CFB: USC search for Carroll successor is under way
By Gary Klein
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — By the time Pete Carroll officially said goodbye Monday, the University of Southern California was in its third day of trying to find his successor.
Athletic Director Mike Garrett is considering a list of coaches thought to include Boise State’s Chris Petersen, the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars’ Jack Del Rio and Oregon Athletic Director Mike Bellotti.
Not that Garrett was sharing any information.
“I don’t talk about my search,” Garrett said after Carroll’s emotional afternoon news conference at Heritage Hall on the USC campus.
Garrett did not speak at the gathering. Earlier, he issued a statement pertaining to Carroll’s departure to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, who will pay him nearly $33 million in a five-year contract.
“While he leaves behind an impressive legacy, I am confident that we will find a new head coach who will continue the success to which we are accustomed at USC,” Garrett said.
Said USC President Steven Sample: “I had hoped this day would not come; this is a big loss to all of us. ... Every Trojan everywhere owes Pete a big debt of gratitude for what he did for USC and USC football.”
In an interview early Monday morning, Carroll said he had come to believe the opportunity to coach again in the NFL, in a situation that offered the control over personnel he desired, was not a possibility.
“I had given up on it,” he said, “but it came out of nowhere.”
Carroll said his decision to leave was not influenced by the specter of possible NCAA sanctions that could result from an investigation of allegations that Reggie Bush and his family accepted improper benefits while the Heisman Trophy winner was playing for the Trojans in 2004 and 2005.
“Not in any way,” Carroll said. “Because I know where we stand. It’s just a process we have to go through. We know we’ve fought hard to do right.”
USC will reportedly answer to the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Feb. 19-21 in Tempe, Ariz., though USC spokesmen declined to confirm it. An NCAA spokeswoman had no comment.
Carroll also refuted reports that his departure was hastened by a strained relationship with Garrett.
“There’s no sour grapes, no slinging of mud,” he said. “I don’t have any issue with Mike Garrett.”
Carroll reiterated those points during his news conference, during which he emotionally recounted his nine-season tenure that included two national titles, three Heisman Trophy winners and seven consecutive Pacific 10 Conference titles.
Standing in the same room where last year he scolded quarterback Mark Sanchez for leaving for the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining, Carroll joked, “I want Mark to know that I did graduate.”
Carroll, 58, called the Seattle opportunity a “challenge of a lifetime,” and said of leaving, “There’s nothing easy about it. My body’s in shock. My emotional side is in shock and I haven’t slept in days.”
Carroll will bring along at least two USC assistant coaches to the Seahawks.
Quarterback Matt Barkley said play caller Jeremy Bates would join Carroll and linebackers coach Ken Norton confirmed he was also going to Seattle.
Their exit comes at a sensitive time for USC. National signing day for high school seniors is less than three weeks away, and uncertainty regarding Carroll’s successor puts the Trojans in danger of losing what had the makings of another top-five recruiting class.
Carroll said he did not know which assistant would oversee the staff and the recruiting effort as players and coaches await word on a new head coach. He said his son Brennan had offered to maintain his responsibility coordinating recruiting.
Meantime, Garrett will continue his search for a coach who must follow Carroll, one of the most successful coaches in USC history
Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said he was never approached by USC and was pleased to get a three-year contract extension through the 2019 season.
“I love what I’m doing and I love where I’m at,” Riley said at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Orlando, Fla.
Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson said he had not been contacted about the USC opening. Asked whether he would be interested, Patterson said, “I don’t know. It’s one of the top five or six programs in the nation, but I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been in Texas going on 13 years now. Southern Cal is a long way from Dallas.”
Barkley said he hoped that Garrett would hire a coach who would install an offense “kind of similar to what we’ve always done here at USC — a pro-style offense,” adding “It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m staying here.”