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Pete Carroll leaves USC for the Seahawks

GREGG BELL | 1/12/2010, 6:22 a.m.


SEATTLE (AP) -- Pete Carroll says he loves challenges.

Well, he's coming to the right place. His new Seattle Seahawks, who pried him from Southern California and back into the NFL, will provide one of the biggest in the league right now.

The Seahawks are in their worst two-year stretch since 1992-93, with just nine wins in 32 games since their most recent playoff appearance. They don't have a general manager. They don't have a president. They don't have a swagger, flair, long tradition of excellence or much of anything else USC had for nine, mostly glorious years under Carroll.They have a 34-year-old quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, who just played through broken ribs, a bad throwing shoulder and a banged-up thumb to set a career high in interceptions - and that was after his 2008 was ruined by a bad back. They have a passed-over, seventh-round draft choice as their most dynamic rusher.

They have an owner, Microsoft tycoon Paul Allen, for whom money is no limitation and losing has no excuse. He fired coach Jim Mora on Friday after only one season.

And now they have a new coach who will have football "operating duties," according to Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke, with whom Carroll struck a deal to become the eighth coach in the Seahawks' 34-year history. Carroll signed the contract Monday and was to be introduced by the Seahawks at their luxurious, lakeside headquarters Tuesday morning.

"What this next step presents is the opportunity of a lifetime, in the most challenging of settings," the charismatic, 58-year-old Carroll said Monday during his farewell address at USC.

"It was such an obvious opportunity of different proportions."

The Seahawks sold Carroll on added responsibilities equivalent to a vice president of football operations. Carroll will work alongside whomever Seattle eventually hires as its new GM on operations beyond just coaching.

Leiweke said Monday night Carroll's additional duties will include organizing the Seahawks' calendar and travel, among other things beyond mere X's and O's.

The idea is to build a far more harmonious relationship than the fractured one that existed between former coach Mike Holmgren, who was also Seattle's GM from 1999-2002, and GM and president Tim Ruskell, whom the Seahawks forced to resign last month at the end of a 5-11 season.

It is far more say in football operations than Carroll had in his one season as coach of the New York Jets in 1994, and in his stint as coach of New England from 1997-99. It is more than Atlanta or Miami could offer in recent winters, when Carroll at least thought about returning to the NFL.

"I thought I would be here forever," Carroll said at USC Monday, "and this thing came along. And it's an opportunity that I just can't pass up.

"The is THE unique opportunity. ... You know how I have looked at that over the years: there was never an opportunity. I'm just attracted to the aspect of this whole thing."

This "whole thing" is believed to be for five years at a salary as rich or richer annually than any coach in the league. That would mean $6 million per season or more.

Carroll's agent, Gary Uberstine, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday night, "Our firm policy is not to comment on clients' contract details."

Trojans offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates - whom Carroll brought in for 2009 is coming to presumably take the same job in Seattle. Ken Norton Jr., Carroll's linebackers coach at USC, and Trojans offensive line coach Pat Ruel are also expected to be on the new Seahawks staff.

Not that the new coach was saying much about that while still in L.A.

"We're working at it," Carroll said of which USC coaches are coming with him and which will stay during the final weeks of the recruiting season. "It's a delicate situation with the people I love who I have had long relationships with."

There are some of those already awaiting Carroll in Seattle.

Defensive end Lawrence Jackson, a recent No. 1 draft choice of the Seahawks, is just two years removed from Carroll's dynasty. And Seahawks three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and co-captain Lofa Tatupu is one of the few USC defenders Carroll cited by name.

Yet despite saying he will always be a Trojan, will always return to Southern California and be part of that community, Carroll said Seattle is providing him the NFL experience he's always wanted "at the highest level of competition."

"It was about the challenge," Carroll said. "This challenge became greater and just too exciting to pass up."