed USC football had fun doing it.

    In returning the Trojans back to their heritage of glory, Carroll made USC football the hottest ticket in town.

    Soon after he took over, you saw celebrities on the sideline and it was all of a sudden cool again to be rocking the cardinal and gold.

    Which leads us to the department of taking the bad with the good because with that notoriety came elements that may not have been so helpful to the program.

    Was Carroll's loosey-goosey style of control over who got to his players a detriment?

    Yes, but some might argue that is the price you pay for relevance.

Carroll's Lack of Program Control Might Have Inadvertantly Got USC in Trouble

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    How's that for a wishy-washy slideshow title?

    But the fact of the matter is that no one will ever really know to what extent Carroll's style of management contributed to what happened with Reggie Bush.

    Common sense dictates that Lloyd Lake, the villain, along with Reggie himself, may very well have gotten to Bush with or without stringent controls designed to keep nefarious individuals away from players.

    Of course, something in the way of a strict policy to preclude interaction from objectionable people couldn't have hurt.

    And to some extent, that will be how history partially judges Pete Carroll.

    That as a head coach, he had little control over that part of his program.

    As stated in the prior slide, bad sometimes comes with the good when a head coach is charged with reviving a struggling program.

    This part is the bad.

History Will Want To Know How Carroll Could Not Have Known About Bush

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    Carroll's inability to insulate his players from mercenaries is only one area that he will probably be negatively judged by history.

    After all, as stated before, who knows whether or not any control would have sufficed in keeping Bush on the straight and narrow?

    What is significantly more troubling some might argue, is how could Carroll not have known what was going on with his star player.

    Now that implies one of two scenarios, both bad but to varying degrees.

    Either Carroll had no idea, as he claims, that Bush was up to no good.

    That no head coach can be completely aware of what's happening with the 85 scholarship players on his roster.

    Many agree, but still—it can be argued that a head coach must know what is going on with his program at all times (see: Jim Tressel).

    So that is bad.

    But if Carroll knew and did nothing about it, like Tressel, well, that would be really bad.

    But the NCAA, in handing out its punishment to USC, never claimed anything like that.

    So would history be right to judge Carroll negatively for the Bush scandal?

    Yes, but in view of others who appear to have committed far more serious transgressions, perhaps only moderately so.

History Will Also Inquire How Pete Could Have Left USC in Their Time of Need

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    While haters might point to Carroll's lack of control regarding people surrounding the program, or whether or not he knew about Bush, Trojan fans are having none of it.

    For the most part, they are united in their belief that neither Carroll, nor anyone intimately associated with the program, such as assistant coach Todd McNair, knew anything about what was going on with Bush.

    And most sensible people understand that it takes more than one head coach to monitor who interacts with his players.

    What does stick in some USC fans' craws, though, is how Carroll left.

    Some call it coincidence that a great NFL job opened up just as the NCAA was grinding to its inevitable conclusion that USC had committed evils beyond the pale (Please note that "inevitable" doesn't mean "correct.")

    In any event, some Trojan fans are not quite so convinced of the role that fate was said to have played.

    Pete Carroll helped save USC but let's not forget that USC also rescued Carroll.

    Carroll had little in the way of prospects when he was hired in 2000.

    A reciprocal relationship in good times, Carroll was nowhere to be found when the going got tough later on.

    Fair? Maybe not, but for some, that is how history will judge him.

Pete Carroll Made USC a Desireable Place for Prep Players

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    Whatever problems Carroll's program faced from his desire to make USC football accessible to the masses, one thing is for sure...premier high school players loved it.

    As ESPN and its ilk featured the antics of Will Ferrell roaming the sidelines or participating in practice skits, prep players around the country watched with fascination.

    And they ate it up.

    When taken in its entirety—the celebrities, the jokes played during practices, the youthful exuberance that Carroll made part of his mantra, the whole package—the players that would thrust the Trojans back into prominence were captivated.

    USC became the personification of Hollywood and the glitz that came with it.

    In no time, Trojanville became a magnet for these high-profile players.

    Because of that...

The Man Was a Master Recruiter

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    When Pete Carroll entered a prospect's home to sing the praises of the University of Southern California, magic happened.

    Not only were the players in question mesmerized, but so were their parents, relatives—hell, even the family dog found themselves enthusiastically hanging on Carroll's every word.

    By the time Pete made his way to the door, he usually had that player's solemn pledge that by this time next year, they would be a Trojan.

    Year after year the Trojans would capture a top-five recruiting class and those players not only came from the Los Angeles Southland, but from all over the nation.

    As any honest analysis of college football will tell you, it doesn't matter how good of a coach or program you have if you don't possess the players.

    Pete Carroll got USC those players.

Carroll Produced NFL-Ready Players

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    Part of Carroll's pitch to prospective Trojans was the quality of the education, the experience of college life at USC, the tradition, scenery, lifestyle, etc.

    All valid reasons to come to USC and certainly attributes that played to Carroll's advantage.

    But the trump card that he could play to seal the deal was simply by pointing to NFL rosters and asking prospective players to count the former Trojans.

    Year after year the names of USC football players would be called on the stage of the NFL's meat-market showcase.

    How could a wide-eyed kid look the other way?

    They couldn't, and it was because Carroll delivered on the promises they most wanted kept.

    That he would get them NFL-ready.

    And he did.

History Must Look at the Carroll Era at USC and Acknowledge He Was a Winner

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    As stated before, the facts don't lie.

    Regardless of the impositions the NCAA has placed on the USC program due to the Reggie Bush fiasco, Pete Carroll left an indelible stamp on Trojan football.

    He won in an unprecedented manner and he had fun like nobody's business doing it.

    For followers of USC football, they were heady times indeed.

    While much of the rest of the nation stewed at USC's success, Trojan Nation simply grinned and waited for the next victory.

    Pete Carroll was responsible for that.

    When history looks back at the Pete Carroll era, the one thing it must acknowledge is the winning.

    And there is no doubt how Trojan fans will judge Carroll and his impact on the USC football program.

    He was then, is now and will forever be...