Three days after it was first reported that the USC coach was a no-show for practice, and less than 48 hours after the report changed to him being “sent home” and announcing that USC Trojans head football coach Steve Sarkisian would be put on [forced]leave of absence for being “not healthy,” athletic director Pat Haden has now relieved him of all coaching duties and services at the University of Southern California.
Amidst the swirling rumors, public outcry, truths or half-truths, and now nationwide embarrassment, the roof collapsed Monday morning under the pressure of being one of the most storied and powerful football programs in the country. The decision, as late as it may have been (more on this later), might have been aided by the Sunday report from Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News and InsideSoCal.com that on the date of September 26th, during the game that saw the Trojans blow out Arizona State 42-14 , “some USC assistants” believed coach Sark’ to be so inebriated that it warranted them pulling him from huddles away from the players. Although there is no supporting evidence at this time to confirm Scott’s reported revelation, multiple sources have claimed or implied that he did in fact break his promise this past weekend; the promise of no alcohol for the rest of the season made after the preseason incident at the “Salute To Troy” booster rally where he was pulled off stage by Pat Haden for appearing drunk and using profane language. After being reprimanded and publicly apologizing, he also spoke of seeking treatment while denying it was a problem.
Steve Sarkisian, the Torrance, California native and former BYU quarterback, coached under Pete Carroll, and along with Lane Kiffin, enjoyed the USC glory years at the turn of the new millennium before taking over a winless University of Washington program in 2009 and turning it around. However, his head coaching career record stands at a modest 46-and-35, including his 9-4 2014 and 3-2 2015 record at USC.
For now, offensive coordinator Clay Helton has been announced as interim head coach, his second stint as USC’s interim coach. In an official statement, Pat Haden said the following:
“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.”
Although there is no doubt that there is a collective concern for Sarkisian’s health and well-being throughout the USC campus and community, a question of timing has been raised that is also a concern and the post-Sark era grumblings can now be heard throughout college halls and at business water coolers alike. Did Pat Haden wait take too long to act on the obvious red flags, or was he even choosing to see them at all early on? The answer may even rest below the belly of yet another compelling question: does their recent mega-successful recruiting season ever play a part in the patience this athletic director privately wills himself to maintain while openly displaying professionalism and care as he balances and/or attempts to connect “what’s best for the university” with trying to establish a winning legacy for himself?
Living in Los Angeles and around the USC campus most of my life, having been married to an employee of USC during their Pete Carroll years, having been responsible for the quality of their printed stationary at one time, and still knowing people who have worked there or attend football practices regularly for a number of years, gives me extremely minor ties to the university and certainly aids in knowing others with considerably more minor ties to it. So, why, I ask, does the athletic director of this same university, an ex-USC quarterback, the man on inner most parts of having major ties, appear to have known so little?
Seriously, I could suspect that a man going through an unwanted divorce (multiple sources report he is has been struggling with it), a father of three now forced to sell his home (a Rolling Hills estate upwards of 8 million dollars) and disrupt the lives of his children, may at the very least, need a shoulder to lean on. Since this latest fiasco broke, it’s been told to me––by one of those sources with more minor ties than I––that he’s been having a difficult time because he is the type of person that keeps things inside and believes it to be a weakness to express depression openly. Of course, I don’t know or care how accurate that description is, my point is this; isn’t it the job of the athletic director and staff to investigate or inquire? I mean, the divorce was plastered all over sites like TMZ.
Are we to believe Mr. Haden didn’t know how publicly dire Steve’s situation is, and that showing up at a pep rally wasted is a red flag? The news conference four days later that saw him acknowledge he may have a problem while “shaking, sweating, and clearly acting unstable” (as reported by the Los Angeles Times) wasn’t an indication either, I suppose. Someone tell Pat that the “undisclosed condition” he spoke of was fairly known to enough people since August…and according to some ex-players, even longer.
It’s being revealed that a player on the team is texting ESPN saying, “coach showed up lit again,” …”again” as in, not the first time, and former players point to documentation (by way of receipts shown through the Los Angeles Times) of Steve Sarkisian’s alcohol use.
Make no mistake, everyone wishes Steve Sarkisian well, and with his current issues, getting fired from USC might be a blessing in disguise––and it is understood that he is now owning up to this and adamant about getting the help he needs, if for no other reason than his kids. However, the focus here is now squarely on USC athletic director Pat Haden. His future at the university may hang in the balance as well because this is not an incident at a local bar. It involves young people. It also involves public opinion, parents and future recruiting…Oh, well, there’s always politics for someone with Pat’s updated ability and resume.