SEATTLE — Pete Carroll is gone from USC and back in the NFL.
After days of talks, the Seattle Seahawks hired the charismatic coach Monday, luring him away from the University of Southern California.
“The nine years at USC have been the best years of my coaching life,” Carroll said in a statement released by the university. “I will forever be indebted for the opportunity to represent this great university and would like to extend my thanks to President Sample and Mike Garrett for giving me the chance.
The Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke spent Sunday completing the contract for the 58-year-old Carroll.
On Friday, the team fired coach Jim Mora following just one season. Seattle forced general manager and president Tim Ruskell to leave on Dec. 3. The moves left them rudderless less than four years after the Seahawks reached the Super Bowl.
“We are excited to add Pete as our coach. He brings a great passion for winning and a positive attitude that is contagious,” Leiweke said upon his return to Seattle.
The Seahawks are expected to formally introduce Carroll at their headquarters in Renton, Wash., on Tuesday.
Carroll was 6-10 in 1994 with the Jets and then 27-21 while twice reaching the playoffs from ’97-99 with the Patriots — before he restored a dynasty at USC beginning in 2001.
“The university graciously approached me to stay but this choice is about pursuing the great challenges of competing in the NFL and I found this opportunity too compelling to pass up,” Carroll said.
Carroll was 97-19 and won two national championships with USC. He leaves following his worst season (9-4) since his first at the school and with the NCAA investigating the program.
He comes to a Seattle team coming off a 5-11 season.
“We now turn our full attention to the hiring process for a general manager,” Leiweke said. “Our intended structure is for Pete and the new GM to work in a collaborative capacity on football matters.”
How much control Carroll would have over football operations with the Seahawks was a key issue throughout the negotiations.
Carroll was expected Monday to be at a team meeting at USC that he had planned for weeks for Monday, the Trojans’ first day back to school from winter break.
Carroll’s departure and the expected upheaval of the entire coaching staff leaves USC football leaderless at a difficult time.
USC’s string of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles ended with four losses in 2009.
The school has been under NCAA scrutiny for several years due as the organization investigates allegations former Trojans tailback Reggie Bush received improper benefits from a marketing agent.
Another potential NCAA problem arose last month when USC running back Joe McKnight was forced to sit out the Emerald Bowl while the school investigated his use of an SUV that was not registered to him.
McKnight, along with star wide receiver Damian Williams, declared for the NFL draft as juniors last week.
With national signing day for college football recruits on Feb. 3, the timing of Carroll’s move also puts USC’s recruiting class in flux.
Carroll flirted with the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons in recent years, but did not take a the plunge for a third NFL stint until the Seahawks, with owner and Microsoft Corp. tycoon Paul Allen, came calling last week.
Even outside football, Carroll has become a prominent figure in Los Angeles during his tenure in the nation’s second-largest media market. His charity endeavors, including his A Better LA foundation, and social work with inner city youth have earned high praise.