Pete Carroll on USC football: 'Wouldn't have been able to leave' had he known about sanctions

Seattle Seahawks Victory Parade

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In this file photo, head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks (L) looks on as running back Jeremy Lane #20 holds the Lombardi Trophy during ceremonies following the Super Bowl XLVIII Victory Parade at CenturyLink Field on February 5, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

Super Bowl-winning coach Pete Carroll returned to USC on Wednesday night — not to the football field, but to the Marshall School of Business.

When Carroll, who won two championships at USC before becoming head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, bounded onto stage, he got a rousing welcome — a standing ovation from the 1,000-person-plus crowd.

He spoke about his "Win Forever" philosophy, and how it applies not just to football, but also to the world of business. Carroll was joined on stage at various times by current USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian, actor and USC alum Will Ferrell, and the USC Marching band.

He visits USC's Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies every year. 

“He’s like a USC legend," said Trevor Williams, a Junior Business Major who came to see Carroll speak. "I love his coaching philosophy and I know he’s done great things for the university."

But Carroll is not loved by everyone at USC. Right after he moved to Seattle, the NCAA hit the university with sanctions centering around star running back Reggie Bush receiving improper gifts.

"It wasn't carried out right, because [the NCAA] didn't have the kind of backing and support in their evidence, and some day that will come out," Carroll told KPCC in an interview Wednesday night. "I never would have been able to leave had I known that this was all coming down."

Freshman Sam Greos, who came to see Carroll speak, says the coach shouldn't be let off the hook: "I may still be bitter from the Super Bowl — I'm from Denver. But in my non-biased opinion, he's kind of a traitor. I feel like he abandoned USC when we needed him most going into the sanctions."

Carroll spoke with KPCC about the sanctions and about his experience applying his winning strategy to the NFL. Highlights from the interview are below.

On the sanctions

We didn't know that the [NCAA] scrutiny was finally coming down about sanctions and all that. I left in probably January and that stuff kind of hit in April, so it does appear that I knew what was coming. I didn't know anything. And even if I had, what I thought was going to happen is that this wasn't going to happen. We were not guilty of the things that got those kinds of sanctions. It was a terrible miscarriage of justice on their part and they handled it poorly... It wasn't carried out right, because they didn't have the kind of backing and support in their evidence, and some day that will come out. I never would have been able to leave had I known that this was all coming down. I wouldn't have been able to leave... I know what the truth is.

On USC's new head coach, Steve Sarkisian

He's absolutely prepared and ready to do this. He understands all elements of this university and of the conference that they're in. He's very adept and at home here in Southern California, and he just has all of the ingredients to make this a great stop, and he's going to do a great job.

On which was better — winning the Super Bowl or two national championships

At the time they're as good as they can get. They're very similar, they feel very similar. I think that the impact that we had in the Northwest was maybe more wide sweeping, because it's not just the city of Seattle, it's all of the state of Washington and Oregon and all throughout Idaho and through all of the states out of the Northwest. We've given them a boost that I don't know that you can give other than by winning a world championship.

On applying his winning strategy to the NFL

What we were able to do is we were able to establish a way to run a club here at SC over the years that we were here, and we had the opportunity to take it to the NFL and do it in exactly the same fashion and with the same philosophy and the same approach. And that I find very rewarding — to do that and to do it successfully in a short amount of time is something I take great pride in... I think the game of football should be played, and we should have fun doing it. And it does come across, and it does challenge some people to understand how in the heck could they get it done in the way they do, because we're a little bit different.

This story has been updated.

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