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Neither USC implosion nor Pac-10 explosion will stop vicious cycle

Neither USC implosion nor Pac-10 explosion will stop vicious cycle

By ART THIEL
SPECIAL TO SEATTLEPI.COM

Guess we know now why Seattle football is run by former coaches from USC, otherwise known today as Dodge, the immortal site in pop-culture parlance whose only purpose is to provide a metaphor for fleeing trouble.

In one of the more remarkable news days in the history of big-time college football Thursday, USC and the Big 12 Conference imploded, the Pac-10 exploded and Pete Carroll and Steve Sarkisian developed nervous coughs measured in megatons.

Naturally, Carroll, now the coach of the Seahawks but the man who recruited and coached the now-notorious Reggie Bush at USC, was shocked, shocked to learn of unseemliness in his former nightclub.

“I never thought it would come to this,” he said on a YouTube video, which was a question-free monologue. “Going through the process . . . I never believed there were any facts to support these serious sanctions . . . the university didn’t know and we didn’t know.”

Similarly oblivious was Sarkisian, the Washington coach who was Carroll’s offensive coordinator for two of the three seasons Bush was at USC, which received a two-year bowl ban, scholarship losses and probation for letting Bush get a degree in “Live Like an Oil Sheik.”

“I was focused on coaching,” Sarkisian told the Seattle Times, “and I wasn’t aware of some of those issues that had taken place at the time.”

So which is worse: Doing the deed, or not knowing the deed was being done for you?

Either way, it’s doomsday under NCAA rules. As Huskies fans who go back 17 years know, the same dilemma confronted Washington after three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, the apex of the program’s football success. Similar kinds of violations brought Washington NCAA sanctions and inspired coach Don James to quit, blows from which Washington has yet to fully recover.

Improper benefits and lack of institutional control are the twin sources of most success and most failure in big-time college football. In most cases, the perps are long gone by the time justice arrives.

At least Sarkisian was not named in the NCAA report. Not only will he have no consequence for being on the Trojans staff at the time of the violations, he benefits twice.

In 2003 and 2005 (he was in the NFL in 2004), he had Bush as the major weapon in his USC offense. Now as UW coach, the punishment for the misdeeds around Bush damages significantly the most powerful franchise in the conference.

How sweet a double-dip is that?

Washington fans might suggest that it’s about time that the perversity of college ball went their way. But it would be wise to keep the gloat in the throat, lest the game’s wicked karma bite them again when Sarkisian, after a 7-5 season that gets Washington in a bowl game, takes an NFL head coaching job.

Like, say, with the Seahawks.

Just kidding. The Seahawks aren’t going to fire Carroll after one season.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s what I wrote in December about Jim Mora, who was fired after one season.

Remember Mora? He was the guy many Huskies fans wanted as their head coach. Well, in case of a sudden vacancy this fall, he’s again available.

Confused? Well, cowboy up. It’s just starting.

With news Thursday that Colorado will defect from the Big 12 to join the Pac-10, a mass wrinkling of the college football landscape is underway.

Driven by the pursuit of sports-TV revenue — the economy’s third fastest-growing industry behind meth labs and pelican scrubbing — the strong conferences are preying on the weaker.

The Pac-10, once derided as the frumpy prof drinking alone at the end of the bar, suddenly is the World’s Most Interesting Man.

The Predatory-11 might grow by as many as five more teams. Stay thirsty, my friends.

The main virtue of the pending carnage is that gathering the biggest markets into the biggest conferences means more TV money for each member. In times of financial crisis for public universities, which, like Washington, are slashing jobs, sports programs and academic budgets while raising tuition, the last thing schools need is to spend tax money to subsidize the entertainment division. Athletic departments are told to fend for themselves, so the fending is underway.

The Huskies’ athletic department traditionally has been better off than many, running the entire sports program off football revenues without general fund subsidy. But all the losing in recent years has produced operational losses, including about $7 million last year. The once-robust reserve fund has dwindled from more than $30 million to $5 million.

Now the athletic department has promised to self-fund a $200 million renovation of Husky Stadium, the single largest capital improvement project in the university’s 150-year history. If Washington would benefit financially by adding to the conference Saskatoon A & M (Aura and Mystique) School for Strippers, athletic director Scott Woodward has no choice but to be the first at the velvet rope collecting cover charges.

The problem with chasing the money is that the pressure on the coaches of super conferences grows more intense. Already paid millions, coaches have more incentive to do what USC, and many others before it, is accused of doing.

Before getting caught, they move on, creating vacancies for even more desperate coaches.

They are left to their own videos to convey astonishment, endorsing obliviousness as a higher virtue than malfeasance.

Suddenly the words of baseball umpire Jim Joyce, who ruined a perfect game with a bad call — “I blew the s—- out of that call, and I’m sorry,” he said — take on some of the majesty of the Gettysburg Address for a sports nation craving a moment of integrity.

Note This article was imported from  SEATTLEPI.COM

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