A friend of mine works as an insurance salesman and he breaks the business down like this: The people who succeed are the people you hated in high school. They’re the loudmouths who seemed to always be causing trouble but usually managed to talk themselves out of it. It takes that kind of personality. You have to be assertive. You have to be an effective communicator. But more than anything, you have to have no conscience.
In other words, most great salesmen would make great con men.
Which means they’d make great college coaches as well.
To that end, one of the best salesmen/con men/college football coaches in America is packing his bags, leaving sunny southern California for gloomy Seattle. Pete Carroll heads to the NFL now after winning a BCS National Championship, coaching three Heisman Trophy winners and rebuilding USC into an elite football program. But he also leaves just before the bottom falls out for the program, just as the NCAA completes an investigation which dates all the way back to Reggie Bush’s playing days.
It appears likely the NCAA will drop the hammer on USC Football, which, depending on the number of players who were receiving gifts from marketing representatives, could lead to the Trojans being stripped of their 2004 National Championship.
But that’s neither here nor there, right? After all, the NCAA can alter the record books and force USC to remove any banners from the Carroll era, but no one is going to forget the dynasty he built. Not when we can watch it all on YouTube. So maybe we give him a pass. Maybe we should choose to only remember him for all the winning he did in his nine years as head coach.
I’m fine with that. As long as we all go back and do one thing. Forgive John Calipari.
The two are no different. One might be California cool and the other New York City slick, but they both could have been cast in the movie Boiler Room and fit right in. They’re salesmen first and foremost. They tell kids and their parents anything they want to hear and they make promises they don’t have to keep.
And when that doesn’t work, they cheat.
They do it by conning themselves first. They know there are dozens of other coaches willing to do whatever it takes to out-recruit them, so they’re convinced they have to take that extra step too. It’s not about gaining a competitive advantage. It’s about leveling the playing field. So maybe they look the other way when a 19 year old is wearing a chain that’s more expensive than a Honda or they convince themselves that no, it’s not at all odd that a recruit who couldn’t break 700 on the SAT all of sudden has MIT scores.
Many college football and basketball coaches operate on the same premise that Major League Baseball players operated on in the late nineties. It’s not cheating if everyone is doing it. And just like in baseball, a code of silence exists. Carroll would never turn another program into the NCAA for bending or breaking a few rules. He’d much rather beat them at their own game.
Don’t expect much to change either. Not when the end result of having two final four appearances erased from the record books for Calipari was the best job in all of college basketball at Kentucky. And certainly not when Carroll can leave USC in shame and get $35 million from the Seahawks.
Until the punishment fits the crime, the con men will keep conning. And winning.