USC’s first call could be to Oregon State’s Mike Riley


As the Seattle Seahawks worked through final details to bring Pete Carroll back to the NFL, USC has targeted a coach it wants to replace him.

But it might not be easy to lure Oregon State’s Mike Riley.

Riley was among Athletic Director Mike Garrett’s top choices in 2000 before he hired Carroll. A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Saturday that Riley was at the top of USC’s list. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

USC football: A photograph accompanying an article on the front page of the Sunday Sports section on possible candidates to succeed USC coach Pete Carroll was not of Oregon State Coach Mike Riley, as the caption said. The individual pictured was Oregon State assistant coach Jay Locey. —

Riley, 56, was USC’s offensive coordinator in 1993-96. He is in his second stint at Oregon State and also coached the San Diego Chargers.

Riley led Oregon State to victories over a third-ranked USC team in 2006 and a top-ranked USC team in 2008.

The Oregonian newspaper reported on its website Saturday night that Oregon State Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis was prepared to offer Riley a lifetime contract to remain in Corvallis.

USC also is expected to gauge the interest of Jacksonville Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio and Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher, both of whom played at USC. Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, Boise State’s Chris Petersen and TCU’s Gary Patterson also could be contacted along with, perhaps, Mike Bellotti, the former Oregon coach who is now the school’s athletic director.

Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian, a longtime assistant under Carroll, told the Seattle Times on Friday that he planned to stay with the Huskies.

“I love my job,” Sarkisian said, adding, “People don’t understand it, but this is my dream job.”

Meanwhile, Seattle appears to be moving deliberately after firing previous coach Jim Mora.

The offer to Carroll came into clearer focus Saturday. It is for five years at $6.5 million a year -- and Carroll will probably just hold the title of head coach, not team president.

In offering the job to Carroll, the Seahawks ran afoul of the so-called Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching or front-office vacancies.

Seahawks Chief Executive Tod Leiweke flew to Minneapolis, where he spent four hours Saturday interviewing Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Although the effort was widely derided as a sham interview, it satisfied the league’s requirement. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, attending the New York Jets’ playoff game in Cincinnati, told reporters the Seahawks were in compliance with the Rooney Rule.

The Seahawks had considered interviewing San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, which also would have satisfied the requirement, but ultimately opted not to do so.

John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an advocacy group for minority job candidates in the league, said he received assurances from Leiweke that Carroll would hold only the title of coach, and not general manager or president, and that minority candidates would be interviewed for those posts.

“Our position is, if Pete Carroll comes there as the head coach, he will only be in charge of the 53-man football roster,” said Wooten, whose group does not have the ability to sanction teams. “That’s the extent of his authority. Because of their commitment to swear that to us, we have agreed to let them interview Leslie Frazier.

“They can hire Pete Carroll if they want. But he cannot be anything more than a head coach. He does not have control of the draft. He does not have control of the trades. He does not have the last word on anything other than the 53 men he puts out on that field each and every week.

“If there’s any violation of anything else, you can rest assured -- and I’ve already alerted the NFL office on this -- it would mean that Tod Leiweke would have been dishonest with us and would have violated the Rooney Rule.”

Having full control of an organization has always been a huge factor for Carroll, who didn’t have that in his previous stints as an NFL head coach with the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

“From what I understand, [the Seahawks] have told Pete Carroll that they will give him till Monday to decide what he wants to do,” Wooten said.

The Seahawks are expected to hire Carroll, and then take their time interviewing candidates for the GM job, while remaining mindful of Rooney Rule requirements. This could lead to the promotion of Will Lewis, Seattle’s widely respected pro personnel director, who Friday interviewed with Mike Holmgren for the GM job in Cleveland.

Carroll’s return to the NFL could come a year after he scolded quarterback Mark Sanchez for deciding to leave USC with a season of eligibility remaining.

After leading the Jets to a 24-14 victory over the Bengals, Sanchez addressed Carroll’s possible move to Seattle.

“I just want everyone to know, I completely disagree with his decision to go to the NFL,” Sanchez said to laughter, smiling broadly. “Statistics show that it’s not a good choice.

“No, I’m just kidding. I talked to Coach a bunch, I told him I was gonna hammer him about it, but I wish him the best whatever happens, whether he stays in school or not.”