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Wall-to-wall with Pete Carroll

USC coach ahead of curve again with Facebook page

Posted: Thursday March 6, 2008 12:33PM; Updated: Thursday March 6, 2008 4:01PM
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Sedrick Ellis and Pete Carroll
USC coach Pete Carroll may be 56, but he never has had trouble relating to America's youth.
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I've never met Pete Carroll. As far as I know, we've only been in the same room once -- at a crowded press conference at the Beverly Hilton the day before Carroll's USC team faced Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl. But this much I know about the man.

Pete Carroll has added boogey boarding to his list of interests.

That little nugget popped up on my computer screen late last week. See, Carroll is my friend. Or at least he is in the wonderful, slightly terrifying world of Facebook, where you can poke a perfect stranger with absolutely zero legal consequences. So when Carroll blasts Dire Straits in his office, me and his other 1,025 friends (as of Thursday morning) know about it. I also know his favorite book is The Inner Game of Tennis, his favorite television show is 24 and his musical favorites include James Brown, The Fray, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. (More on The Fray later, I promise.)

Here's something else I know. Carroll's Facebook page -- created a few weeks ago and managed on a day-to-day basis by USC football Web site guru Ben Malcomson -- is reason No. 347 why Carroll is light years ahead of his colleagues in connecting with the young men he coaches or hopes to coach. Carroll and Malcomson insist the page has nothing to do with recruiting football players to USC, and Carroll even posted a note saying NCAA rules forbid him from responding to many of the messages posted on his page, but Carroll's foray into Facebook will help him recruit players even as it helps his stated goal of recruiting fellow good Samaritans to his favorite charity, A Better LA.

If you don't understand Facebook or if you've never heard of it, fear not. You're probably just old. I'm 29, which makes me downright ancient in Facebook world. I didn't join until last week when I began working on this story. Mark Zuckerberg, now a 23-year-old billionaire, founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004. By then, I'd been married three years, so one primary function of Facebook -- the hunt for the next hookup -- was rendered useless. Smarter people than I have found more noble uses for Facebook, which, according to Business Week, now has 67 million users and could soon eclipse MySpace as the social-networking site of choice. Among those millions of users are hundreds of potential football recruits.

Carroll has to know this. "Coach is as up on things as a 56-year-old can be," said Malcomson, the USC student-reporter-turned-walk-on-receiver who now provides much of the content for Carroll's Web site, USCRipsIt.com.

Carroll's coaching colleagues can't say the same. A Facebook search for the names of the other 64 BCS-league coaches returned no legitimate matches. Alabama's Nick Saban has five profiles, but the geniuses who created them all thought he lived in Birmingham instead of Tuscaloosa. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's son has a page, but the Head Hog himself does not. Pitt's Dave Wannstedt doesn't have a page, but his mustache has its own fan club.

The only aspect of Carroll's page that could turn off a potential recruit is his inclusion of Grey's Anatomy-fueled soft-rockers The Fray in a list that includes the Godfather of Soul, the Boss, Stevie Wonder and the Stones. I asked Carroll about this in a set of questions I wrote on his wall, explaining that the choice might force folks to question his sanity. In a message sent to my Facebook page, Carroll explained himself.

"They're not in any order [of preference], I was just going through my iTunes and picked out a few of my favorites," Carroll wrote. "I'm really liking the Foo Fighters right now, though -- they've been blasting from my stereo for the last few weeks almost nonstop. Everyone in the office is probably getting sick of them, but that music has been good to me lately."

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