In 2010, the NCAA imposed sanctions on USC that many believed would cripple the program and render them insignificant for years to come. While the Trojans were unable to reach the level of sustained success seen under former coach Pete Carroll, they did post double-digit win seasons in two of four years since his departure.
Prior to being sanctioned, the Trojans also saw their beloved head coach fly north, at last making his long-rumored return to the NFL. Lane Kiffin was hired as Carroll’s replacement and he successfully navigated the scholarship reductions and had his moments on the field, which included a 10-2 record in 2011.
However, Kiffin was ultimately the master of his own demise and was fired last season after a loss to Arizona State that dropped the Trojans to 3-2 on the season. The perception of Carroll among Trojan fans has varied.
Some believe he skipped out on the team when they were going to need him most, while others viewed it as Carroll simply making his inevitable return to the NFL. Upon leaving USC, Carroll has long maintained he and the university were unaware of the extra benefits the NCAA stated Reggie Bush and his family received.
In an interview with Gary Klein of the LA Times, Carroll expressed remorse for leaving the Trojans during one of the program’s darkest eras:
“Had we known that that was imminent … I would never have been able to leave under those circumstances. When I look back now, I would have stayed there to do what we needed to do to resolve the problem.”
Despite the fact that Carroll’s tenure at USC will forever be connected to the sanctions, he ushered the program through one of its more dominant periods. Under Carroll, the Trojans went 97-19, won seven conference titles and six BCS bowl games.
Perhaps in an effort to duplicate the success, the Trojans have turned to another Carroll disciple in Steve Sarkisian. The former Washington Huskies coach signed a nationally ranked 2014 recruiting class and is now tasked with returning to the Trojans to national prominence.