Word on the street is our beloved USC football head coach Pete Carroll is leaving for a job coaching the NFL’s Seattle Seahwaks (as of this writing I haven’t heard anything official from Carroll or USC). Now, I’m completely unqualified to report on whether or not that’s true, but as a person with internet access, I am totally qualified to give you my opinion on the situation and its impact on the USC football program.
First off, I’m supportive of Carroll’s decision, no matter what he does. I may only be a fan, not a player, but he’s still my coach, and a man whose perspective and philosophy on life I highly respect. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing in his position. The Trojans men’s basketball team recently suffered self-imposed punishment (following recruiting violations a couple years ago) that includes a ban on post-season play this year, and the football team is under investigation for multiple incidents where players, including Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, allegedly received illegal gifts from sports marketers and agents. All the while, instead of taking the fall or any responsibility at all for the infractions that have gone on under his watch, Athletic Director Mike Garrett has either blamed coaches (basketball coach Tim Floyd was fired last year) or simply remained mute, leaving those like Carroll to fend for themselves.
So I completely understand where Carroll is coming from, wanting to jump from the sinking ship that is the USC Athletic Department before it takes him down with it. He’s clearly got his priorities straight and is putting his own well-being, reputation and sanity ahead of his job, and not putting up with a boss so willing to throw him under the bus in a time of crisis.
And though the USC fanbase, myself included, will feel pain upon his exit, we can’t feel personally jilted. We will move on, and apparently quite easily. Unlike what’s happened in places like Cincinnatti, whom college football coach Brian Kelly so unceremoniously dumped for Notre Dame prior to their bowl game, Carroll isn’t ditching us for another school. And USC football is clearly not the only show in town, and its (continously moreso) lackluster fanbase shows it.
When teams in middle America, where a college football game is the only reason to get up on Saturday, sell out stadiums even in losing seasons, the Trojans went an otherwise respectable 9-4 this year and couldn’t even fill the Coliseum for a bout against its cross-town rival. We’re not known as a team that “travels well” to far-off bowl games. And too many season-ticket holders are in it just for the social aspect, paying lots of money for their seats and exclusive tailgates more to show off how much money they make than to get together and enjoy some good ol’ fashioned gridiron. I am aware lots of SC grads do quite well for themselves and their contributions do a great deal for the university and its athletic programs, but would it kill any of them to put on a jersey instead of a polo shirt, stand up and/or yell for more than five minutes a game (and not complain to those of us who do), stay til the end of the fourth quarter just once, or generally show some excitement for their team, ever? And anyone who’s been to a home game knows that this behavior extends to about 75% of those in attendance.
Because of this attitude possessed by USC fans on the whole, even though the core of our football program could very well be leaving, nothing will change. Locals will still watch home games on TV to avoid the traffic, and recent grads will still go to no more than a couple of games a season, resigned to the fact they can’t have as much fun outside the student section. And when the coach threatens to leave, many will put forth the effort to click “join” on a facebook group protesting such a decision, but fewer than two dozen will get off their butts to voice their support down at Heritage Hall, as happened Saturday night. My excuse for not going: I worked until 5:00 and by the time I got there, everyone had already left. Everyone else’s excuse for not attending, despite widespread support on the internet? I guess they’ve just got more important things to do.
I for one will continue to hope this is all just a ploy for leverage to get Garrett fired so Carroll will stay. But I can’t be angry if it doesn’t work out like that. It’s selfish to want our coach to stay just to make myself happy. Just like any other person, it’s important that Carroll is happy, too. And by the looks of things, it won’t really matter to any of us not directly involved in the program. Our lives won’t be much affected by a loss of recruits or the tarnish to our athletic department’s reputation.
So go on, Pete, and do what’s best for you (and your pocketbook). I’ll still show up every Saturday and hope the next guy does good by your legacy, and I will continue to let my cat be named after you. Fight On, Coach.