Kiffin inherited a very tough situation, complicated by a perception problem. He suited up far fewer scholarship players than other teams last season due to NCAA-caused transfers and the loss of some key recruits, and he was forced to redshirt most of the freshman class due to future scholarship reductions.
The problem was so severe that the Trojans did not tackle during any practices, and they struggled to have enough players to prepare for other teams.
The biggest problem that USC faced last season was the fourth quarter, when their fewer players were exhausted, and the Trojans lost three games in nine seconds to slip from 11-2 to 8-5, including a key game where the Stanford clock operator cheated them out of a win.
This season there are more players, but half the scholarship players are redshirt or true freshmen. This has caused the offense and defense to play more conservatively than desired, although the passing offense is finally opening up.
However, it doesn’t matter that there are reasons the Trojans are struggling even though they are 4-1.
The loss against Arizona State was due to mistakes by experienced players in addition to the inexperienced ones. USC gave up over 40 points in both this game and the next one against Arizona for the first time in 119 years of playing football.
Kiffin is second-guessed and criticized no matter what he does or says. Many feel that he is just the gatekeeper until the NCAA probation and sanctions end in 2014.
So what are those five reasons that Pete Carroll could come back to coach the USC Trojans?
Carroll’s $33 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks ends in January 2015, but since this is the NFL, it could end any time.
While the Seahawks made it to the playoffs with a 7-9 record last season and became the first team to do this with a losing record, the 2011 campaign has started with a 1-3 record. It won’t take too many losing seasons for Carroll to fall out of favor with owner Paul Allen.
The one thing that Trojan fans and administrators will not tolerate is a losing season or a significant falloff in wins. This is unlikely to happen this year and next because the scholarship reductions won’t hit in full force until 2013 and 2014.
Thus, it is very possible that there could be a significant decrease in wins by 2014, and that could lead to Kiffin’s dismissal.
There is no question that Pete Carroll’s nine-year reign at USC produced one of the most successful football programs in history. Yes, it was tainted by the Reggie Bush sanctions, but it had nothing to do with the success of the team.
He clearly loved coaching at USC and the college game. Carroll may feel responsible for the Trojans' current situation and want to repair his damaged legacy like he did starting in 2001.
During this time USC was awarded the 2003 and 2004 AP national championships and won the 2004 BCS championship game over Oklahoma.
There were seven consecutive AP Top Four finishes, six BCS bowl victories, a winning record of 97-19 (83.6 percent), a 14-2 record against rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, an NCAA-record 63 straight 20-point games, 25 first-team All-Americans, 53 players selected in the NFL draft (with 14 in the first round), three Heisman Trophy winners and a 34-game winning streak.
ESPN.com named USC its No. 1 team of the decade from 1996-2006 due primarily to Carroll. ESPN The Magazine said his effect on the college football landscape was one of the biggest developments over the past decade. In 2008, Carroll was named the coach who did the most to define the first 10 years of the BCS era.
Many blame Pete Carroll for the USC sanctions. However, the record is clear that he had nothing to do with the Bush violations.
Furthermore, while there are fans and media that believe he should have known about it, there are enough other colleges in the past year with far more players taking money in the school’s own backyard for years, e.g., Ohio State and Miami just to name a few, and they claim they didn’t know about it. USC’s denial of knowledge is far more credible than these situations.
Many also speculate that Carroll knew the sanctions would be severe and left USC for greener pastures. Sure, the pastures may have been greener in the form of $33 million and the opportunity to prove he could be successful in the NFL with control of the team.
However, why would he recruit only 18 or19 players in 2007, 2008 and 2009 prior to the sanctions and keep the scholarship roster less than 80 if he thought there would be significant scholarship reductions? If he didn’t think that would occur, then he had no reason to leave USC due to anticipated sanctions.
USC coach John Robinson returned to coach the Trojans
USC coach John Robinson first coached the Trojans from 1976 to 1982, winning three conference titles, three Rose Bowls and a national championship. He returned to USC from 1993 to 1997 after coaching the Los Angeles Rams, winning two more Pac-10 titles and the 1995 Rose Bowl.
Robert Neyland was one of the greatest early coaches, and he had three tenures with the Tennessee Volunteers in 1924 to 1934, 1936 to 1940 and 1946 to 1952. He had six undefeated seasons, seven conference championships and four national championships.
Frank Leahy won the national championship with Notre Dame in 1943 and then returned in 1946 after serving in the Navy to win championships in 1946, 1947 and 1949.
Texas A&M will join the SEC
Pete Carroll loves a challenge, especially one that is settled on the field instead of by voters or a convoluted computer algorithm.
It appears that we are headed for at least four super conferences with 16 to 18 teams each. This would make it very easy to form divisions within the conferences and a playoff system that results in a national champion.
It is also possible that these super conferences will have a lot more control over college football than the NCAA.
Carroll always wanted to play the best teams because he loved competition. This scenario would be very attractive to him.
Pete Carroll is a great college coach who has already proven that he can take the USC Trojans from good to great.
It is unlikely that Lane Kiffin will survive past the USC sanction period because the constraints are too great. It is also very possible that Carroll will not finish his five-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
If those two situations converge around 2014, it might make sense for USC to hire Carroll for a repeat performance.
The big question is would USC want him back?
Many USC fans would be thrilled to have Carroll back, while others blame him for the NCAA sanctions.
If USC AD Pat Haden believes that Carroll is the best available person to return the football program to glory, then the answer may be “yes,” with some restrictions added based on lessons learned.
That could be the deal breaker.