So Pete Carroll leaving USC to take over the Seahawks is official, the coach having talked to the LA Times today about why he’s departing.
Now that it’s a done deal, I’ll try to address in one entry all the questions this news may raise among UW fans.
Q: Who does USC hire now and any chance they come after Steve Sarkisian?
A: The Times story linked above intimated that the Trojans just might, despite Sarkisian’s comments to the Seattle Times Friday that he is happy at UW and has no intentions of leaving anytime soon, calliing UW his “dream job.” Other LA media outlets, however, list others as being at the top of the list, such as Jack Del Rio and Herm Edwards — and there’s also no reason to doubt Sarkisian’s words that he intends to stay at Washington for the long-term. The LA Daily News has also reported that Sarkisian told the Trojans he was not interested in talking to them about the job, though he told the Seattle Times Sunday he was never contacted by USC. Still, I think many UW fans will breathe a sigh of relief when USC hires someone else.
Q: Will UW be able to poach a lot of USC recruits?
A: Probably not. When you examine the lists of USC recruits who appear to be wavering, there don’t appear to be any whose unquestioned second choice was Washington. Now, UW may be able to get more seriously in the mix with some of those guys should they really decommit — a lot of guys sound as if they are mostly waiting to see what happens next with USC, and what often happens in these cases is the players end up recommitting once they meet the new coach (especially if they are players the new coach wants).
Reality is that coaching changes like this generally tend to have more of a lag effect on recruiting. In other words, the true impact of this could be on the 2011 class, when UW may be able to get in on some players who in the past would have been locks for a Carroll-led USC team — especially with UW appearing on the upswing under Sarkisian.
Also keep in mind that UW already has 26 commits for the Class of 2010 and is likely to take only 3-4-5 more regardless, so there’s not a lot of room left anyway. But again, my experience with these things is that while there’s usually an assumption that all the recruits will jump ship, most usually end up staying put once a new coach is hired. In USC’s case, many of the commits are LA-area guys whose reasons for picking USC were probably a bit bigger than just who the coach is in the first place (proximity to home, lifelong desire to want to play for USC, etc.). So short version, even getting one or two players off USC’s list to now to come UW might be a lot to ask.
If many guys really do decommit, however, the school I would expect to benefit most, however, is UCLA, especially with the LA-area guys who chose USC. No doubt, Rick Neuheisel is already (or has already) calling all of those guys.
Q: Will Sarkisian be able to add any more of the former USC assistants to his staff at UW?
A: Unlikely since there’s no room. All nine full-time assistants from last year’s UW staff are coming back, so Sarkisian has no full-time positions to offer anyone. Also, far as I know, every other staffer is also due back, so no real room in the auxiliary positions, either. And as I wrote the other day, there’s not much of a risk of losing a lot of UW assistants to Carroll’s staff with the Seahawks. Nick Holt is the only full-time assistant who was also a full-time assistant at USC (cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin was a grad assistant at USC for a couple of years but came to UW from Mt. SAC College).
Q: Is USC going to go straight into the dumper now that Carroll is leaving and sanctions may be on the way?
A: Probably not, depending on who USC hires. Reality is that when USC has been even competently coached it has been a Pac-10 power. When it has good-to-great coaching, as it had with Carroll, it’s been a national power. Opposing coaches will tell you USC always has either the most talent, or close to it, regardless of who the coach is. Just recall that while Carroll’s predecessor, Paul Hackett, was a disaster by USC standards, he brought in the likes of Carson Palmer, Troy Polomalu, Matt Cassell , Kenechi Udeze, and all sorts of others. Hackett’s last full USC class in 2000 was rated No. 11 in the country and first in the Pac-10. So in other words, even one of the worst coaches in USC’s history, at a time when he was already on the hot seat, was able to put together one of the best classes in the nation.
Sanctions could make a bigger impact, and rumors are that they could be quite severe — including a possible post-season ban along with loss of TV revenue and scholarship reductions, which each seem a given (and the scholarship reductions could help UW’s recruiting efforts in So. Cal as much as anything else if there is simply less room for USC to take recruits for a few years).
But again, even Washington’s history with serious sanctions I think proves it doesn’t have to be a death knell. Five years after coming off what are likely to be more serious penalties than USC will get, UW was 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the country. You can certainly point to the sanctions as the reason it all began to change for UW. On the other hand, you could also make the case that UW had survived them and appeared to be back on track and it was decisions made since then, independent of the sanctions, that caused UW’s recent bottoming-out. (And recall that USC was also on probation in the early ’80s, and while there were some tough seasons for the Trojans in that era, having Ted Tollner as coach probably had as much to do with that as anything else. Once Larry Smith was hired, it didn’t take much for USC to return to the top).
Certainly, all of this should give other Pac-10 teams a window of opportunity — and fortunately for the Huskies, they appear to again be in a position to take advantage. But history shows that any thought that USC will fall real far for real long just isn’t going to happen.