I’ve read so many misguided reports all over the internet about USC, its coaching search and why Pete Carroll departed. I rarely spout anything about USC on this site as far as inside information goes but I’ve been so frustrated by the misinformation coming out of ESPN, Yahoo! and others than I feel like I need to put this out there. From some of the insiders I know I’m going to set some of the record straight and let you guys know exactly what has happened to this point and where things look to be headed.
First of all, Carroll is not running from USC. There are no impending sanctions from the NCAA as many have speculated and he’s not getting out of Dodge before the hammer drops. As far as anyone at USC is aware, nothing has changed with respect to the NCAA. Carroll left USC for a few reasons, the NCAA is not one of them.
Carroll has had a strained relationship with USC athletic director Mike Garrett for years now. Hell, everyone at USC has had a strained relationship with Garrett for years now. But it finally became too much for Carroll this season and he finally started to seriously entertain a return to the NFL.
The offer Carroll got from the Seattle Seahawks is essentially a dream deal. He’s going to make (roughly) $7 million a year, have full control over his staff appointments and a big say in personnel decisions. On top of that, he gets to stay on the west coast, has amazing facilities at his disposal and an owner who is willing to spend money. That’s basically the perfect situation for a guy like Carroll, who has always wanted to right the legacy of his time in the NFL.
As for USC, there was contact with Oregon State’s Mike Riley, things got close to being done but Riley’s wife truly didn’t want to relocate and Corvalis is perfect for Riley, his personality and his family. He decided not to take the job. It was never officially offered but we all know how these things work behind the scenes. The job is never officially offered until three minutes before the guy signs a contract.
Garrett is on his way out of USC and won’t last past the naming of a new university president (likely to come this summer). USC will gently push the former Heisman Trophy winner out the door and the favorite candidate to replace him right now is Rich McKay, current president of the Atlanta Falcons and son of former USC head coach John McKay. So Garrett will have almost no part in the hiring process. Reports of him liking guys like Herm Edwards, etc. are completely irrelevant because who he likes really doesn’t matter.
I would say among most people the current favorite for the job is Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. His youth, personality, attitude and the fact that he was an All-American at USC make him an ideal fit. If SC wants a clean transition with a guy who will have the same energy as Carroll and a guy who knows the importance of assistant coaches, Del Rio is probably the right hire.
Tons of buzz surrounds the fact that former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron wants to head back to USC. That buzz has existed for several years and Carroll wanted Orgeron back on his staff, but Garrett always blocked his hiring. Garrett thought Orgeron brought baggage with him and wouldn’t let him back on the payroll. As I said before though, that doesn’t really matter anymore.
A combination of Del Rio, Orgeron and Kennedy Pola (current Jacksonville running backs coach and former USC fullback) could immediately shore up the shock USC fans and players are feeling.
If it’s not Del Rio, don’t cry for the Trojans, there are tons of coaches falling all over themselves to get this job. The roster is still loaded (remember, this is still USC and Carroll has been recruiting his tail of for the past nine years), there are new football facilities already on the way and you can’t beat Los Angeles for a recruiting base. Guys like Utah’s Kyle Whittingham have already made it very clear they want in. While I don’t think he’s a candidate, that’s not a bad deep fallback option.
Boise State’s Chris Petersen is a California guy and to this point I think his contract is the only reason he’s not been contacted. USC must get permission to even approach Petersen, so we’ll know if they’re in touch. Petersen is happy at Boise and I don’t see him leaving, but when a school with the money that USC has comes calling you have to at least listen.
Other options are out there, even if they aren’t particularly attractive. Steve Mariucci wants the gig, as does the aforementioned Herm Edwards. Bottom line: this should be one of the easiest positions to fill in the history of a coaching search.
As of now, Carroll’s son, Brennan is staying at USC. As the recruiting coordinator he’s planning to stay at USC through signing day (at least) and has made it known he’d love a spot on the new staff when it is assembled. He will not be heading to Seattle with his father. That move by Brennan Carroll is huge, as it may be the only way USC saves its recruiting class. It makes sense though, after working on this class for nearly a year, seeing it all disappear would have been extremely difficult to watch.
As of now, some of USC’s top recruits have re-affirmed their commitments and others are considering options but leaning towards sticking with the Trojans. There may be some defections in the end but it doesn’t look as bad as originally thought for what was shaping up to be one of USC’s best classes of the Carroll Era.