Commentary

College football's issues exposed

Pete Carroll leaving for the NFL isn't the problem; it exposes the problems

Updated: January 11, 2010, 4:34 PM ET
By J.A. Adande | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Pete Carroll leaving USC for the Seattle Seahawks isn't the problem. It exposes the problems.

If potential NCAA sanctions made hanging around less appealing for him, ask yourself why college sports are still stuck in an antiquated system that makes compensating players a violation. Then ask yourself why there aren't more Latinos or African-Americans receiving prominent mention among the possible replacements for Carroll.

The truth is, nothing's more un-American than college football. College football rejects the notion of capitalism for its players and spits at the concept of diversity for its coaches.

Did you see that graphic near the end of ABC's broadcast of the BCS so-called national championship game, the one that showed all the loot Mack Brown and Nick Saban were bringing in this season? It was about $10 million between them, including a $400,000 bonus to Saban for winning the BCS championship. I kept thinking how much I would have liked to have seen some of that money go to Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram.

I don't begrudge the coaches their hauls. Their value is set by the marketplace. For them to make that much money means their universities feel they can generate even more money from them. As this USA Today article showed, Alabama's football revenue increased by $9 million in Saban's second season, and now the school is expanding Bryant-Denny Stadium by 9,000 seats and 36 luxury suites. Since Mack Brown came to Texas in 1998, the Longhorns have built new bleachers in the south end zone and average attendance has gone from 77,000 per game to more than 100,000 per game. Mack makes dollars; paying him makes sense. But I'm guessing Texas fans would have liked their chances of beating Alabama a lot better if it had been Brown and not McCoy who went back to the locker room in the first quarter.

Great coaches can't win without great players. From Pete Carroll's first news conference at USC, when he was so excited the TV guys had to ask him to stand still because he kept walking away from their microphones, it was clear his enthusiasm would make him a great recruiter. This year's NFL playoff teams have 15 Carroll-recruited USC players on their rosters, including Reggie Bush and Mark Sanchez.

Ah, Sanchez. One year after Pete Carroll iced Mark Sanchez, Pete Carroll is Mark Sanchez, bolting from USC to take advantage of a better opportunity in the NFL. For all Sanchez's ups and downs in his rookie campaign he wound up in a January postseason game, which is more than Carroll could say this season. But Carroll's infamous news conference brush-off of Sanchez just reflected the double standard, the scorn the college football world has for players who have the audacity to want to get paid.

A coach who wants to leave can do so at any time. If a player wants to go to the pros he must wait until his junior year, thanks to NFL rules that were upheld by the courts. If a player wants to switch schools, NCAA rules dictate that he can't play the following season. Think of poor Mitch Mustain, who sat out a year after transferring from Arkansas to play for Carroll, only to discover Carroll didn't want to play him.

Carroll doesn't have to wait, doesn't have to pay any penalty for leaving. And it's definitely the right time for him to leave. He saw what happened to the basketball team for O.J. Mayo's one-year stay that sounded straight out of a "Price is Right" showcase -- with allegations of a flat-screen television, cell phone, airline tickets and cash -- and led the school to limit scholarships and institute a postseason ban this year.

Carroll followed the civil lawsuit filed against Bush by a would-be marketing agent and knew he and Bush would have to testify under oath and possibly hand the NCAA the information it's been waiting for. He's aware of the reports that Joe McKnight was driving a Land Rover provided by a Santa Monica businessman.

None of these allegations surprise or upset me. It's not like the players are accused of bringing guns on campus. I have a bigger problem with what the NCAA selects to enforce.

Let's see if I have this right: If an athlete receives gifts, then players who weren't even on campus when the infractions occurred bear the brunt of the punishment when the sanctions come down years later, but if a coach mistreats a player there's no NCAA punishment for the administrators who hired him.

I don't know why we're more outraged by players cashing in on their athletic abilities than we are by coaches abusing their authority. Pay-for-play infractions don't bother me, because I know every big-time program does it, but only a few actually get caught. Players allegedly getting slapped or locked in rooms worries me because I wonder how many more cases aren't reported.

So what if Reggie Bush's parents got a house or Joe McKnight rolled around in a Land Rover? The talented and beautiful will always get more things than the rest of us. And what could be more L.A. than driving a car someone else paid for?

The farce of amateur college athletics and its ridiculous rules will continue for the foreseeable future because there's too much money being made under the current system to force NCAA schools to start paying players, and there's no incentive for the NFL to abandon its free farm system.

But there is a change USC athletic director Mike Garrett can make to have an impact on major college football's pitiful minority hiring record. The current count stands at 14 coaches of color among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (I hate that name) teams.

The Trojans have never had a minority head coach. Yes, an African-American made it to the Oval Office before one made it to the top spot on the Coliseum sideline. How cool would it be to have former UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker or Houston coach Kevin Sumlin?

Or why not energize the USC neighborhood and the team's huge Latino fan base by hiring the Chargers' Ron Rivera?

Minorities typically don't get the prestigious jobs, and with the imminent departures of McKnight and Damian Williams and potential NCAA sanctions looming, USC is not a prestigious job at the moment. Nothing shortens a coaching life span like high expectations and disappointing results, and the fan base is accustomed to nothing less than BCS bowl games.

That's the standard Carroll set, and should be the dominant memory of his time at USC. The situation he leaves behind isn't about the legacy of one man. It's the embodiment of the mess that is college football.

J.A. Adande joined ESPN.com as an NBA columnist in August 2007 after 10 years with the Los Angeles Times. Click here to e-mail J.A.

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