February 08, 2011
About this time last week, longtime USC assistant Rocky Seto was fully prepared to leave his gig with the Seattle Seahawks to return to Los Angeles, this time as UCLA's defensive coordinator. Multiple reports on Feb. 1-2 informed readers that Seto had been or was about to be officially hired, and Seto himself told ESPN Los Angeles on Monday that he had been offered and accepted the job on Feb. 1:
The former USC defensive coordinator and current assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks said he had accepted a verbal offer from UCLA and was scheduled to be introduced at a news conference the following day [Feb. 2].
He told a few friends. He told his family. He tried to wrap his head around the idea of holding such a key role for UCLA, the school that had been his rival as both a player and a coach for more than a decade.
Seto, as assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks, was offered and accepted the job Tuesday night, but the offer was rescinded the following day, according to the person close to the negotiations. The person said that no reason was given other than UCLA officials decided to go "in another direction." UCLA officials claimed Saturday that no "official" offer had been made.
As Seto confirmed to ESPN L.A. on Monday, "I was a bit disappointed because when I accepted the offer, emotionally and mentally I was there. … [UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel] called, and he was really gracious about it and very flattering. It just wasn't the right time. What was flattering about it was I really believe wanted to do it, but the circumstances just wouldn't allow for it."
What circumstances changed from last Tuesday night, when Seto was apparently offered and accepted the job, and Wednesday, when the "unofficial" offer was rescinded before it could become public? Two things:
a) Word got out. Seto denied reports that he'd posted his hiring on his Facebook page, but admitted to ESPN L.A. that some of his family and friends may have posted congratulatory messages on his wall. According to the L.A. Times, the student-run Daily Trojan originally quoted a text message from Seto when it broke the news on Feb. 1, "[I] accepted the position tonight to coordinate at UCLA. Praise the Lord!" It was swiftly removed from the story after the Times contacted Seto to follow up.
b) The opposition got out. Armed with the news – and from a USC outlet, no less – Bruin fans and boosters went on the offensive over the next 24 hours, most notably from the most reliably earnest fan site on the web, Bruins Nation, which immediately labeled Seto a "Pete Carroll Extremist" and launched a "Veto Seto" campaign that aimed to swarm the university's social media sites with opposition to Seto's hire as both a dyed-in-the-wool Trojan and an inexperienced 34-year-old with no real coordinator experience. (Seto technically held the "defensive coordinator" title at USC in 2009, but in name only; Carroll personally oversaw the Trojan defense throughout his tenure. At any rate, the '09 defense was by the worst of the Carroll era.) Traffic on BN surged in the wake of national signing day, and the site was declaring victory by the weekend.
From UCLA's perspective, of course, its backtracking looks a lot better if the decision was a result of loose lips, as opposed to bullying fans overruling the head coach's choice for the job, considering the latter would be a pretty straightforward sign of the apocalypse for Neuheisel's tenure going into its make-or-break season. That is, the next sign of the apocalypse: With a 4-8 season, a complete staff overhaul, an uninspiring recruiting class and a persistent vacancy at defensive coordinator – still unfilled more a full week after the offer to Seto, and a full month-and-a-half after Neuheisel fired Chuck Bullough – Bruins fans frankly have all the signs they need.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.