Monday, February 03, 2014

Pete Carroll, Brian Banks and False Rape

Last night's Super Bowl was over at the half. Neither a fan of the Broncos or Seahawks, I had no fan interest in the game but hoped to see a competitive game. As a fan of USC football, I was happy to see Pete Carroll, coach of the Seahawks, win an NFL title. Throughout his very successful college coaching career, writers would mock him for his mediocre record coaching in the NFL. I liked Carroll because he was a players' coach, which seemed perfect for the college game and his player always seemed to love him. College sports is a slick machine but Carroll seemed different. The story of Pete Carroll and former recruit is one people should know about not just for the horrible injustice Banks suffered but for Carroll's memory of Banks.

As coach of the USC Trojans, Pete Carroll had his eye on Long Beach Polytech phenom Brian Banks, extending him a scholarship offer. His raw athleticism, speed and strength were top tier as premier college football programs wanted him. Banks ran into trouble. Banks was accused of raping and kidnapping a female while he was still in high school. Banks said the make out session was consensual in a stairwell, and that the woman made up the rape claim. Banks served over five years in jail. That is more than some rapists who strike plea deals for "criminal confinement" serve. The young woman's family received $750,000 from the school district local taxpayers. Once released from prison, Banks' accuser reached out to him. What happened next was a full process of reconciliation and admission that the rape accusation was fake. The accuser's mom put her up to it... and also spent allt he money from the damages award. The money was long gone, and the guilt was too much for her to carry. Banks was fully exonerated, but the NFL dream was gone.

Not exactly. Coach Carroll reached out to him to have him come to the Seahawks minicamp, and while not on a full 53 man roster, Banks has managed to play with teams and collect a little bit of cash. Carroll extending the invite got Banks back in the flow of training and competing at the NFL level. He was coming out of prison, and Carroll gave him an invite. Carroll's Seahawks have been extremely competitive since his arrival in Seattle and could have used spots for on the margin players. Carroll had no coach-player relationship with Banks besides the recruiting visits and contact they had from a decade earlier. Small act maybe with limited financial outlay by his team, but it is a small, good deed.

This is a sad story of a young guy's life ruined in a he said-she said situation. While the NCAA has a problem of rapes by players and institutional sketchiness (Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Notre Dame, FSU, and on and on), this is one where words sent a young guy to prison for 5 years. With his physical abilities, USC's coaching and USC's pipeline of amazing linebacker talent in the 2000s, Banks missed out on a real payday and possibly a big payday. It is a what if. What is known is that Pete Carroll, coaching in a sport known for its cutthroat mentality and poor treatment of players, gave a guy he remembered from a decade earlier a shot. He owed Banks nothing but stuck out a hand to help him. Even if the NFL doesn't result in a payday, the exposure and press has helped Banks ink a deal to turn his story into a film. Maybe it is all an act, but maybe Carroll is a good guy. Either way, congratulations Coach Carroll.

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