Didn’t take long for Pete Carroll to settle into the bright lights of Hollywood. His smile was contagious, same with his love for being on the football field, acting like a kid. Most of the time you can see Carroll throwing the ball with his quarterback getting warmed up and pumped up banging on player’s shoulder pads, it’s a pre-game ritual. The glamour of LA, the bright lights, the red carpet were all useful tools for Carroll and recruiting. What 18-year-old would not want to come play in LA. Also doesn’t hurt that Snoop Dogg was a frequent visitor of the football program, also stars like Will Ferrell, P. Diddy, and many more would frequent the facilities.
Many boosters, alumni, and SC fans were upset about the Carroll hire because he wasn’t a home run candidate, he was an unknown, generally speaking. Carroll laid out goals during his first coaches meeting, that was to beat ND and UCLA, win the Rose Bowl, then win the National Championship. Before taking his talents to the Pacific Northwest, Carroll accomplished all 4 goals he set out for. Winning 2 National Titles, one of them was the Rose Bowl and going 16-2 against ND/UCLA. Carroll’s attitude and ability to communicate with the younger generation separated him from anyone else in the country. He also had NFL experience so he was able to handle the spotlight having coached in New York. If you’ve coached in New York, you can coach anywhere. One reason Hall of Fame Safety Ronnie Lott left the Raiders to player for Carroll with the New York Jets. He has high praise for Carroll, for the same reasons any player had high praise for him.
One of the reasons I wanted to play with the Jets is I wanted to play for Pete… I wanted to learn more about the game of football and I thought he was a great teacher. So for me — he was the defensive coordinator one year and head coach the following year — it was great.”- Ronnie Lott on his 2 years with the Jets
The Trojans were the biggest ticket in town. Pete Carroll was lucky to inherit Carson Palmer as the QB and Mike Williams at wide receiver. Made it an easier transition back to coaching college and he took off from there. With LA not having an NFL franchise, the Dodgers struggling, Wayne Gretzky was traded, and the marriage between Shaq and Kobe had recently ended. The city of LA was up for Grabs and Pete Carroll had the perfect cast to grab LA, Reggie Bush, Lendale White, and Matt Leinart were players that weren’t afraid of the spotlight and the big city and pressure of Hollywood. I’ll take that ’04 and ’05 team against any college team since 2000.
Reggie Bush, Lendale White, and Matt Leinart were Carroll’s major chess pieces. All 3 were made for LA, thriving in the spotlight. They had a swag you really haven’t seen since Jimmy Johnson was coaching the Miami Hurricanes, The U, as they were referred to. The ground attack and Matt Lionheart were fearless. They brought USC back to Championship level.
White and Bush were better known as thunder and lightning. Bush was lighting because he was so shifty and he was a nightmare in the open field. Lendale White was a ‘savage’ just blowing up tacklers and embracing contact. White was known as Thunder because of his bruising style of running. That bruising style of run caused Lendale a series of hurt post football, saying he had about 20-30 concussions during his college and NFL career. They were constantly challenging one another to outdo the other. White had an insane 52 TD runs in 3 years at USC, and he was the second best RB, according to ‘experts.’ While Bush had 4,470 total Yards and 38 TD’s. Combining for 7,960 total yards and 95 TD’s in a 3 year-span. That is insane to think about. Not any coach would be able to handle two stars like that in the same backfield, Pete Carroll embraced the challenge. Managing their play was a major challenge for Carroll, but he used them to perfection. Leinart threw for just under 11,000 yards with 99 TD’s and 25 INT in 3 years as well.
Vince Young trampling in for a an 8 yard TD to beat SC in the National Championship game was just the beginning. Trojan fans wish that was the worst part. Unfortunately, that was the start of a very tumultuous time in Southern California. In April of 2006 the NCAA opened up an investigation into USC football, mainly the possible benefits given to Bush’s family. Finally, the NCAA came out and crushed USC. They issued one of the harshest penalties given to a university short of the “Death Penalty.”
They were placed on probation for 4 years and lost 30 scholarships over a 3 year span. They were given a postseason ban for 2 years, had to vacate 14 wins from Bush’s games in 2004 and 2005, including the national championship game in 2004 and the appearance in the title game in 2005. Bush gave up his Heisman voluntarily before the NCAA could strip him of it. Bottom line you can’t blame an 18-20 year old kid to say no when he is given the world. His family came from hard times and a few big names funded housing and paid out benefits. All Reggie Bush did was played football. This had a major effect on USC football and basketball because OJ Mayo was also found guilty of accepting benefits. It looks like USC is on their way back to contention but they need to beat up on teams outside of the West Coast to get that respect they once had. Young breaking the hearts of all Southern Cal fans was just the start of the Trojan War.