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.
Florida’s surprising 2015 season took a hard left turn today with the suspension of starting quarterback Will Grier for the remainder of the season. Grier has been suspended for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug, forcing Grier to sit out until the middle of October of 2016 unless he wins an appeal. The suspension is a devastating one for Florida’s revived offense at a horrible time with LSU on deck this week. The 6-0 Gators will not be losing any credit for the work done to this point though, as there will be no reason to vacate any victories accumulated so far.
While the exact timing of the drug test for Grier is unknown, or unconfirmed, all accounts seem to suggest action was taken swiftly with regard to Grier’s playing status. That means Florida is not believed to have played Grier while knowing or risking the chance he was actually an ineligible player. Had Florida done that, any game in which Grier merely stepped on the field would be tossed from the win column for the Gators. Grier has played in all six games so far, so that would have dropped the Gators from 6-0 down to 0-0. Remember that vacated wins do not equal losses, so Ole Miss and Tennessee and other victims of Florida to this point would still carry those losses they took.
The lack of vacated wins also keeps Florida in the bowl picture, regardless of what happens the rest of this season. The Gators are already bowl-eligible with the NCAA minimum six games won. Had the Gators lost all six wins, Florida would have had to run the table in the second half of the season just to qualify for postseason consideration (again).
Treon Harris will now be taking over as Florida’s starting quarterback. Head coach Jim McElwain has said all the right things so far and says Harris will be ready to take advantage of this situation even if due to unfortunate circumstances. Florida takes on LSU in Baton Rouge this weekend.
Well here is a curveball for the undefeated Florida Gators. Quarterback Will Grier will reportedly be suspended by the program for the rest of the season for a violation of NCAA rules. Mike Huguenin of GridironNow.com was first to report the news of the suspension, via Twitter. GatorBait.com had a second report with the same news.
Florida is expected to hold a press conference later this afternoon to address this news. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports, via Twitter, Grier tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The NCAA penalty for using performance enhancing drugs leaves no wiggle room. Student-athletes lose one full year of eligibility for the first offense and must be held out of competition for a full season. A second offense involving PEDs makes a player permanently ineligible. It is expected the one-year suspension for Grier would carry over to approximately October 12, 2016, but that will have to still be confirmed.
Grier has played in all six games for Florida so far, completing 65.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His play has helepd Florida jump out to a clean 6-0 record with some key games to be played. Florida visits LSU this weekend and a big SEC East contest with Georgia is coming up next week. With Grier out of the mix, Florida will now put its hopes in the hands of sophomore Treon Harris. Harris has appeared in four games this season and he saw action in nine games a year ago in replacing Jeff Driskel.
We will update this story once more information is confirmed and announced.
UPDATE (2:39 p.m.): Grier has addressed the media regarding his suspension, saying the failed drug test was the a product of an over the counter supplement he purchased. He will appeal the NCAA suspension, but if that appeal is rejected he will indeed be out of action for the rest of this season and the first six games of 2016. He would also return as a junior after losing eligibility. Head coach Jim McElwain said he learned of the failed drug test on Sunday, despite some message board chatter cropping up earlier this weekend.
UPDATE (2:54 p.m.): The supplement that led to the suspension was Ligandrol, a banned substance. It is not classified as a steroid but is a performance-enhancer.