He did it his way. As he did Saturday at his press get-together before his USC Hall of Fame induction the day after USC awarded him an honorary doctorate.
By now, with what we all know about what the NCAA did to USC, and to Pete's legacy, to his coaches, to his players, some of whom would not get credited for their accomplishments and some of whom would have to play with one arm tied behind their back by NCAA sanctions, it would be easy to rip the disgraced agenda-driven process and everyone associated with it.
But Pete didn't. Not exactly. He seemed to pity them. That they were so overcome with a bitter fear of what USC was doing, and how USC was doing it, that they had to come down on the Trojans program.
How could it be so open? And so much fun? And winning the way it did? And three Heisman Trophies in four years?
"They just didn't understand what we were doing here," Pete said. And we'll say it if Pete won't. They hated it.
All those people at practice -- the neighborhood kids, the grandparents, those famous folks and many more not so. Can't be right. They don't let you within a block of the Ohio State or Alabama football compounds when practice is going on. Isn't that the way God meant football practice to be? Behind walls. With guards keeping out interlopers.
Hey, this isn't for regular folks -- this is football. And how unfair for one program to have all the fun. That's the very definition of an unfair recruiting advantage.
Which gets us to what Pete was doing -- and still is -- when it comes to coachng, he said. Said the focus can't be solely on winning or losing, as much as you have to do that, but how it was "about people . . . about relationships . . . about treating people the right way . . . we compete to do that . . . there's competing going on and fun going on."
And it works as well in Seattle as it did at USC -- or maybe nearly as much as it can in a place where eventually "it's all about contracts," Pete said, and that's not the same as recruiting players to a great program.
Pete said he was "honored . . . humbled . . . excited . . . and happy to be back . . . It's a thrill to be back . . . so much went on here, to be recognized after the fact," he said. "I love the Trojans."
For "a kid growing up in California and having reverence for USC, " to get here and get to coach and have some success," well, it doesn't get much better than that.
Pete said he couldn't wait to talk to fellow Hall of Fame classmate Jimmy Jones, who thrilled him with a game-winning TD pass against UCLA when Pete was a kid attending his only game in the Coliseum and sitting seven rows from the top of the Peristyle, something he still remembers it to this day."
His time at USC let Pete test all his thoughts about how to run a football program and then gave him the chance to take what he figured out here and go back to the NFL and see if it would work there doing it that way.
"That all started here," Pete said. "I'm very grateful for that and it's been a blast to see it all come together" one more time. And no NCAA to take it away.
And yes, there were questions about the NCAA actions against USC. In light of what we know now about the mindset of the NCAA Committee on Infractions members and staff, should USC get the wins back -- the wins Pete's teams earned? And should USC welcome Reggie Bush back?
Pete deferred those to USC, and had good words for Pres. Max Nikias and AD Pat Haden, whom he's kept in touch with since leaving. He said he didn't know the specific answers there.
But here's what he did know. How proud he was of former assistant Todd McNair for "to continuing to fight for his reputation" and how as a result, "a lot of information has come out." Like those 500 pages of emails.
"It doesn't surprise me that stuff like that" has come out, Pete said of the vicious and hateful emails as the McNair case has moved on. But what does seem to take him back, as it does all of us is that "there was such a bitterness."
"I don't know where that came from," Pete said. "It breaks my heart that that happened to this university and the kids that were playing here because it wasn't dealt with properly."
And for that, no matter how much we all hope for it to be made as right as it can be, "We'll always feel sad for the university," Pete said.
Because you can't make it right. The NCAA couldn't even if it wanted to, which of course it doesn't.
As to how this could have happened, or why, Pete had a thought: "I feel we had so much success and so much fun doing it . . . it rubbed people the wrong way . . . maybe no one had done it that way before."
So the NCAA went out of its way to make sure USC couldn't keep doing it that way, as if the experience of having all those people here for practice and having players getting to deal with them every day and learning from those experiences, well, that was wrong, the NCAA said.
"You guys were there," Pete said to the media folks who were. We knew what it was like, he said. At least the ones of us who were there every day did. But that became such an issue for the NCAA and it clearly disturbs Pete to this day how much people on the outside didn't get -- or didn't want to get -- what was going on at USC.
They just wanted to get USC.
"Such bitterness," Pete said.
Although as Pete and fellow Hall of Fame inductee and USC alum Jack Del Rio both noted, it's USC that's coming out of this with their heads held high.
Those folks who didn't want to get it and just wanted to get USC: Not so much.
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