Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had waited 12 years for his return to the professional ranks.
But while Carroll, who served as the USC coach from 2001-2009, is hoping to reshape his NFL image in Seattle after going 33-31 in six seasons with the Jets and Patriots, he has also sought to maintain his ties with USC and the Los Angeles communities during his first year at his new gig in the Emerald City.
Most notably, Carroll has continued his work with his nonprofit organization, A Better LA, which he founded in 2003.
“It’s a great program,” Carroll said. “It has been for years and years and it always will be. We have really always cherished the support from our fans and students.”
Carroll, as well as other community leaders, originally formed A Better LA in an effort to combat prevalent gang violence within the Los Angeles area.
Yet, despite moving 1,400 miles up the Interstate 5 to Seattle, Carroll has vowed to keep his program alive and well.
“The leadership is very strong,” Carroll said. “It’s a very challenging time, of course, and we need the help to keep this thing going, but it has received a ton of support from the university community. That, along, with individuals and their big commitment and tremendous need, kept us together and working successfully.”
In an effort to combat the change in locale, Carroll has relied on the support of USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, among other local figures, in an effort to promote his mission: scaling back violent crime to promote safer neighborhoods throughout the Southland.
“We’re creating a model of how you can successfully dwindle community violence with a minimal amount of funds and money backing it up,” Carroll said. “We can get a community to be a safer area where kids can come from their schools and back and forth, feel more comfortable and enjoy being in their community.”
The genesis for Carroll’s effort to reduce inner-city violence in Los Angeles came in 2003 after tragedy struck near the USC campus, on Figueroa Street. As Carroll remembers it, he stumbled upon a police report detailing the deaths of 11 teenagers in a span of just a few days. It did not sit right with the Trojans’ headman.
“It just stuck with me,” Carroll said recounting the incident. “I had to see if I could something about helping the situation, making the streets a safer place to live. We had to put something together.”
In the weeks that followed, Carroll looked to do as much, working alongside Lou and Diane Tice, co-founders of The Pacific Institute, an educational program, to launch A Better LA in an attempt to reduce violence in the communities surrounding USC.
Carroll and the Tices reached out to other inner-city groups, namely Common Unity Reaching Everyone, a program focused on scaling back gang violence in West Athens, one of the more violent gang territories.
Thus far, Carroll has been more than pleased with the progress.
“We found the ability to see people come together,” Carroll said. “We’ve only been a part of it. I have never come out and said, ‘We have done this on our own.’ We have been in the middle of this great surge that has really changed the landscape of the number of violent crimes and murders in this area.”
And they haven’t halted events since Carroll’s departure.
Recently, A Better LA and the Trojan Knights co-hosted a field trip to bring students from CURE to the USC-Long Beach State baseball game Tuesday.
In using Los Angeles as a model, the 59-year-old coach hopes to bring similar programs to other cities in the country, including Seattle.
“That’s in the works right now,” Carroll said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to think otherwise. We have already seen the diligent and work of the outreach program. We’re certain we can do that in other places, as well as L.A.”
But at a time when Carroll has changed jobs and the majority of USC fans are preoccupied with the problems plaguing their own athletic program — namely NCAA sanctions and a declining on-field product — momentum for the former coach’s community outreach program has slowed since its height in 2008, when it was profiled by the Emmy-award winning television program 60 Minutes.
Carroll nonetheless urges fans to stick with not only A Better LA, but the football program as well.
“We need them again,” Carroll said. “We need them again this year to stay with the program, as we get it right and get back on top of stuff. It’s easy to support when you’re winning. This is still the time for everybody to rally, go to the games, have fun, watch spring practice, do everything you can to support it and make the experience what it can be.”