“We made mistakes along the way. But we didn’t make mistakes that would take a program down with the facts that they hold — I would be ashamed for the NCAA.”
== Pete Carroll, to HBO’s Andrea Kremer
The Associated Press
Pete Carroll, as he appeared Monday night in an interview with The Associated Press during a book signing.
Because of the ongoing appeal process with the NCAA, USC officials — particularly athletic director Mike Garrett — have not talked much at all about the sanctions levied on the football program last month. Garrett’s only comments recorded in the media seem to be at the booster club meeting in San Francisco that night, when he claimed that the NCAA had “nothing but a lot of envy” about the program.
Pete Carroll, the former head coach heading into his first season with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, seems to be one of the few who can talk about it — even if he doesn’t necessarly want to. His legacy is most at stake here, aside from Garrett’s, so this interview he has done with HBO for Wednesday’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” is another opportunity for him to shed some light on what happened, what he did or didn’t know, and how this will all wash out.
It also allows him to promote his new book.
From a released rough-cut preview of the interview that reporter Andrea Kremer did, Carroll shows a range of emotions — apologetic, remorseful, but also aggitated, exasperated with raised eye brows. His body language seems to say he knows something wrong happened, but he didn’t know about it — especially as much as the NCAA says the school is at fault, Carroll is hardly marked.
Leading into this interview Kremer did with Carroll is a revisit to a piece Bernard Goldberg did with Lloyd Lake, the San Diego-based aspiring agent who worked with Bush’s step-dad, Lamar Griffin, to essentially give Bush money for his new car (which he posed with on a magazine cover), his parent’s home, trips — everything that the NCAA says you can’t do. The piece originally aired in 2008, and Goldberg says “if Lake had stayed silent, USC wouldn’t be in the mess it is in today.” Lake was only coming public, he said, because Bush owed him thousands of dollars, which could have been paid back with Bush’s new New Orleans Saints contract.
With that context for the viewer all laid out, Kremer has two sit-down interviews with Carroll, both in Seattle. One focuses more on his USC past, the other on his Seattle future.
== What did Carroll think the first time he saw Reggie Bush driving a new car on campus:
Kremer: “Reggie drives a pickup truck. Now, all of a sudden, in his sophomore year, he’s driving this supped-up, bigger time …”
Carroll: “Have you ever seen the car?”
Kremer: “Yeah. So, you saw … him in the car…”
Carroll: “It was a Chevy (he says defiantly).”
Kremer: “Did you ever ask him about it, though? Did you ever ask him where he got the money for it?”
Carroll: “I think I could recall kidding him about the kind of car he … he chose to buy, at the time. ‘Cause it was kind of an old-fashioned nice looking car.”
Kremer: “But the bottom line is still, how did he get it?”
Carroll: “That was all worked out. They took care of that. There’s a process that the school has to go through to meet compliance standards. And they did that. They did it.”
“They” meaning the USC internal investigators. Kremer reports that according to the NCAA, “they” did nothing. No investigation. No paperwork filed for months. Bush left blank the key question — where the car was purchased — and no one followed up.
Carroll: “At that time, there might have been one person running the compliance office. I think there’s seven now.”
== Carroll gets aggitated again when asked if he knew of Bush’s family’s new, improved living conditions:
“Of course not. When you are growing up, Andrea, did you have any idea of your parents’ mortgage situation? Think about it. None of us knew. We don’t know. I couldn’t tell you now how my mom and dad paid for their house.”
Kremer: “But this is your best player with the most to lose.”
Carroll: “It’s easy for you to ask these questions in this manner right now. Matt Leinart was our best player. He was the Heisman Trophy winner. This was Reggie just emerging. He started for the first time regularly his junior year. He was sharing time. He was another one of the guys.”
Kremer points out that even as a sophomore, when the NCAA says he started receiving gifts from sports agents, USC’s own media guide called him “college football’s most exciting player.”
Kremer also says in the voiceover: “Bush’s success should’ve led USC to heighten its compliance efforts, and as far as the NCAA was concerned, that never happened.”
Kremer: “Did you wanna know? Did you think you turned a blind eye to anything?”
Carroll: “No, you have to want to know because that’s what the world is all about. Compliance runs your life in college sports. you screw it up, you lose it. ”
== The reaction to Carroll during recent visits to L.A. since the sanctiohs have been mostly cordial — but he has two book signings coming up Friday in Orange County and Monday in the South Bay:
“People are pretty kind in general. There’s guys … yahoos … who get out there and yell. I wish I would’ve been able to prevent all of the ill feelings that came out of this thing. I apologize for not knowing that it was going to be this bad, ’cause I was hoping it was going to be much different. So, it’s just too bad.”