I'm going to answer my question.
Let's begin with the case against USC. As we all know by now, the NCAA came down hard on the Trojans in the Reggie Bush matter. The key to the harsh punishment in the Bush case was not whether Bush and his family accepted impermissible benefits. They did. USC admitted that Bush and his family received impermissible benefits from agents and sports marketers, and the school accepted certain sanctions related to those impermissible benefits.
The agent in question was an acquaintance of Bush from San Diego, from well before Bush had ever decided to attend USC. The agent is a convicted felon and former gang member that has served prison time and has never held a legitimate job. Upon his release from prison, the agent decided to start an agency and targeted Bush as a potential client.
According to USC, the allegations made by the NCAA are weak and, on some issues, can be disproved. After reading the notice and response, it is hard to argue that point. As previously stated, the school has admitted that some penalties levied by the NCAA -- and USC itself -- are justified. But other than the agent's uncorroborated account, the only link between the "agent" and the football program are four cell-phone calls between the agent and a USC assistant coach (the longest call lasting two and a half minutes) and a single photograph in which the agent appeared to be in the background. That's it.
According to USC, credible witnesses discredited the agent's account, and there was no other evidence to establish a direct institutional link between the agent and USC. Clearly, the unsworn word of a convicted felon has significant credibility problems from the beginning, and it is hard to understand how -- even with the NCAA's vague standard -- it could ever be relied upon by a reasonably prudent person in the conduct of serious affairs (whatever that means).
When the NCAA interviewed the agent, representatives of USC were denied the right to be present, despite USC's repeated requests to be there. The only evidence of the interview is what NCAA reps chose to record. Representatives of USC were not allowed to cross-examine the witness, assess indicators of credibility, or otherwise challenge the statements procured by the NCAA.
In the several months before the NCAA allowed USC access to a transcript of the interview with the agent, the agent had done media interviews and had collaborated on a book. The idea that the word of a convicted felon, not subject to cross-examination and without corroboration, could convict USC offends any notion of fair play.
As an aside, and using as a backdrop this lame standard of proof and such paucity of credible evidence and corroboration to find an institutional link and convict USC football, consider also that Tim Floyd was not found guilty of anything in the NCAA's findings regarding the allegations surrounding O.J. Mayo. Not a single thing. That means the evidence that the NCAA had against Floyd was so flimsy as to be nonexistent. After all of that hand-wringing, finger-waving and high-horse posturing, Floyd was basically declared innocent of the charges brought against him by the NCAA.
Despite the clear problems with the NCAA's standards and the case against the Trojans, many would say, Good riddance, USC; you got what you deserved. Despite the lack of credible evidence, many would consider USC's coaching staff to be guilty and complicit in any wrongdoing because the head coach and coaching staff are always responsible for everything that goes on in the program. Always.
Well, if that goes for Pete Carroll, it goes for Jim Calhoun. And it goes for John Calipari, despite the fact that Calipari has never been named in an NCAA finding of wrongdoing (notwithstanding the NCAA's flimsy standards of proof). If you are in charge, say many, you are ultimately responsible, and there is no way that the head coach couldn't know what was going on right under his nose.
Well, if you are among those that feel that way, you just called John Wooden a cheater. And as blasphemous as it seems, you would have to call Wooden an admitted cheater, and the chief witnesses against him would be his former players.
Several of Wooden's players on his championship teams have admitted taking extra benefits from Sam Gilbert, an established representative of UCLA's athletic interests during most of Wooden's championship years, and have admitted knowing that such actions were illegal. In addition, Wooden himself is on record saying that he suspected that Gilbert might have been doing illegal things, and that Wooden may have been guilty of "trusting too much."
So Bush took money from agents and sports marketers and there apparently wasn't even a link between them and USC.
Many people also feel that USC got screwed with the sanctions.
So if Carroll had nothing to do with this, which is easy to believe, and they got punished beyond reasonable expectations, and Pete wanted to wash away the bad taste in his mouth from his previous NFL head coaching stints, I don't see much of an issue here.