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June 28, 2010Time for some answers.
Wish we had 'em. The more you know about the USC Infractions Case, as the NCAA calls it, the more you realize you don't know.
And you realize that even more after spending part of the day Monday with Pete Carroll at the Home Depot Center for his Win Forever Football Camp that maybe no one past Paul Dee & Co. have the answer here.
And that's only if anyone on the Committee on Infractions was paying attention to what was in the report they signed off on.
Because Pete doesn't believe they were actually paying attention to the Feb. 18-20 hearing he heard in Tempe.
So here we go, with a stand-in answerman, Pete Carroll doing most of the honors this week.
How can you bring the LA community and one of your football programs together on the same field with more than 500 kids and what looks like hundreds of volunteer coaches and all sorts of sponsors? Have you no shame? [OK, maybe we're exaggerating the questions a tad here but the answers are all Pete.] Didn't you read the NCAA report on "how troubling" the "environment" around USC football was with the open practices, allowing the community to be a part of it and all? And now here you go again. Was the NCAA wrong to attack USC's and your community involvement?
"That's a classic example of somebody talking about what they don't know," Carroll said. "You guys have been around it. You've seen what it's like. You know what it's like every day after practice there, the exchange, the hugs, playing catch, high-fives with the kids, taking pictures and all that stuff . . . They don't get it. It's just an indication of how far off they are in this whole process and evaluation . . . The environment around the football program wasn't what the NCAA projected and portrayed it to be. They don't get it because they were never there. To rule on something that they really didn't understand and be so far off, it's a misuse of their power."
But Ricky Rosas, who would work his way into a role as Carroll's "special assistant" and Jake Olson, whose last sighted moments before cancer surgery that would blind him would be of a USC football game, were there -- and there again Monday. What would have been lost if just those two young men, for example, wouldn't have been able to come to USC practices?
"Those are the gifts of a lifetime for us and our team, what they brought to us," Carroll said as Rosas talked of how "it's so cool" to have his old boss back for a day. "I haven't seen him since he left," Rosas said, who used to take three buses and more than two hours one way to get to USC practices and is now doing well in school and able to take on the world, he says.
And Olson, 13 now and taller than Carroll, had the poise to challenge campers as the featured motivational speaker to be the best they could be by telling them his own ambition -- "to be the first blind PGA player." The kids gave him a great big hand on hearing that. And Carroll gave him something more in introducing him. "A member of our last team," Carroll called Jake, "the toughest competitor I've ever been around."
But what about competing to get his own legacy back now. Do people blame Carroll as he goes around LA still pitching hard for his "A Better LA" program for what's happened to USC?
"Maybe," Carroll said, although he said that's not what any of this day was about. "It's another opportunity for us to reach out to people. This one in particular is close to my heart because it connects everything for us. We reach into the community and give and draw people who might not normally get a chance to come to a camp of this stature."
Looking back, would he do things differently at USC?
"Yeah, sure, sure I would," Carroll said. "Had we known what we knew years later when we look back, we'd have expanded our compliance, widened our reach, as far as we could, continued to do all the awareness things where we thought we were doing full-go, just moreso, and try to elevate the awareness of the people in the community, not with the university community, we were doing pretty well there, it's outside that community where we needed to extend that effort. That's where we need to get the word out, the NCAA, I've thrown it out there, the NCAA needs to extend their efforts to get the word out overtly about people who would try to take advantage of kids and their professional careers well before it gets to the point where it can take a program down like they did."
Was the program "out of control?"
"No, No I don't think so. Obviously there was one situation that was out of sorts."
Has the NCAA done enough about curing the problems with agents and amateurism after charging that USC didn't?
"I don't think so," Carroll said. "They're after trying to govern and in essence, try[ing] to punish. Everybody has to do more. That's not a criticism. As we all learned, we can't allow one individual, two individuals to take a university program down to this depth. It's wrong. I think we all understand the challenge of it."
Does it come down to you here? Were you responsible?
"I said all along, as the head coach, you are accountable . . . the point is, the head coach is responsible. It's the way it's been assessed that's so far out of line if you look at the people involved."
Did you have any idea this was coming down?
"The information they acted on, there's just not anything there. That's why I was so naive, caught off-guard, about it . . . that they could act on so little information. They went because they wanted to, because they felt they should, not because the facts said so."
What about the finding that your assistant Todd McNair, was guilty of unethical conduct?
"There's no facts there," Carroll said. "There's nothing there . . . In Todd's situation, it's really, really unfair."
Dan Weber covers the Trojans program for USCFootball.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.