Pete Carroll Can’t Win for Winning

With fall feeling so far away and precious little else left to write about, “the media” are trying to mine every last nugget out of last weekend’s NFL draft. The dominant storyline emerging? An astounding number of Trojans taken–11 in all.

As documented by Inside USC’s Scott Wolf, ESPN’s draft coverage turned into a Trojan lovefest (he he), including a Homeric paean to Troy from analyst Herm Edwards. Similarly, Dr. Saturday interpreted the weekend’s goings-on as confirmation that Pete Carroll’s team stands above all as the “empirical recruiting monolith” of college football. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times also marveled at the migration from USC to the pros.

Yet, Dufresne, Wolf and the Doc also nodded to a more cynical view of the Trojan pipeline. Tom Dienhart of Rivals just comes write out and says it: USC’s whole has been less than its parts. ‘SC fans my find this assertion on Dienhart’s part pretty objectionable:

“USC’s Jimmys and Joes have been more desirable than any other school’s in the past five NFL drafts. Over the weekend, the Trojans paced all schools with 11 players selected in the NFL draft. Since the 2005 draft, the Trojans lead the nation with 43 players selected.

While that’s an amazing amount of talent, realize that over that five-season span, USC has won just one national championship – in 2004.”

Then, there’s this from Dienhart: “USC has dominated the Pac-10, winning a league-record seven consecutive conference crowns. But the Trojans could have won so much more, and have missed out on stamping themselves as the premier program in the nation this decade. Instead, that honor belongs to either Florida or Oklahoma.” (I love the Sooners, but it’s tough to argue at this point that OU should be ranked a rung above USC given this.)

Credit Dienhart for having the stones to challenge conventional wisdom regarding the Trojans. Like many other hardcore college football fans, Homerism tires of what seems to be excessive fawning over certain programs and personalities, such as Carroll and Tim Tebow. But, geez, Tom, what more do you want the Trojans to do?

Last I checked, USC has the best winning percentage of any D-I program during the last four years. During that period, the Trojans have won their conference every year and a slew of BCS bowl games. They’ve also obliterated every non-conference foe, save Texas, that has stood in their way.

Obviously, Carroll’s team has suffered some bad losses along the way, but who hasn’t? In case you haven’t heard, one loss is the new undefeated when it comes to crowning a national championship. If anything, when USC loses to Stanford or Oklahoma loses to Colorado or Florida drops one to Ole Miss, these games stand as testaments to just how hard it is to keep a team on point for an entire year.

None of this is to say that USC has gotten screwed at any point in time during the past three years. The Trojans have been subjected to the same nebulous BCS system that everyone else has. The results always have been justifiable.

Instead, take the USC phenomenon of “more talent, no championships” as evidence of just how hard it really is to win a national championship. There are just so many butterfly effect variables at play to determine who even gets a shot at the crown. So when you do win one, treasure it. For Pete Carroll and everyone else, tomorrow’s another day. All you can do is keep on keeping on.

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