Seahawks hand head coaching job to USC's Carroll

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - Pete Carroll agreed to coach the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, ending a brilliant nine-year run in charge of the University of Southern California that included a pair of national championships.

Carroll, who spoke highly of his time at USC and showered his former players with praise, said the high level of competition in the National Football League was a challenge he could not resist any longer.

"What this next step presents is a challenge of a lifetime in the most difficult of settings and the most challenging level of performance," the 58-year-old told a news conference. "It's just too good to pass up for me and I have to go."

Carroll, who is accustomed to winning at the college level, now has the task of trying to turn around the Seattle Seahawks, a franchise that has not made the playoffs in two seasons.

It marks a return to the NFL for Carroll, who was fired as coach after one season with the New York Jets in 1994 and again after three seasons with the New England Patriots in 1999.

During his stint with USC, he coached players like Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, who both won the Heisman Trophy as the best U.S. college football player. Carroll credited much of his success to that kind of talent.

"These guys are really the reason why this happened ... there was just a marvelous run of players that have been with us over these years that set this in motion," said Carroll, who has a combined 34 years of NFL and college experience.

"I do not expect to ever be able to top what we just did in terms of these years together, that's not on my mind at all."

The decision to name the charismatic coach to the top job follows Seattle's sacking of Jim Mora on Friday after he had led the team to a 5-11 record in his one year at the helm.

"We are excited to add Pete as our coach. He brings a great passion for winning and a positive attitude that is contagious," Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke said in a statement.

"We now turn our full attention to the hiring process for a general manager. Our intended structure is for Pete and the new GM to work in a collaborative capacity on football matters."

USC said a search for Carroll's successor is underway.

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York and Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Nick Mulvenney)