Several of you have asked a very good question in the wake of the league’s decision to suspend former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor for five games, and the more recent decision of the Colts (likely with strong encouragement from the league) to bench former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel for six games.
Why wasn’t action taken against former USC coach Pete Carroll when he became head coach of the Seahawks?
First, the league apparently has decided at some point since Carroll got the job in January 2010 that it is appropriate to erect barriers to the entry to the NFL of players and coaches who have violated NCAA rules.
Second, unlike Pryor and Tressel, Carroll never specifically violated an NCAA rule. He didn’t lie about what he knew and when he knew it. (Or, at a minimum, he wasn’t caught lying.) And the program under Carroll never gave players improper benefits.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the NCAA’s report regarding USC didn’t come out until after Carroll was on the job. And so, when the NCAA concluded that the “general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled” the Committee on Infractions, it was too late for the NFL to delay Carroll’s employment.
That said, the large stone door had been sliding shut on the program for months before Carroll decided that the time had come to slide under it. And the NFL’s recent actions strongly suggest that, if faced with a situation like Carroll’s in the future, the league will conduct its own investigation — the results of which will surely be shared with the NCAA.
That’s perhaps the most significant way the NFL can assist the folks who have set up a free farm system for pro football. Because players and coaches can thumb their noses and/or flash their middle fingers at the NCAA after leaving the school at which violations may have occurred, NCAA investigations often hit a brick wall. By installing a steel curtain that could block or delay a player’s or coach’s entry to the NFL until all questions are answered, the league could help the NCAA obtain information it may never have otherwise developed.
And so the bottom line on Carroll is that he got in without questions asked because the league hadn’t decided to start asking questions. (Ditto for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.) Moving forward, look for a different approach to be used when a coach or a player tries to enter the NFL from a college football program that has fallen under the scrutiny of an NCAA that, once the coach and/or player leaves, becomes toothless.