Nothing but whispers and 'no comments' on campus
On a day when Los Angeles buzzed about the possible departure of USC coach Pete Carroll to the Seattle Seahawks, the quietest place in the city might have been the USC campus.
The school is still on winter break until Monday. The usually bustling campus was a tranquil scene. Outside of the construction going on around the Tommy Trojan statue, the only thing making much noise was the squirrels climbing the trees next to the Doheny Memorial Library.
Inside Heritage Hall, the players and coaches who were making their way out of the building knew little more than the reporters gathered there to seek their reaction.
"I heard he was offered the job," said USC linebackers coach Ken Norton as he drove off in a cart with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. "That's all."
The players leaving campus, some for the final time, knew even less but spoke about Carroll as if he were already the former coach at USC.
"It's sad to see everything going down like this, but that's the way it goes," said senior safety Will Harris. "They're going to have to find a new coach. Coach Carroll is an awesome guy, but now they're going to have to replace him. ... People move on, they go to bigger and better things, and that's what he's about to do."
Although Carroll has been pursued by NFL teams before, there was certainly a different feel this time. He wasn't just entertaining the idea, as he did with Miami and Atlanta in years past, he seemed on the verge of taking the job and leaving the storied program he turned around nine years ago. The timing of his departure made sense even to the players when they thought back on their difficult season on and off the field.
"I didn't think he was going to leave, but after this season, stuff started falling into place," Harris said. "With the Joe [McKnight investigation] and a bunch of other stuff going on with the team, it was rough on the whole team, and everyone's taking it as another big surprise, but they have to handle it and live with it."
USC sophomore defensive end Malik Jackson found out about the news from senior tight end Anthony McCoy in the morning when he got a text from his former teammate informing him that he might now have a former coach.
"I was at home, and Anthony McCoy texted saying, 'It looks like you guys are out a coach,'" Jackson said. "Everybody has to make their living. It's his decision, nothing we can really do about it. Just leave it alone, let him handle it. Hopefully, he chooses me two years from now." Carroll's picture might still be hanging up at Heritage Hall along with the other active head coaches at the school, but from the look and sound of everyone within the building, he was as good as gone. "It's kind of shocking that he's trying to leave," Jackson said. "They're probably just trying to figure out what's going to happen. That's all we can do. You can't really do anything about it. Just wait and see. I think we have the kids and the talent. Whoever comes in, I'm sure they're going to keep us up there, at the high level we play at."
Although many within the team and the athletic program had come to grips with the apparent inevitability of Carroll's departure, the students who were trickling back onto campus were still unable to imagine their football team without the coach.
"He's the face of the school, and a lot of students come here because of him," said Amir Haider, a sophomore neuroscience major. "It's hard to imagine school without him. You can't replace a person like that. He's an iconic coach and a big reason why I came here. When I saw him and the team on TV, I wanted to be a part of that." USC athletic director Mike Garrett sounded as resigned to the fact that Carroll would leave in between his litany of no comments. "I always have a list of possible replacements for head coaches in all our sports. We always prepare for vacancy," said Garrett as he left Heritage Hall on Friday night.
The Seattle Seahawks fired Jim Mora in a surprise move. The team is reportedly courting USC coach Pete Carroll.