The USC Athletic Department needs to take a quick step back and remember John Wooden’s famous quote: “Be Quick but Don’t Hurry”.
The day was inevitably going to come that Carroll was going to give the NFL one more shot and it appears upon us. He was never an SC lifer. A great coach that USC was lucky to have but those Pollyanna Trojans who felt he epitomized everything it is to be a Trojan are sorely mistaken. As the shock of Pete leaving wears off, the future of the program is now in the hands of an embattled Athletic Director.
Scott Wolf of the Daily News reported that Mike Garrett is viewing this as a one horse race and the horse is Oregon State Head Coach Mike Riley. Mike Riley is a fantastic coach and I have always wondered why more big time programs have not pursued him the past few years with his success in the remote location of Corvallis, Oregon.
He originally was Mike Garrett’s first choice before USC hired Pete Carroll in 2001 and it makes sense that USC would interview him. However, rushing into a decision like this without exploring all of your options could put the Athletic Department in serious peril over the next 5 to 7 years.
Even if USC takes a few more weeks to make the head coaching decision, they will still have a solid recruiting class, especially with a named coach recruits are familiar with. Obviously, the class will not be what it would have been with Carroll but the damage to the class is already done and you have to remember that this decision is about the next 4-6 years and not one recruiting class. USC has enough talent to survive a non top-10 recruiting class.
Obviously, we don’t know where the NCAA potential sanctions will play into this. If it sounds like USC will face multiple years of bowl probation, I don’t anticipate any major interest in the job and USC will have to go in the direction of a young and energetic coach until they are on steady ground again.
List of candidates and chances of them becoming coach after the jump!
Speaking of the NCAA, the university might be able to lessen any blow that is coming by dismissing Mike Garrett early this week and naming Steve Lopes the interim Athletic Director. If Garrett is dismissed, USC could present a strong case to the NCAA that the Athletic Director, Football and Basketball coach are no longer at the university and unrelated the President of the University is retiring.
In a perfect world, USC would be able to find out its fate with the NCAA this week but that probably will not happen and will hamper the ability to bring in a big name coach.
Let’s look at the list of candidates IN ORDER that USC needs to quickly speak to before making a final decision:
1- Jeff Fisher- He has already announced he is not interested in the job due to the NCAA sanctions but would be interested if that was not the case. The Trojan alum is due $16 million over the next two years as the Titans head coach but Tennessee owner Bud Adams would not mind moving in a new direction and saving some money if Fisher wanted to go to SC. Fisher is also rumored to have grown tired of some of the ownership decisions made by the Titans.
The chances of Fisher going to USC are slim due to the huge pay-cut and potential NCAA sanctions. However, if USC goes with a younger coach to get through a tough period of sanctions, he might take over at that point. He wouldn’t mind finishing his career in Los Angeles.
2- Jack Del Rio- A fairly successful NFL coach who was an All-American player at USC. He is extremely interested in the job and the Jacksonville Jaguars are interested in going in a new direction anyway. He is known as a great defensive coach with a great reputation. He is fiery and would fit in well at the college level. He can be a little rough around the edges and doesn’t have any college coaching experience.
A good chance exists that Del Rio could be USC’s next coach. He would need to be complimented by an Ed Orgeron type recruiter and an experienced college offensive coordinator. He would bring former USC running backs coach Kennedy Pola back to USC with him along with former SC quarterback and ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury.
3- Mike Riley- A great offensive mind that has done a great job at Oregon State and has a knack for getting the most out of mid-level players. The question is whether he can get the most out of elite level players. He has both pro and college experience and is underrated in the coaching world.
Riley is a likable and charismatic coach that would be a good transition from Pete Carroll. He could be named the head coach as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday depending on whether the University wants Garrett to make this decision.
4- Herm Edwards- Pure speculation. He is currently building a house in Los Angeles and is very well respected in the coaching world. If the University wanted to go in a different direction, this would be the type of person to talk to.
Putting the NCAA sanctions to the side, if USC can get the right hire they might actually be able to improve the program. I know it sounds crazy and Carroll has done an amazing job but those close to the program over the years have felt some slippage from a discipline and execution standpoint. Pete was spread quite thin over the past few years and didn’t surround himself with the top of the line coaching staff he had when national titles were being won.
The Pac-10 has stepped up in both talent and coaching and as we saw this year, the days of winning on talent alone are over. Maybe the switch to a new coaching mastermind will be a good thing. However, the golden days of Pete Carroll will never be forgotten.