The most absurd headline of the year comes from a major news source (The Sporting News) and a writer I frequently agree with, Mike Florio: Pete Carroll Should Lose His Job.” In the wake of the NCAA findings that USC will be severely punished for its blatant and numerous rules violations, Florio reaches the conclusion that the man at the helm of this collegiate football scandal should lose his new pro-football job. While sharing his sentiment, “fairness dictates that a consequence apply,” I think Carroll will always carry the consequence with him as an invisible badge of shame worn beneath his warm, wry smile.

The shame is shared by Bill Belichick each time he is looked upon or coached against. For those in the know, we don’t look at him or other notorious cheaters the same way again. It is a scarlet letter, though invisible to the uninformed and therefore irrelevant, emblazoned on the hearts and minds of those who matter most, the fans. For the perpetrators of the offenses, the people they most want to impress (their peers), know best how their conspiratorial acts have effected not just the outcome of games in which they competed, but even the storylines of their own careers.

Disgraceful acts are not what is presently at issue. Calling for Pete Carroll’s firing from a completely different level of football is akin to telling an institution of higher learning that it should dismiss a student found cheating on high school exams. Especially when the institution had every reason to suspect the student had cheated. Admission of such a student would rightly raise eyebrows, but it is ultimately up to the institution to do what they please — especially having advanced knowledge of likely indiscretions. One is free to question the admitting institution for displaying poor judgment, but not the one being admitted.

The Seattle Seahawks knew what they were getting with Pete Carroll. They knew why he was NOW interested in a return to professional coaching. Those of us who live in southern California KNEW about the severity of the allegations and subsequent scrutiny USC’s program was under. When asked about Carol’s hiring by the Seahawks back in January, those close to college football and/or USC knew that the guillotine was about to fall on the University and that said guillotine would fall soon. The real question should be what took the NCAA so long to complete its investigation?

It is terribly unfortunate that present athletes and fans should be punished so severely for something that took place so long ago. The questions surrounding Reggie Bush and several other players were numerous and frequent. One would have to be expert at self-deception to believe that the perennial Pac-10 champions were doing everything honestly and above board. It was clear that there were significant and numerous NCAA violations going on for many years. Yes, evidence was necessary to bring charges and the subsequent sanctions — but nearly five years after the end of their 34 game wining streak and consecutive national championships?!? Certainly the investigative process could have been carried out in a more timely manner.

The Seahawks knew what they were getting when they hired Pete Carroll and just like an institution of higher learning who might accept a known cheat to its hallowed halls, the risks are weighed against hopes for great things. How many people line up daily to work with Martha Stewart despite her having been incarcerated for securities fraud? The queue is deep because people want to be around winners and will sacrifice some level of personal or organizational reputation to win. The onus is on the people who chose to sacrifice some of their own integrity by hiring people who are highly likely to find themselves above the law.

To Florio, I respectfully disagree: Pete Carroll should not be fired as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. It was the Seahawks organization who knowingly hired a man with low regard for the NCAA rules which were to have governed his prior employment. It was their call. All questions regarding the appropriateness and/or wisdom of Carroll’s hiring are perfectly fair, welcome, and where the debate is most relevant.