Steve Sarkisian

USC clings to its past, passes on big names to hire yet another former assistant

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Sam Barry, Jeff Cravath, Jess Hill, Don Clark, John McKay, John Robinson, Ted Tollner, Paul Hackett, Lane Kiffin.

And now, as of Monday: Steve Sarkisian.

What do all these names have in common?

They were all USC assistant coaches at one time before being hired as the school’s head football coach. They comprise 11 of USC’s past 13 coaching hires for football, all coming since legendary head coach Howard Jones’ final season in 1940.

Barry, Cravath, Hill and Clark were hired to bring back the glory of the Jones era at USC, when the Trojans won four national titles between 1925 and 1940.

Robinson, Tollner and Hackett were supposed to continue the success that McKay (and then Robinson) had between 1962 and 1978, when the Trojans again won four national titles. Robinson was rehired in the early 1990s in an attempt to recreate his own earlier success.

Kiffin and now Sarkisian have been tasked with reviving the Pete Carroll era, when USC won two AP national titles and seven-straight Pac-10 championships.

You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. USC is nothing if not consistent when it comes to hiring its coaches. Despite the fact that, outside of McKay, this hiring strategy has been an abject failure, Trojan athletic directors continue to Fight On by clinging to the past.

Again and again.

This time around, it was supposed to be different. USC’s athletic director, Pat Haden, has a reputation for being a critical thinker with an open mind.  However, rather than doing a serious national search and then offering the head coaching job to a coach like Chris Petersen (two-time national coach of the year, 92-12 lifetime record), Kevin Sumlin (proven offensive guru with success at two different schools), Art Briles (offensive innovator who has Baylor in the top 10), James Franklin (first coach to lead Vanderbilt to three-straight bowl games) or about a dozen other quality college head coaches around the country, Haden decided to take the lazy route.

He didn’t offer the job to anyone else.

He hired Sarkisian.

“(Sarkisian) embodies many of the qualities for which we looked,” Haden said on Monday. “He is an innovative coach who recruits well and develops players. He is a proven and successful leader. He connects with people. He has energy and passion. He knows how to build a program and create a culture that we value. He is committed to academic success and rules compliance. And he understands the heritage and tradition of USC.”

The final sentence of Haden is bolded because this, in the end, is what is most important to many USC people. Not winning. Not championships. But the ability to ‘fit in’ at USC.

Want proof? USC’s last four coaches (including Sarkisian) had coaching records of 13-20-1, 33-31, 12-21 and 34-29 when hired. That’s as many combined wins as Petersen has in his eight seasons at Boise State (92) and more than eight times the number of losses. None of the four were being sought out by any other major program. Sarkisian is the only current Pac-12 head coach who has never won nine games in a season.

Still, USC came calling.

That’s because the track record doesn’t matter. Sarkisian was a coach at USC for seven years. He knows the fight song. He knows how to make a ‘victory’ sign with his hand. He is chummy with the boosters and former players who know him from his past time at the school.

That’s the important stuff to USC, not qualifications or whether Sarkisian has the discernible ability to bring championships to an elite program. Hiring a coach based on hope and ‘gut’ is the modus operandi.

Will Sarkisian win some games at USC? Sure.  He’ll have some good seasons. Almost any semi-competent coach can do so at this school — see Kiffin’s 10-2 season in 2011.

The issue, though, is that USC is selling itself short by hiring Sarkisian. This is a blue-blood football school with resources, tradition and easy access to elite talent. Put those tools in the hands of an elite coach and you will get elite results. By hiring a coach without the proven ability to get those results, the Trojans have blown yet another opportunity.

Some will say that USC couldn’t get an elite coach, that names like Petersen and Sumlin wouldn’t have come.

But Haden didn’t offer them the job. He wanted Sarkisian all along, because that’s what USC athletic directors do: They hire former USC football assistants to be head coaches, even if they aren’t qualified to coach at USC.

This is one tradition that USC could do without.

Akron the new home for transferring Ohio State RB Warren Ball

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 24: Warren Ball #28 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during a game at High Point Solutions Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
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Warren Ball may be leaving Ohio State, but he’s not leaving the state of Ohio.

The OSU running back has decided to transfer out of the Buckeyes football program and continue his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  Specifically, that continuation will involve a 125-mile move to the northeast as George Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that Ball will enroll at Akron and play his football for Terry Bowden‘s Zips.

As Ball is set to graduate from OSU this semester, he will be eligible to play immediately in 2016.  This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Ball was a four-star member of OSU’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 16 running back in the country; the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Ohio; and the No. 193 player overall by Rivals.com.  Ball ran for 189 yards on 41 carries the past three seasons, with 28 of those yards coming on 10 2015 carries.

ElevenWarriors.com writes that “Ball’s apparent transfer has no impact on Ohio State’s scholarship grid for 2016, as he was already on his way out of the program following last season,” adding that “[t]he Buckeyes still sit at 87 scholarships after National Signing Day.”

