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Carroll doesn’t hesitate when asked about future

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers @latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

The headline across Plaschke’s column read: “Carroll saves his best coaching job ... for his last USC game?”

It almost enticed me to read the column, but then I heard the guy substituting for Dan Patrick on the radio telling everyone Pete Carroll has “feelers out” in the NFL, while asking NFL expert Sean Salisbury what advice he’d have for Carroll when it comes to picking the right NFL opportunity.

Salisbury said that “assuming Carroll goes to the NFL,” he’d tell Carroll to look at the owners of the NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies, and I thought it was fine and dandy, but what does Carroll have to say about all this?

So we asked Carroll to come on the father/daughter gabfest with Uncle Fred on 570 the morning after his Rose Bowl win, and Uncle Fred went right after him.

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“Oh gosh, big guy, you’re just the greatest,” Uncle Fred said, and although I might not have it word for word -- bulldog that Uncle Fred can be -- he just wouldn’t stop. “Congratulations, I mean congratulations, what a great job.”

I told him, of course, I had USC beating Michigan all along by 14, and he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” cheering my accurate prediction, I guess.

Miss Radio Personality, meanwhile, wanted to know what the likelihood is of Dwayne Jarrett’s coming back to school, because she’s a Notre Dame fan and she’s a big fan of Trojans leaving early for the NFL.

Then for the first time in the show’s history, she had a follow-up question: “And so what’s the likelihood of you coming back?”

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Without hesitation, Carroll said, “I’ll be here,” and then for the first time that I’m aware, he spelled out just how entrenched he is at USC and how little the NFL interests him anymore.

*

I’VE ALWAYS thought there were only three reasons Carroll would leave USC: money; the chance to prove he could be a good NFL head coach, and NCAA findings that might make life at USC miserable.

So I began, “What would it take to ever get you out of here? Money?”

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“The money thing has nothing to do with it,” Carroll said. “I don’t care about the money part -- my agent would kill me for talking like that, but I don’t care about that stuff. It’s more about an opportunity to do things the way you want to do it and to have the freedom to do it. I’m old enough so that’s become more important.”

*

AS FOR the lure of the NFL, I go back to when Carroll arrived, still smarting from the media criticism that he hadn’t cut it with the Jets and Patriots. He believed he had done a good job and would do so again if afforded the chance.

Plenty has changed, though, as Carroll has established himself as the best coach in the college game.

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“I love the setting here -- that I’m in control.... I just don’t see an NFL club ever creating that kind of opportunity that would feel the same. And I’ve been there before.

“I’ve been through the [NFL] thing and I had enough of it. I didn’t realize how much fun it was going to be to coach college football. I just fell in love with this thing; it’s a blast here. That’s what has changed over the past few years. It’s become a better situation. You look at Nick Saban [in Miami], and it’s hard on those guys, man. It’s a harder world there.

“I don’t feel I have anything to prove out there.”

*

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SO IF money can’t get his attention, and he no longer feels driven to prove he can coach in the NFL, it appears there is nothing to move him short of a change in USC’s philosophy.

“I don’t see USC changing the format,” Carroll said. “They’d be crazy to do that; we got things going pretty good right now. So it’s going to stay the same.”

If he has a concern, he said, it’s not competition, but the job one day whipping him.

“It’s just a matter of how long you can keep pushing it at the level and consistency where we’ve been. Coaches don’t get dumb after a while -- they just get worn out. [Pittsburgh’s] Billy Cowher is going through that right now. You get worn -- it’s so demanding and so challenging.”

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Carroll said he’s going to disappear now for a short time, and although he said he’s been asked to attend a national convention, he said he’s going to pass and just get away.

*

SOMEONE ASKED Carroll recently about the pressure of beating Michigan, and he said, “You mean that’s different than having to win every game you coach?”

That’s what it’s like to coach at USC these days, and just consider the added stress if that were to include a call from the NCAA -- addressing the so-called sweetheart deal Reggie Bush’s parents got on a house.

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“I don’t know what’s going on in that particular situation,” Carroll said. “We haven’t heard a word on it for months.

“But there’s an aspect to the NCAA -- there’s compliance there and they can get [tough] on you. We try to do everything perfectly, but we’d be crazy not to do that. One, we don’t have to do anything outside the rules, but two, [the NCAA] makes your world miserable if you make a mistake.

“I know through this investigation -- because he’s not cooperating the way the [NCAA] would like it, there are some issues about that. [But] Reggie gets to do whatever he wants because he’s not part of the university anymore.”

Carroll said he called Bush to talk about the report Bush had been told to stay away from the Rose Bowl, but he sounded vague about what Bush had to say.

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“I know [the NCAA is] mad at Reggie and they’d like him not to be associated with us,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on with all that, but there is some stuff.”

The only stuff anyone is concerned about now, of course, is the Trojans’ strong finish and high expectations for next season with Carroll again working the USC sideline. And that sounds like a certainty.

But before Carroll began his vacation and Uncle Fred congratulated him yet again, Carroll wanted to say one more thing: “We kicked butt on human nature -- didn’t we?”

I have no idea what the guy was talking about, but I think I understand now why he could use a good rest.

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