BY Art Thiel 02:30PM 10/12/2015

USC’s Haden fires Steve Sarkisian

24 hours after he was suspended indefinitely for reportedly drinking before a Sunday practice, USC football coach Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday.

Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday, 24 hours after being indefinitely suspended. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

After being forced to accept an indefinite leave of absence 24 hours earlier after reportedly coming to practice drunk, USC football coach Steve Sarkisian was fired Monday afternoon by Pat Haden, the athletics director who poached him from Washington in November 2013.

The university released a statement from Haden saying, “After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.

“I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.

“Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being.”

The University of Washington, a 17-point underdog, beat USC at the Coliseum Thursday 17-12, the first time Sarkisian met the team where he coached from 2009 to 2013. Sarkisian’s successor, Chris Petersen, was asked about his predecessor’s plight at his weekly presser Monday.

“I don’t know everything that’s gone on down there. I’ve heard a few things,” Petersen said. “And I think half the time everybody piles on and doesn’t really know the full story. I think this is a tough job and you just feel bad for the whole situation, for everybody.

“It’s a hard enough job when you’re doing well. And then when something doesn’t go right in your situation and then everybody piles on, I think it’s very tough. Everybody’s got their opinion now and I don’t think everybody knows exactly everything that goes on to have an opinion like that.”

On his weekly radio show on 710 ESPN, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who had Sarkisian on his staff at USC as offensive coordinator, said the situation “breaks my heart.”

At his regular Monday press conference, Carroll said, “This is an opportunity for Sark to get right, get well. I’m pulling for him. He’s got some big challenges. He’s gotta take care of it. Coaching doesn’t matter; he’s got things to take care of in his personal life. He’s taking the right steps to do that.

“I’ll be there to support him. He has a lot to offer the world.  He’s let down a lot of people around him. He knows that.”

UW athletic sdirector Scott Woodward, who hired Sarkisian in 2009 despite no previous experience as a head coach at any level, released a statement to The Seattle Times: “It is evident that Steve is dealing with a serious personal matter and we wish him the best in facing whatever challenges lay ahead.”

Sarkisian was in trouble since late August when, two weeks before USC’s season opener, he slurred his words and used profanity at booster event. Wtinesses said he appeared intoxicated.

A day later, Sarkisian apologized in a statement on USC’s athletic website. At a press conference the next day he said he didn’t think he had a drinking problem, but agreed to engage in a program that was not publicly specified.

He said the incident was the result of his mixing alcohol — “not much” — with medication he did not specify.

 


YourThoughts

  • ReebHerb

    Wow. Bravo to Hayden. Just think. The school’s reputation is larger than a prima donna with the state’s largest salary. I hope this is the major reason and not losing to a PAC-12 weak sister.

    • Jamo57

      USC is a private school. Sark is not employed by the state of CA.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Good Point Jamo.

      • art thiel

        True, but irrelevant to the need for an intervention.

        • Jamo57

          Agreed. Just clearing up some misperception above that he falls into that “highest paid state employee” category.

          • MrPrimeMinister

            Can we at least agree that he betrayed the trust of the good people of the state of WA?

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      They(USC) just left a multi year probation for cheating.Meanwhile, The Wasington Huskies played in a bowl game last winter and actually own a BETTER record this year than USC. Not bad for a program you are referring to as a weak sister.
      As far as the now disposed USC coach?
      Sark is battling a disease and definitely needs treatment for said disease. This is much deeper than a reputation or whether said program plays good football.
      I am just one opinion but I personally see little class or a boost in ones reputation when you tell your coach you need to get well and we are going to help you get there and then 24hours later you announce you have changed your mind in helping this human being out that desperately needs the help and the solution is to Can him.
      Stay classy USC. I for one am going to continue to root for that weak sister and their outstanding Coach.

    • art thiel

      No applause here for Haden. He should have acted on Sark’s Aug. 28 episode at the USC party. Once someone can’t help himself from being drunk in public, it’s already too late.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    There had to have been a ton of individuals in positions of responsibility here in WA State who turned and looked the other way, for this to have gone on as long as it did. The guy needed help long long before the USC job.

