USC football Coach Pete Carroll confirmed Thursday that Pete Rodriguez, Alex Gibbs and other coaches with NFL experience have served as consultants during his eight seasons with the Trojans, but he denied NCAA rules were broken.
Carroll's comments came at Pacific 10 Conference football media day after The Times reported that USC might have surpassed college limits on the size of coaching staffs because Rodriguez, a special teams expert, acted as an extra coach by attending practices, monitoring games and offering Carroll behind-the-scenes advice.
The NCAA allows major college football teams nine assistant coaches and two graduate assistants, and Rodriguez was not listed by USC as a coach last season.
Asked about Rodriguez's statements that he attended practices and offered advice on the needs of individual players, Carroll said the consultant had not been "evaluating players. He just watched. He's an old friend that watched what was going on and we'd talk about it."
Carroll said he cleared Rodriguez's hiring with USC's compliance department and the school went through "all of the channels" to make sure the arrangement abided by all NCAA regulations.
"Everything was all right," he said.
Carroll said he was "not allowed" to answer questions about what the compliance office did to clear the arrangement, because the school is now reviewing the matter.
NCAA rules prohibit consultants from "any on- or off-field . . . coaching activities," unless they are counted against a team's coaching limit. Specifically forbidden is "attending practices and meetings involving coaching activities, formulating game plans [and] analyzing video involving the institution's or opponent's team."
Rodriguez told The Times he "would watch practice and tell Pete, 'Hey, this guy needs this and this.' "
Carroll's action could broaden the scope of the NCAA's investigation into USC's athletic program in the wake of allegations of improper payments to Heisman Trophy running back Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo. The football part of that investigation has been going on for more than three years.
Carroll said his hiring of Rodriguez was "something that we have gone through all the proper channels a long time ago to make sure that we were doing the right thing and all that. We've documented it." He declined to specify Rodriguez's role or divulge what he was paid but said his use of the former NFL assistant coach was within the parameters of NCAA rules.
"We stuck with how we understood it and interpreted it," Carroll said. "We tried to do everything exactly the right way."
He added, "The fact that it comes up now is way after the fact. But we're going to do everything we need to do to cooperate . . . by the guidance of the university."