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Carroll on D&C: ‘One guy’ took down USC

07.16.10 at 11:30 am ET
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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked to the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, and one of the biggest topics of conversation was the NCAA sanctions against Carroll’s previous employer, USC, and how Carroll believed that the Trojans were hurt by the actions of just one person (Lloyd Lake, who bestowed gifts on Reggie Bush in an effort to represent him) rather than it being an issue within the university.

“One guy in a community, well away from the university, decided to try and take advantage of a young man’s good fortune while he’s going to college if he could,” Carroll said. “He found his way in, got some conversations going and relationships with Reggie and somehow put us in a situation where now the player is involved, the family’s involved. In a very distant sense, one guy really took down a university. I think it’s worth everybody understanding that cares about college football that we can’t let that happen.”

Carroll also discussed his exit from New England and his feelings toward Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“It could have been different, but under the circumstances I understood what Robert was doing. I like that guy. We’ve had a long, good relationship and all, but as it turns out, the structure wasn’t right for me.”

What follows are some highlights from that interview. To hear the interview in its entirety, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Is BC alum Matt Hasselbeck your No. 1 quarterback?

We’€™re really fortunate to have him. Coming into this job it was one the aspects of it that I was checking out. We have a quarterback that’€™s played the game, that’€™s been there, that’€™s won a lot. He has been banged up the last couple years, but I challenged Matt to have the best offseason of his life and even put the heat on him by going out and getting Charlie Whitehurst to push him right from day one. We sent a really strong message to our football team about how serious we are about competition and how that is. Being the sensible thing, I went right to the first guy and pushed him, and it forced Matt to step up and have a great offseason and also gave Charlie the chance to come in here for the first time in his young career and get after the first position.

But Matt had a great offseason, and he did everything we could have asked of him. He led us through everything we were doing, and it was cool seeing him take the reins and not back down in any way. He just went after it. So as we head into camp, by far he’€™s in charge of this thing, and we’€™re going to support him. What we’€™re going to do is we need to protect him. He got pounded the last couple years. Shoot, anybody’€™s going to get hurt when you get hit as much as he did.

Do you always have the same stock answer when people ask you, ‘€œDid you leave USC because of what was coming?’€

Well, it’€™s the truth, John. Of course, there’€™s a standard answer because it’€™s what happened. I got a phone call out of nowhere from [inaudible] saying he was representing [Seahawks owner] Paul Allen, and in an effort they wanted to change the program, they wanted me to bring everything that I do and everything that I believe in to their club. And they wanted me do everything I could to support that happening. The way that the conversation started and their direction on how they envision changing was just perfectly in line with a great opportunity in the way I was thinking it would always have to be.

I had kind of given up on the thought that the NFL thing was ever going to be a factor because I didn’€™t see any organization making the statement that they would let you come in and do all the stuff that it takes I think. When they did and I did my homework on it, this is a tremendous following they have. It’€™s a great stadium atmosphere they have. This is the loudest stadium in the NFL. They’€™ve packed it in, and they haven’€™t won any games. The fans are ready for it. The facilities are brand new. It’€™s an extraordinary place. We have an experienced quarterback with the division that could be up for grabs with the quarterback leaving the Cardinals. That gave us an opening and on and on. All of the things I looked at just fit just right.

Being a competitor, knowing that there was a chance to compete on this level with all of those elements in line, I couldn’€™t have been more excited about it. So I couldn’€™t turn it down. I made the shift, and it was a hard transition because I had so much fun at SC as you guys know. It was just an awesome time, and that transition of cutting the ties to go was really the most difficult.

Didn’€™t you know that Reggie Bush was always pushing the envelope? Didn’€™t you know that that day might come when there would be ramifications?

Well, we went through the thing for so many years. Honestly, knowing the truth and what the facts were, none of us could ever imagine that this could be taken to this level of severity in terms of the NCAA. I was caught off-guard by that stuff. It really wasn’€™t on the top of my mind. If you can imagine, we did all the homework for this thing and the investigation and all the interviews happened years ago. So it wasn’€™t even a factor in thinking about what was happening so that’€™s the first thing. It’€™s a difficult situation. When you put so much into something and you put so much pride into it and you accomplish so much and so many people were involved, you have to deal with it now. It’€™s very difficult.