    • Trygvesture

      Stories are pretty common and plentiful about his case-o’ by his desk and on the road, … and more. Sad nobody stepped up and said or did something.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Is that right?Wow that is a deeply troubling thought that people would do the ostrich head in the sand move and not keep this thing from spiraling out of control for the man.Were they THAT happy that he pulled us out of that Willingham mess that they were unwilling to rock the boat figuring the problem would eventually fix itself?( and alcoholism never never fixes itself).
        It is disheartening.

        • art thiel

          It’s human nature not to want to piss off the boss. And he was the boss of many. If he’s successful how do you tell such a person he’s in deep trouble? The guy has to accept that he’s hit bottom.

      • art thiel

        What does a witness say: “You’re a lout and a drunk and you better get help”? It’s not automatic that every frequent drinker is out of control of his or her life.

        Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised that people close to him tried an intervention and were spurned.

        But it’s speculation until he decides to tell his story.

        • Trygvesture

          Well, if he was packin a case with him everywhere, and shots on a regular and unhidden basis was his MO– or even if part of the stories are true– it wasn’t a secret he had looming and intrusive alcohol issues. People working and living around alcoholics know. They know and they talk about it and underlings in a hierarchy do the wink-wink, nudge-nudge tsk-tsk– but superiors know, too. Absent the chance to win rather than disrupt a program, it looks like — if the stories are even half true– the chance to win won again. It speaks with thundering clarity about the pressure to win –and the weak-kneed, only-last-resort willingness to hold to the lofty standards in the mission statements and hallowed historical justifications for creating universities in the first place. It would have been expensive to intervene– or to even broach the idea among those who held the power to do so.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Did you watch the game thursday night?Sark had this almost zombie like look on his face as if he was just going thru the motions~it just was unsettling to me. There really was that facade of a look to him in my opinion…..

      • MrPrimeMinister

        I did see him lambaste and berate one of his players for the personal foul call. It was brutal. The before and after photos–like they do for presidents coming in to office vs when they leave office–Sark has an old man look in contemporary pictures.

    • art thiel

      Probably so. But many alcoholics hold positions of profile and responsibility and are not discovered until the addiction is serious.

  • notaboomer

    has sc offered Peterson the job yet?

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Oh my lord I hope not.

      • jafabian

        Based on past hirings Haden will want someone from the USC family. Especially if they come from the Pete Carroll coaching tree.

        • art thiel

          The USC tree will be the last place to be searched, unless Helton runs the table.

    • art thiel

      That’s a little hard to do midseason, wise guy.

      • Jamo57

        My son’s in favor of Darrell Bevell.

  • jafabian

    Seems to me Haden is getting pulled in all directions. First he suspends Sark then terminates him the next day? A bit indecisive. Someone must have gotten to him. Wish all the best for Coach Sark.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Conflict and turmoil….wouldn’t be the 1st time this program was described in this way.

      • jafabian

        I have concerns for Sark. This firing could put him over the edge. I wish Haden stuck with his original decision for now. If he was to terminate him to wait after the season.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          I could not agree with you more.

        • art thiel

          See answer to jafabian.

    • art thiel

      I suspect that the suspension was the immediate step on a Sunday before the school’s lawyers were summoned Monday to read the contract’s terms for a firing for cause. Obviously, it was.

      • Greg

        Haden may be scrambling to save his own job for not being on top of this.

    • MrPrimeMinister

      For those of us who remember college football from the 70′s, Haden is a fair haired golden boy who beat notre dame, won rose bowls, etc. . . He isn’t going anywhere.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Steve and his wife are divorcing which made me remember this essay about Alcohol removing stains~Sark has a tough hill to climb and he just lost his job late today.
    Apparently Alcohol served him with unemployment too, here it is.

    Alcohol will remove stains from clothes. But stains from clothes are not the
    only things alcohol will remove.

    Alcohol will remove the clothes as well.

    Strange as it may seem, alcohol will do this not only for the man who drinks
    it, but also for his wife and children.

    Alcohol will remove smiles from the faces of wives and mothers. Or husbands
    and fathers. It will remove laughter from the lips of innocent children. It
    will remove even the joy of playtime.

    Alcohol will remove heat from the home, furniture from its rooms, and food
    from its table.

    Alcohol is a great remover. As a remover of things alcohol has no peer.

    This is a profound piece. Rival or no I wish this former USC coach the best.

    • art thiel

      Hadn’t read that. Thanks.

      Then there’s Homer Simpson: “Alcohol is the source of and the answer to all the problems in the world.”

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