Trojans’ List Is Getting Shorter


The clock is ticking on USC’s coaching search, the Trojans apparently ready to choose from a small group of front-runners.

It appears that San Diego Charger Coach Mike Riley holds the inside track but is something of a mystery, undecided about whether he wants the job, under contract to a boss who might not let go and, on Tuesday, keeping quiet about the whole thing.

Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick, considered by many to be next in line, was home after an interview with USC officials and talking like a man a few notches down the list.


That left former NFL coach Pete Carroll, the one-time longshot, looking more and more like he has a chance to become the Trojans’ next coach.

Reached at home in Massachusetts, where he returned after a week-long stay in Los Angeles, Carroll kept his remarks to a minimum.

“There has been strong mutual interest,” he said. “It’s a pretty hot topic right now. I’m looking forward to seeing what the outcome is.”

That outcome, according to several sources, is expected to be announced within days.

Of course, presumed deadlines have come and gone in a coaching search that has worked its way through numerous candidates and lasted more than two weeks.

And there could be more names in the mix.

With USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett keeping his intentions to himself, the rumor mill has churned out everyone from Alabama’s Dennis Franchione to Pittsburgh’s Walt Harris. There have even been rumblings that Garrett has quietly pursued a big-time coach such as the retired Jimmy Johnson.

So far, however, Riley, Carroll and Lubick are the three most-mentioned names and the only coaches known to have met with USC.


Those three have emerged in the days since Oregon State’s Dennis Erickson and Oregon’s Mike Bellotti decided against coming to Los Angeles.

Riley instantly became the front-runner. As recently as last week, it was thought the former USC assistant would take the job if offered. But as days passed without a contract, Riley began to have second thoughts about uprooting his family and leaving the Chargers.

Team president Dean Spanos is said to be privately willing to let Riley go. In public, however, he has made sharp statements, adamant about holding Riley to the remaining three years of his five-year contract.

Meanwhile, sources confirmed that Lubick met with Garrett on Monday, though the meeting was characterized as brief, lasting only a few minutes while Lubick was on a recruiting trip through Southern California.

Lubick has denied meeting with USC, insisting that he is happy at Colorado State and focused on getting his team prepared for a Liberty Bowl appearance later this month.

On Tuesday after he returned to Fort Collins, Colo., Lubick acknowledged interest in the job. But the 63-year-old--a man known to shy from self-promotion--said it was his understanding that several candidates stood ahead of him.


One of them could be Carroll.

After meeting with Garrett last week, Carroll remained in Los Angeles for several days, ostensibly to watch his daughter, Jaime, play for the USC women’s volleyball team. He also attended a high school football game at Edison Field last Saturday and introduced himself to two USC players who were watching from the sideline.

The 49-year-old coach was scheduled to travel to Richmond, Va., later this week when his daughter and her teammates play Wisconsin in the Final Four.

Though Carroll is a well-known face in the game, there has been questions about how he might be greeted by fans and alumni.

He has an 34-33 record as an NFL coach, including one season with the New York Jets and a three-year stint with the New England Patriots that featured two trips to the playoffs.

But he has never been a head coach at the college level, the kind of experience Garrett has said he prefers.