What I’€™ve been doing is standing up for the school and standing up for the program and trying to get in this effort, and it gives me an opportunity. I look at it differently than you might. It gives me an opportunity to tell people what the program was all about, what the background of it is and even the fact that the book itself is a statement about what we were trying to do, the standards that we set and expectations to do things better than it’€™s ever been done before and everything we were doing, and that included the way our kids handled themselves on and off the field. It included compliance. It included academics and graduation rates and our wins and losses were all tied together with the same approach. So it looks like a difficult time, but this was the time we had scheduled. When I look at it, it’€™s an opportunity to really send the message what we’€™re all about.

Do you blame Reggie Bush? Is it his fault?

Well, I start with this thought: One guy in a community, well away from the university, decided to try and take advantage of a young man’s good fortune while he’s going to college if he could. He found his way in, got some conversations going and relationships with Reggie and somehow put us in a situation where now the player is involved, the family’s involved. In a very distant sense, one guy really took down a university. I think it’s worth everybody understanding that cares about college football that we can’t let that happen. You can’€™t let it affect a university setting.

There were mistakes made. There were decisions that were wrong. I wish would have known what was going on. It just happened behind closed doors and underneath the table and in dark in shadows, that kind of stuff. They kept it from us, and we didn’€™t know it until after the fact when it got released, when the guy thought he was going to lose out on his chance and he took it to the media. So it’€™s really unfortunate. But Lane Kiffin is jacked up about it. He’€™s had preparation. They’€™ve really drawn the line in the sand. They’€™re not going to back off. They’€™re going to keep pushing and go for it. They’€™re going to turn, and they have a very good team coming back so they’€™re going to go for it again and see if they can get this thing put in the rearview mirror and make headway towards the future for them so I’€™m going to help them in any way that I can.

How many times did you say no to NFL teams looking to bring you in as a head coach?

Really, it was convenient to throw me into everything, and it looked like every year there was something going. There were really three different conversations that had any real kind of substance, that’€™s in nine years, where somebody was saying, ‘€œLook, we’€™ve got an opportunity. We’€™d like you to hear what it is.’€ And then, here it is. Nothing ever got serious. Nothing ever got to the point where it had a chance because nobody ever put together the formula to attract me. I was so happy at SC there was nothing that could do that.

But really what did come from Seattle was it just went back to the core of my makeup. I’€™m a competitor, and when you have a chance to compete on the highest level and with all of the things in line and a great opportunity to do it, then it just changed everything. So it looked like all those years, you guys asked me all the time and I used to say, ‘€œThere’s nothing going, nothing happening.’€ One phone call and then I’m with any one of those couple chances, those three chances and that was it. This was really unique, and it hit it the right way. Paul Allen is a tremendous owner. … It’s really a clean, clear format and setup, and it just changed my perception of my opportunities.

Why did Robert Kraft fire you? Did he ever say?

Well, I understand it. I don’€™t remember the specifics of it. I just wanted to know. I wanted to be freed up for that last game. I know this is crazy, but that allowed me to enjoy that last go-around and get that win. We desperately wanted to get back to 8-8 at least as we finished it up.

Remember, that was the time when the stadium was under all the efforts to get that thing going. There was all the talk about raising the money, and Robert needed the momentum in his mind to move forward. He was just out there scrambling, trying to get all that support to get all the money together and all that. I think that was a big part of it, and really it hadn’€™t been as smooth as either of us had hoped. We weren’€™t that far off. We just barely missed our opportunities to really step forward. If you remember guys, even in the third year, we were 6-2 at the break at our bye. I think we were first place, and Drew [Bledsoe] was doing great. We were kicking butt. We just lost our edge going into the second half of the season. It could have been different, but under the circumstances I understood what Robert was doing. I like that guy. We’ve had a long, good relationship and all, but as it turns out, the structure wasn’t right for me.

I look back at that. I thought I had a philosophy. I know now what came out of that reaction to the final game of the regular season in New England really kicked me into a whole new mode and got me where I needed to get to to get this thing where I want it. Now, I can have this way headed into Seattle.

Read More: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks, USC,
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