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Monday, January 11, 2010
Updated: January 12, 11:39 PM ET
Six degrees of Pete Carroll separation

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

"I'm fixing to get on a plane," said Kyle Prater, a top-50 national recruit whose football world has done a 180 because of the decision of one man -- Pete Carroll. "I'll give you a call when I get back."

He never called Sunday night. Could you blame him?

Just 48 hours earlier, Prater was preparing to begin classes at USC as an early enrollee. A Proviso West High School senior from suburban Chicago in December … a USC Trojans wide receiver in January. It was the perfect plan, the plan Carroll and Prater had worked out.

Pete Carroll
Some in Pete Carroll's human web might feel sucker punched by his departure from USC.

But all that changed when Carroll pancake-blocked the lives of Prater and, conservatively speaking, hundreds of other people whose own worlds were chin-strapped to the now ex-USC coach.

Man of Troy on Sunday … Seattle Seahawks coach on Monday -- the same day Prater was to enroll at USC. That's the new reality.

Now that the lawyers have combed all the contract hairs into place, Carroll returns to the NFL after nine fabulously successful seasons at USC, where he won two national championships, seven Pac-10 titles and 97 games.

Meanwhile, Prater, rated the 43rd-best player by Scouts Inc., returns to the Chicagoland dazed and confused. At last check, he was re-evaluating his options before the Feb. 3 national letter of intent signing day. Or as ESPN recruiting expert Tom Luginbill puts it: "With SC, the chum's in the water and the sharks are circling."

So many lives are altered by Carroll's job change, beginning with …

Pete Carroll.

Carroll did a face-plant as the New York Jets' head coach in 1994 and later lasted just three seasons with the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick replaced him in 2000, and a year later, Coach Hoodie won the first of three Super Bowls. Think that didn't leave a mark on Carroll's ego?

The college game and its players seemed to fit Carroll's coaching shtick (and I mean it in a good way) the best. But he wanted -- and got -- near total control from the Seahawks. So if he screws this up, his football legacy becomes: great on Saturdays, clueless on Sundays.

Carroll's assistant coaches and their families.

Which of his assistants will be asked to join him in Seattle? Which of them will be left behind and retained by the new USC coach? Or fired by the new coach?

USC athletic director Mike Garrett.

Carroll/Weis
Think Carroll and Charlie Weis will share a friendly handshake next fall when the Seahawks play the Chiefs?

The meddlesome AD just lost his meal ticket, but not before he alienated his meal ticket by injecting himself into the program too often for Carroll's taste. Does Carroll's departure -- and the frayed relationship between head coach and athletic director -- affect Garrett's already shaky power base? And remember, Carroll wasn't Garrett's first choice. In fact, it was former USC associate AD Daryl Gross, now the AD at Syracuse, who pushed for Carroll's hiring back in 2000.

Oregon State. Oregon. Tennessee Titans. Jacksonville Jaguars. Stanford. ESPN. NBC.

The trickle-down effect of Carroll's departure has already prompted Oregon State to give Mike Riley a three-year extension. Oregon AD Mike Bellotti, who was on Garrett's original wish list years ago, recently told The Oregonian he misses coaching. "I won't close that possibility," he said.

Would Trojans alum Jeff Fisher leave the Titans for L.A.? Will Jack Del Rio, another USC alum, leave the Jaguars?

What would happen to Stanford's program, which has had four different head coaches since 2001, if it lost the brash Jim Harbaugh to USC? Harbaugh beat USC two of the past three seasons and was the same guy who, in March 2007, said Carroll would stay "one more year." Harbaugh wasn't off by much.

Could "Monday Night Football" lose Jon Gruden to the Trojans? Is ESPN's Herm Edwards on the short list of USC candidates? Is NBC's Tony Dungy?

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Frazier interviewed for the Seahawks opening, but did so as most of the free world was reporting the job was already Carroll's for the taking. If so, Frazier was a victim of tokenism and the Rooney Rule just lost a row of front teeth.

Seahawks management: "Thank you for meeting with us, Leslie."

Frazier: "My pleasure. Where would you like to begin?"

Seahawks management: "Uh, thank you for meeting with us, Leslie. We'll be in touch."

The credibility of the Rooney Rule is at stake, to say nothing of the careers of qualified head-coaching candidates such as Frazier.

Aaron Corp.

The sophomore quarterback just transferred to Richmond from USC. Had he known Carroll was leaving, would he have stayed put and taken his chances with the new coaching staff?

Charlie Weis.

Carroll terrorized Weis during Weis' failed five-year coaching reign at Notre Dame. And even after he was fired by ND, Weis took a series of strange, irresponsible (and untrue) personal shots at Carroll.

Rick Neuheisel
Rick Neuheisel and UCLA might have an opening now to make some noise in Los Angeles.

Guess what? Weis is the new Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator. The Chiefs play Carroll's Seahawks in Seattle next season. Fun.

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.

With Carroll transferring from the Pac-10 to the NFC West, Neuheisel has never had a better chance to change the balance of football power in Los Angeles.

The Chicago Bears.

USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was on the Bears' (and quarterback Jay Cutler's) short list to replace the fired Ron Turner. Now Bates is headed with Carroll to Seattle and the Bears have to look elsewhere.

USC president Steven B. Sample.

And he thought the last eight months of his tenure would be boring.

NCAA investigators.

Did their lives just get easier or more complicated?

Trophy case designers.

Before Carroll arrived, USC went 25 years between national championships. Carroll was a Vince Young run from winning three in a row.

Will Carroll's departure mean another 25-year drought? Did Los Angeles just lose the closest thing it had to an NFL team?

The simple truth is that the charismatic Carroll was USC these past nine years. And if he wasn't bigger than the program itself, he was at least the same coat size. When you said USC football, you said Carroll in the same sentence.

Don't believe me? Just ask Kyle Prater.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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