‘Unlikely’ Louisville’s Trevon Young is able to play in 2016

Trevon Young
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An injury at the end of the 2015 season could have a significant impact on Louisville’s defense for the whole of the 2016 season.

Linebacker Trevon Young sustained both a dislocated and fractured hip in the UofL’s Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M late last December. A day later, Young underwent surgery to, the Louisville Courier Journal writes, “put his femur back in place and insert a plate around a chipped piece of his hip socket.”

Six weeks later, Young remains on crutches, and will remain on them for at least another five weeks as part of a rehab process that could take as little as eight months to as many as a dozen. As a result, Miles Young, the player’s father, tells the Courier-Journal it’s unlikely his son will play during the 2016 season.

The injury that will likely cost Young the upcoming is certainly a unique and rare one, but one that’s not expected to be Bo-level bad.

The doctor in Nashville told the family he had not seen a similar hip injury suffered in a football game – only in a traumatic event like a car accident – however the bone fracture was less severe than originally feared, so “it wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Miles Young said.

Mr. Young said, to his understanding, the fracture is considerably less serious than the infamous one suffered by former star NFL running back Bo Jackson in the early 1990s.

While Young was just a part-time starter in 2015, his 8.5 sacks were second on the team and seventh among all ACC players.He had been expected to be a more significant contributor to the Cardinals’ defense in 2016.

The expected loss of Young is compounded by the transfers last month of Keith Brown (HERE) and Nick Dawson-Brents (HERE), a pair of linebackers who combined to play in 26 games last season.

La. governor threatens LSU football in stumping for tax increase

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers look on during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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In life, there are some things you just don’t threaten, like a man’s mother or wife or kids.  In the South, you never, ever threaten a man’s — or woman’s or mom’s — college football, even if it’s nothing more than what most are calling your typical political bluster.

Yet that’s exactly where Louisiana’s governor went Thursday, with John Bel Edwards “threatening” the very existence of the sport in the state — including flagship program LSU — if a tax increase for which he’s pushing isn’t implemented.  The state is facing a nearly $1 billion deficit, and funding for higher education, among other things, could be cut, the governor said, if “the largest tax increase in state history” is not put in place by June.

“If you are a student attending one of these universities, it means that you will receive a grade of incomplete, many students will not be able to graduate, and student-athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester,” Edwards said. “That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.”

“These are not scare tactics,” Edwards, wearing a Grim Reaper costume, added.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

The governor went so far as to say that LSU football was also in jeopardy, due to a threatened suspension of spring classes that would jeopardize college athletes’ eligibility next year. He said the state would no longer be able to afford one of its most popular programs with middle class residents — the TOPS college scholarship — without tax hikes.

… “I don’t say this to scare you. But I am going to be honest with you.”

The governor didn’t just threaten LSU football if his tax increase wasn’t implemented, with the Times-Picayune writing that, during the state-wide television address, “Edwards told viewers that the state would be forced to take extreme action — such as throwing people with off of kidney dialysis and shutting down hospice services — if new taxes didn’t go into place over the next few months.”

Here’s to guessing that a deal will be reached before June, before people are thrown off dialysis.  Or before people start throwing legislators off buildings and/or bridges for shutting down their beloved Bayou Bengals football.

Texas losing assistant Jay Norvell to Arizona State

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Back in December, Jay Norvell was rumored to be a candidate for Arizona State’s vacancy at offensive coordinator.  Two months later, it appears the Texas play-caller will be joining Todd Graham‘s coaching staff after all, albeit in a “lesser” capacity.

Shortly after Texas confirmed that Charlie Strong had lost one assistant due to “circumstances [that] have put us in a position that we are going to part ways,” reports began to surface that Norvell is leaving Texas to take a job at ASU. Specifically, Norvell is expected to become Graham’s wide receivers coach and hold the title of passing-game coordinator as well.

Norvell spent one season at Texas after being dismissed by Oklahoma following the 2014 season.  Originally hired as the Longhorns’ wide receivers coach, Norvell was promoted to play-caller early on in the 2015 season when Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline were demoted by Strong.

After the 2015 season, Norvell ceded his play-calling duties to Sterlin Gilbert, who was hired by Strong as offensive coordinator in December. Norvell won’t have play-calling duties at Arizona State, either, as Graham hired Chip Lindsey away from Southern Miss to coordinate the Sun Devils’ offense.

Norvell becomes the fifth Longhorn assistant to leave the program since the end of the season, joining Watson (not retained), Wickline (moved on to West Virginia), Tommie Robinson (left for USC) and Chris Vaughn (Ole Miss muck). The last two offseasons, a total of eight assistants have left the program in some form or fashion.

As it stands now, Strong has three vacancies to fill on his current staff.

UPDATED 10:29 a.m. ET: While neither program has confirmed it, Norvell took to his personal Twitter account to apparently say goodbye to his home of the last year.