What did Pete Carroll's videotaped denial of NCAA charges against USC reveal about the Seattle Seahawks' first-year head coach?
This subject spurred debate along predictable lines when Carroll made available the video denial last week.
Some Seahawks fans downplayed Carroll's potential role in inviting harsh sanctions announced against a Trojans program Carroll led from 2001 through last season. Some fans of other teams called Carroll a phony who bolted USC while the house was burning.
My initial reaction was that Carroll got across his point firmly and succeeded in avoiding the tough questions while the story was hot. Deft move on his part. I didn't see much correlation between what happened at USC and what might happen in the NFL, where NCAA rules do not apply. But harsh criticisms from two people following the USC fallout much more closely -- ESPN.com's Pat Forde and the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke -- provided context for a more analytical look at Carroll's response.
Forde: "And don't think Carroll didn't foster the atmosphere that created the (Reggie) Bush fiasco. His best USC players got Hollywood star treatment, with celebrities circulating freely within the program. The practice field, the locker room, the sidelines during games -- they were open to stars and opportunists alike."
Plaschke: "Simply competing was never enough for these Trojans. They had to follow Carroll's motto by always competing, everywhere, in everything, even if that meant cheating."
In replaying the Carroll video, I noticed he never accepted responsibility for the USC scandal on any level. He never expressed regret that he hadn't done more to head off trouble. He could have done both without admitting guilt. Instead, Carroll blamed overzealous NCAA investigators. He blamed outside forces that compromised Bush. He called upon the NCAA and universities in general, not USC in particular, to raise awareness for an issue already familiar to anyone following college athletics.
What happened at USC might not affect the job Carroll does leading the Seahawks. His reaction in a time of crisis could still be instructive. It's a point of reference for the way he handles future challenges, at least.