BY Art Thiel 06:24PM 10/11/2015

Sark to take leave of absence; showed up ‘lit’

USC coach Steve Sarkisian apparently showed up drunk on campus Sunday, and was given an indefinite leave of absence by athletics director Pat Haden.

Steve Sarkisian with his former recruiting ace, assistant coach Tosh Lupoi, in better days at Washingon. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Three days after losing at home to Washington 17-12, USC coach Steve Sarkisian will take a leave of absence after not showing up to to practice Sunday apparently because he had been drinking. A player told an ESPN reporter via text that Sarkisian, who coached the Huskies from 2009 to 2013, “showed up lit to meetings again today.”

Trojans athletic director Pat Haden said that offensive coordinator Clay Helton will take over the top job following consecutive home losses to Stanford and the Huskies.

“I was at a basketball event earlier today when I got a call to say Sarkisian was not at practice,” Haden told reporters after football practice. “I called Steve and he made it clear to me that he was not healthy, and I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence. I think this is the right thing for our team.

“I’ve spoken to our team and our coaches — they obviously had a great deal of concern for the health of Coach Sarkisian. It was also clear to me the support that Clay has from the team, and the staff. We’ve got a big task this week with the Notre Dame game, and Clay will do a great job getting our team ready. I don’t have a lot of answers right now for you guys, as I first heard about this an hour and a half ago.”

Helton served as interim coach for the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl when Ed Orgeron, who was filling in for the fired Lane Kiffin, quit because he was passed over when Haden poached Sarkisian from Washington.

Sarkisian showed up Sunday morning at USC and “he appeared not normal” and then was told to leave, a source told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. “They wouldn’t let him come to practice,” a source said.

Sarkisian’s wife, Stephanie, filed for divorce April 20, citing irreconcilable differences. They have been married since 1997 and have three children.

Sarkisian admitted to mixing alcohol and medications prior to a booster event in August where he showed up drunk and was ushered off stage. He apologized publicly for embarrassing himself and the school, which chose not to sanction him publicly.

He said he would consider treatment, which usually requires stepping away from daily activities for a time, but Sarkisian kept up the typical 80-hour work week of Pac-12 coaches. He said he didn’t believe he had a drinking problem.

“He was dealing with family issues all (Saturday) night, but he hasn’t been in a good place all season,” a source told an ESPN reporter.

Sarkisian was an assistant to Pete Carroll when the Trojans ran off seven consecutive Pac-10 titles.

Sarkisian went 9-4 in his first season at USC, losing a handful of big games but showing promise in the final year of the school’s NCAA-mandated scholarship restrictions.

The Trojans were ranked No. 8 in the preseason AP Top 25 and picked to win the Pac-12 in the annual conference media poll. The Trojans fell out of the poll after the loss to Washington, and media criticism was heavy partly because the Trojans seemed ill-prepared.



YourThoughts

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    I actually have empathy for coach. Alcoholism is an evil thing. It is apparent he is truely in the throes of his disease. He definitely needs help and he is going to need plenty of support in order to get right again. God speed Sark. You are a natural rival for those of us rooting on Washington football but this is much deeper than just the game of football. Your life matters and your family counts. I wish him the best.

    • Tian Biao

      I totally agree. At first I was enjoying the struggles of Sark, especially the loss to UW, but also the Salute to Troy drunken buffoonery in August. But I somehow assumed that incident was a one-off, not a chronic problem. Now I just feel compassion for the man and seriously hope he gets his life back together.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Thx Tian. I really want him to turn it around. Let us hope he does.

        I think USC/UW can become a great rivalry once again. Coach Peterson is a good fit for us and Sark is the perfect reason to fan the flames of this great Pac 12 match up.It looks like the USC family is going to offer up a chance to guide him through the sobriety process. Wish him nothing but the best.

    • xoo7yaidu

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  • jafabian

    Sark has had a rough year. He’s going through a divorce, battling alcoholism and the expectations are very high for the team. I’m confident he can turn things around like he did at Montlake.

    One thing I’ve noticed in reports is that USC seems to have alcohol readily available. At booster events, the team plane, the locker room. Either they or the NCAA needs to crack down on that. Especially when many of the athletes aren’t old enough to drink.

  • canyudigit

    I wouldn’t wish addiction on my best enemy. Get honest with yourself Sark. It’s a great place to start. Go Dawgs!!!

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      He did some good things for Washington Football while he was here.the time is now to do some good things to right his ship for his sake and the sake of his kids.Lets hope he delves into it with abandon..Alcoholism is a disease with a tough mental and physical element to it. I hope our rival does right his ship and he and coach P look forward to many battles for Pac.12 supremecy to make both programs entertained and Proud.
      Do it Sark. You are worth it.

  • Effzee

    I’ve made plenty of jokes, because Sark and because i am a Huskyforlife. But… I have people very close to me who have had these problems. I hope he gets it under control. He’s going to go through the depths now. Too bad. :

  • notaboomer

    obviously money can’t buy happiness.

  • Guy K. Browne

    Nice to see compassion in a comments section instead of a bunch of trolls. As much as I enjoyed the dawgs taking the Trojans to the woodshed, tough to see someone hitting the bottom, get better Sark.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    I wish him the best, and not to sound cold-hearted, but how does the state’s highest paid employee get away with this nonsense?

    • rosetta_stoned

      He’s been fired.

    • Jamo57

      USC is a private school. Sark does not work for the state of CA