The League

Michael Oriard

Michael Oriard

An English professor at Oregon State University and the author of several books on football, including Brand NFL Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport and The End of Autumn Reflections on My Life in Football

Strange move


Pete Carroll was an anomaly on the list of successful college coaches who failed in the NFL. Most of them, like Steve Spurrier and Dennis Erickson, left the college game on top and then bombed with the pros; Carroll failed with the Jets and Patriots before taking USC to the top. The problem always seemed to be the very different circumstances at the two levels. The best coaches win with the best athletes, and competition in college for the best athletes is not regulated by a draft, free agency, and individual contracts.

Success at the college level begins with recruiting, and college coaches don't have to take turns in choosing among the best high school prospects, like the NFL Draft. A coach at a school that has a championship history, regular sightings on ESPN, lots of alums in the NFL, lavish facilities, an attractive location creates an obvious recruiting advantages.

Over the past nine seasons, it has been hard to imagine a better fit than Pete Carroll and USC -- a brilliant recruiter at his ideal institution. USC has been so good for so long under Carroll that it took a very long time this past season for the voters in the polls to realize that the Trojans were actually not that good for a change. Everyone who follows the college game likely assumes what I've assumed, that this season would be the exception, not the rule, for the Trojans.

The fact that Carroll is now leaving, even for a raise of $2 million or so, makes little sense. He must know something that outsiders don't (is USC about to find itself in big trouble with the NCAA?). None of his success over the past decade proves that he can succeed in the very different environment of the NFL. Even with more control over the football operation in Seattle than he had in New York or New England, Carroll will not have the advantages that he's enjoyed at USC, and his great skills as a recruiter will mean next to nothing.

Pete Carroll might possibly be successful in the NFL this time around, but there's nothing in his resumé to predict that he will.

By Michael Oriard  |  January 11, 2010; 4:07 PM ET  | Category:  College Football , Seattle Seahawks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Attaboy, Mike

You hit the nail on the head. Your written thoughts mirror mine: "The fact that Carroll is now leaving, even for a raise of $2 million or so, makes little sense. He must know something that outsiders siders don't ...

For sure. IMHO you know more about the game of college football than most of the high profile cognoscenti of today.

As an elderly fellow Domer I remember well your leadership as a starting center on the Notre Dame football team with Joe Theisman. Joe got all the attention but it was you that provided real leadership to the team. This may embarrass you but the truth must be told. It's a good feeling to run across you in print again. IMO your book "End of Autumn" is a must read classic. You are a credit to du Lac.

Posted by: jcollins4 | January 11, 2010 10:46 PM

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