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Goodbye Mr. Carroll, thanks for the memories

Bob Kessler | Friday, January 22, 2010

The first time I saw Pete Carroll coach in person was in 2001 at Notre Dame Stadium. I was a freshman in high school that was first becoming infatuated with Notre Dame Football (and college football in general). The Irish won that game, the last time the Irish beat the Trojans, as both teams went on to have disappointing seasons. Since that year, however, the Trojans have been a college football juggernaut while our beloved Irish have been something of a national joke.
As our Irish have floundered through numerous coaches over the past decade, Pete Carroll has built our rival into a team that was unquestionably the best of the aughts. USC won 1.5 national championships, their program produced three Heisman Trophy winners (until Reggie Bush’s is taken away), they have dominated the Pac-10 almost every year, sent countless players to the NFL, and held an iron clad grasp on that jeweled shillelagh that we covet so very much (raise your hand if you couldn’t name the trophy for our rivalry until now).
Most of these years, the Irish have been a punching bag for the Trojans. In Carroll’s typical game against our guys, the Trojans win by 30 points. Every once in a while (ok, twice) the Irish put up a fight, only to lose it all at the last second. Notre Dame fans have been crushed time and again by Carroll-coached teams and I should be ecstatic that the coach is finally rolling the dice with another NFL franchise.
The thing is: I’m not ecstatic, but I’m actually a bit disappointed (or I was, as you’ll read).
The thing about Pete Carroll was that he had a great personality. He was a fun-loving coach that always seemed to be joking about things. He constantly played pranks on his team and brought celebrities to practice. When Carroll was on the sideline, Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg were never too far behind. We knew Carroll was actually a person because he showed emotion during games (unlike Alabama’s RoboCoach).
Behind Carroll’s goofy demeanor, we also assumed that he was a cheater. We assumed that Reggie Bush had an agent in 2005, we assumed that the recruitment of Joe McNight was tainted, no woand we assumed that Carroll knew all about these things. We derided the ‘Bush Push’ because it was cheating and we always made sure to point out that LSU (and not USC) won the 2003 BCS Championship (with RoboCoach at the helm).
I’m disappointed that Pete Carroll is leaving USC because these things make him incredibly easy to hate, and college football fans (well, all sports fans) love to hate people (Simmons disciples like myself might mention the term ‘sports-hate’). How could we not hate his goofiness on the sidelines or his pranks during practices? It is incredibly easy to hate a guy that brings Will Ferrell (especially post-Bewitched Ferrell) to practices, and even easier to hate a program that brings Snoop Dogg on the sidelines (and even easier to hate Snoop Dogg when he makes the Heisman pose wearing a USC jersey).
Rooting against Pete Carroll was as easy as rooting against Ivan Drago. While we would have hated both just because of the teams they represented (USC and the USSR), the recruiting violations and obvious steroid use respectively made them even more villainous characters. Throw in the downright annoying personalities and we are left with classic villains in the mold of Darth Vader or the general in Avatar.
However, now that Pete Carroll is leaving, we’ll never have a chance to get the best of him. We’ll never get a chance at redemption for all those American History X-style curb stompings that his teams put on us. It would be like if “Avatar” ended when that gigantic tree was destroyed and the scientists were in prison (sorry for the spoiler, but I assume everybody has seen it by now). I want the Irish to have their chance to shoot arrows into Pete Carroll and the mech-warrior type program that he has assembled.
I’m also disappointed that Carroll is leaving because a win against him would have been a win against the best. I don’t want a win against USC because they are mired in sanctions or struggling through a rebuilding process; I want a win against USC because our team was able to go toe to toe with the best team in the land and come out on top. A win against Drago would have meant nothing if Drago was just some random Russian boxer, and a win against USC will mean a lot less (although admittedly not as much less) if USC isn’t the powerhouse that it has been.
I want to beat the powerhouse that has the goofy-evil-cheater head coach, and when I first heard Pete Carroll was moving to the Seahawks I was really worried that USC would no longer be the power that they once were or still have a coach that it was easy to hate. But then (after I had already completed most of this column) they hired Lane Kiffin, the one coach in all of college football that will arguably be easier to hate than Carroll has been.
“Kiffin-Kelly I” is coming in November, and I can hardly wait.

Bob Kessler is a 2009 graduate currently teaching English in China. He writes Things Notre Dame Students Like, and you can read more of his work including his thoughts on Jon Gruden at www.the17thgrade.com
He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.