Deserting The Ship

It's time to abandon ship -- where's your life preserver?

Is it really such a big surprise that USC head football coach Pete Carroll is apparently leaving the school to return to the NFL, this time as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks?

If you had been listening to sports radio or television yesterday, you would have thought so.  The revelation of the breaking story, coming only a few hours after the announcement that first year Seattle coach Jim Mora, Jr. had been fired after only one season in the Pacific Northwest, was treated as a huge development — almost a shock.

Well, I’m about as surprised as I would be if another blonde bombshell showed up on television claiming to have slept with Tiger Woods while he was married.  Anyone who’s been following the developments at USC over the last year shouldn’t be surprised either.  The fiasco surrounding Reggie Bush and his years at the football power may finally be coming to a conclusion in the setting of a public court — and that possibility means nothing but potential trouble for the Trojan athletic program.  More than likely, we’re going to hear testimony in the upcoming months about the illegal “rewards” the former Heisman Trophy winner received while at the university, and that’s testimony that the NCAA will be more than happy to use against USC when it comes time to wrap up its own investigation of the athletic program.

Couple the Bush mess with the allegations surrounding Joe McKnight and his alleged connections with boosters in violation of NCAA rules — allegations that were potentially damning enough to send the junior tailback scurrying to make himself available for the upcoming NFL draft — and it’s not hard to connect the dots of both this NCAA investigation and the one of Bush and come up with an end game that leaves USC looking at probation, a loss of scholarships, and the forfeiture of victories (and possibly the team’s National Championship).  All of this could mean that USC suddenly won’t be the great place to coach in the immediate future that it’s been during Carroll’s tenure there (and that doesn’t even touch on the O.J. Mayo problems, which while not an issue with the football program, have still helped focus the microscope on the university in ways it would much rather not be the case).

So again, Carroll abandoning ship just as it’s beginning to take on water shouldn’t surprise anyone — after all, looking after themselves first is what the college football coach does best.  On the bright side for the athletes who’ve made commitments to the school already — well, at least there’s time for most of them to get paid look to head somewhere else.

And for Carroll, the move back to the NFL is a no-brainer, and a no-lose situation.  He’s going to be showered with money by Seattle owner Paul Allen, so there will be no worry on his part that he’ll be taking a lateral move financially by leaving his current position and its hefty $4.4 million salary.  And he’ll be getting a degree of organizational control in Seattle as well, something that he reportedly had claimed would be necessary for him to consider returning to the NFL.

Best of all (for him), if he doesn’t do any better this time around than he did in his previous stops with New England and the Jets, once he’s pocketed the money, he’ll still be an incredibly attractive coaching prospect for pretty much any big-time football program that’s looking to make a splash, so there won’t be any concerns about his finding work back at the collegiate level.   It would be ironic if, by the time Carroll is being introduced at the press conference of whatever football factory that turns out to be, USC is just coming off of the program sanctions they’re staring in the face.  Ironic — but as already stated — not surprising at all.

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