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So Long Pete - Now Don't Come Back

Like most college graduates, I didn't start out at the top in my first job. In order to start paying back those student loans I took a job as an operator in a chemical plant. It was a great experience that really benefits me as an engineer now, but at the time it wasn't very glamorous. I was doing shift work, so there were many nights when I would be standing out in the cold at 3 AM, the wind knifing through my blue jeans and long underwear, as I tried to get a pump primed or I tried to thaw out a valve with an ice ball the size of a microwave on it. I still remember the day I was mopping the floor in the men's room when a driver walked in and started laughing.

"I bet your parents would be so proud if they could see you now. Four years of college, and here you are on the night shift mopping piss off the floor," he bellowed.

"Shows what you know," I shot back. "I was in college for five years.."

But I digress. I bring up this story because I had a boss who got the bright idea one day he was going to give a reward to the operator that could make the most argon. It sounds like a great theory in principle. Reward the guy that performs the best. But it ended up backfiring.

When you're part of a 24 hour shift rotation, you depend on the guy before you to hand you off a stable process. You're counting on him to hand off a plant that is operating as well or better than he found it, and someone else is counting on you to hand off a stable plant to them. Well, when my boss instituted this program, it gave people incentive to screw the next guy. They did this buy pulling off more argon than the plant could really produce. You can do this for a few hours, but do it for too long and eventually you have to pay the piper. Think of it this way: if you're putting one gallon of water per minute into a swimming pool, but someone opened the drain and you're losing two gallons per minute, eventually you are going to run out of water. So many a night I came in to work, and about an hour into my shift everything got unstable because the guy that worked the shift before me cheated and pulled off more argon than the plant could handle. Basically, I was following the Pete Carroll of air separation.

Questions about the USC program started to surface just after the 2005 season. After Reggie Bush went pro there were allegations he and his family were given clothes, cash, cars, and even a home by a marketing firm that was hoping to secure a position as Bush's agent when he entered the NFL. The NCAA promised a thorough investigation, but as of today we're still waiting for the results several years later. Then when USC basketball coach Tim Floyd resigned after getting caught handing cash to a handler of a basketball player, the NCAA announced they were getting tough and investigating the entire USC athletics program.

Then a few weeks ago USC star tailback Joe McKnight was seen by a reporter driving around campus in an SUV that did not belong to him. Further investigation revealed the SUV was registered to his girlfriend, who worked for a marketing firm which had secured an online domain name that could be used to market McKnight should he one day enter the NFL. This is most likely the point where Pete Carroll saw the writing on the wall and decided it's time to get out. Though he had been courted by the NFL after each of the past few years, this year he decided to accept an offer from the Seattle Seahawks to be their next head coach, leaving USC to pick up the pieces of the mess he helped create.

Pete Carroll isn't the first coach to bail on a program he helped ruin. And he probably won't be the last either. It's a shame to me that athletic departments and student athletes have to suffer the consequences of programs out of control for years to come while the head coach resigns and instantly gets a new gig making millions of dollars without paying for the sins they committed. How many kids won't get an education because of the scholarships USC may lose? Granted, kids with the talent to go to USC will find a place to land. They'll go to Cal or Arizona. But then Cal and Arizona will have to pass on some kids they would have normally taken. So those kids will go to San Diego State or UNLV. And then the kids that would have gone to those schools will have to go to a FCS school. And those ten or fifteen kids that are the ones who are going to get screwed in all of this.

That's why I hope the NCAA puts a stop to all of this once and for all. Cheaters have to feel the pain even if they walk out on the situation they created. It's time for the NCAA to grow some balls and get tough on these coaches who cheat their programs into ruin and then skip off to make millions at another institution. That's why Pete Carroll needs to be banned from NCAA athletics for life if it is found that USC committed NCAA violations while he was in charge. Do it Pete Rose style. You know that once he goes to the NFL where he has to compete against franchises with equal facilities, equal money, and equal talent, he will revert to being the failed underachieving coach he is. So when he's fired for going 4-11 two years from now, he will look to come back and coach at somewhere like Arizona or Washington State. And when that happens, the NCAA must put their foot down and say, "No."