Category: USC Trojans

Steve Sarkisian, Soma Vainuku
Associated Press

Report: Steve Sarkisian checks into rehab


Something positive, it appears, has emerged out of the Steve Sarkisian saga.

According to SB Nation, the coach has checked himself into rehab to treat an alcohol issue he admitted to back in August.

“Steve Sarkisian is aware of the termination and is deeply disappointed,” a source told the site. “But right now his No. 1 priority is getting himself well. To that end, he has checked himself into a residential treatment facility. He’s grateful for all the support that will help him get through this difficult time.”

Sarkisian is only 41, incredibly young by coaching standards. He, presumably, would like to coach again. It’s the only job he’s held since ending his professional career in 1999.

But that won’t happen until he fixes himself, and proven to others he’s fixed himself.

And it sounds like Sarkisian took the first step on Monday.

USC fires Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian

A day after placing head coach Steve Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence, USC has terminated the contract of the head coach effective immediately. Clay Helton will continue as the interim head coach, as was announced following the initial leave of absence for Sarkisian on Sunday. A brief statement from USC Athletics Director Pat Haden announced the news on the school’s website.

“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,” the statement from Haden said. “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.”

Sarkisian, a former USC assistant coach, returned to USC in 2014 to take over as head coach following five seasons at Washington. He replaced Lane Kiffin, who was also let go in-season in 2013. Sarkisian lasted 18 games with the Trojans, going 12-6 in those games. As it turns out, both Kiffin and Sarkisian lasted just five games in their final seasons as head coach at USC. Sarkisian’s final game came Thursday night, with the Trojans being upset at home by Washington. For Sarkisian, the problems off the field ultimately may have carried much more weight in the decision to remove him as head coach.

Sarkisian’s recently reported struggles with alcohol had crossed a line with interfering with practices, team meetings and/or sideline decision-making during games. Sarkisian also had an embarrassing public display of drunkenness prior to the start of the season in front of prominent boosters and supporters of the program. On Sunday Sarkisian showed up to the USC practice facility said to be “not healthy,” per Haden. He was then placed on indefinite leave to seek help.

“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,” Haden’s statement today said.

So USC is now in the market for a new head coach, and the Trojans should be one of the more attractive jobs on the job board this coaching carousel cycle. there will also be calls for more changes though, as Haden has come under fire for his past hires as well. Big changes could be on the horizon for USC, and what the Trojans do now will be watched by everyone around college football.

Success at Utah keeps Kyle Whittingham coaching rumors alive and well

Kyle Whittingham

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has been in charge of the Utes program for over a decade since Urban Meyer left Salt Lake City for Gainesville. With Utah continuing to rise in the polls and look more and more like a solid playoff contender, could Whittingham now be seen as a possible leading candidate for some more high-profile jobs in this upcoming round of the coaching carousel, say at USC for example?

USC placed current head coach Steve Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence on Sunday and it seems there could be some drastic changes forthcoming for the Trojans in Los Angeles. If USC needs to find a new head coach, the program should be capable of attracting some very good candidates for the job, and some have already suggested the school will or should make a push for former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, currently the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. There is little doubt Kelly would do some terrific things with USC, but it remains an unrealistic combination right now (Kelly has won 20 games his first two seasons in the NFL and still has the Eagles in striking distance of first place in the NFC East despite early struggles, and he just took on the role of general manager; he has some good power going for him in the NFL). Whittingham, though, appears to be a much more likely target for USC if a coaching search is to begin.

It is important to remember the differences between Meyer’s departure from Utah and Whittingham’s current standing with the program. When Meyer left Utah for Florida, the Utes were still a Mountain West Conference program that did not compare or compete with the amenities of power conference programs. While success could certainly be attained at Utah, the chances of taking the next step as a program and competing for a national title were minimal at best at Utah a decade ago. The times have changed though.

Today Utah is a member of the Pac-12 and as of now is the only undefeated team left in the conference. Utah’s high ranking in the polls now is perceived in a different way it may have been when Utah was in the Mountain West Conference. Fair or not, that is just the reality of the situation. You can make the argument Whittingham has anything and everything he needs to have a shot at winning big at Utah. The performance to date certainly helps back that up.

While facilities and conference allegiance have been improved, does Utah have staying power to be a perennial national title contender? Does Utah have the resources to pay Whittingham and his staff top dollar? Compared to some programs that could be in need of a new head coach elsewhere, Utah may still have some work to do.

Just within the last year Whittingham has been connected to one coaching rumor or another (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh to name a few), and some even went so far to try and connect Whittingham to BYU, of all schools. This was nothing new. Whittingham had also been thought of as a potential coaching candidate at schools like Arizona and Penn State in recent years as well. Again though, those earlier coaching rumors occurred when Whittingham was in the Mountain West. Now, with Utah in the Pac-12, the playing field has been leveled a bit as he has adapted and grown the program to compete in his new conference.

A similar path has been taken by Gary Patterson at TCU. Patterson has guided TCU through multiple conference changes and finally has the Horned Frogs playing at a high level in the Big 12 as a conference and playoff contender. Patterson could have had almost any job he wanted as he continued to build TCU’s football program to this point, but he has opted to stay put and see to it TCU reaches the ultimate goals ahead of them. Perhaps the same will hold true for Whittingham as well.

There is nothing wrong with looking around and hearing what others have to offer. In fact, now might be a good time for Whittingham to entertain the possibility, because if Utah continues winning games he will have some leverage in his future whether he stays at Utah or not.