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.

Jeremy Pruitt’s shuffled Tennessee staff includes Derrick Ansley as DC

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Jeremy Pruitt‘s coaching staff up on Rocky Top will have a decidedly different look to it when the 2019 season kicks off.

One of the most noteworthy staff announcements Friday afternoon involved Derrick Ansley, who was hired last week as the replacement for dismissed cornerbacks coach Terry Fair.  Not only will Ansley serve as Tennessee’s defensive backs coach, but he’ll also be the Vols’ defensive coordinator.  Not only that, but Ansley has also been designated as UT’s defensive playcaller, the duties of which were held by Pruitt in his first season as head coach in 2018.

One of the two co-defensive coordinators from a year ago, Chris Rumph, will retain that title as well as his duties as outside linebackers coach.  The other co-coordinator on that side of the ball, Kevin Sherrer, will lose that particular designation but remain on as inside linebackers coach.  Additionally, he’ll now serve as special teams coordinator.

Pruitt’s former special teams coordinator, Charles Kelly, left for a job at Alabama earlier this offseason.  Kelly was also UT’s safeties coach, a job that will be rolled into Ansley’s all-encompassing defensive backs duties.

On the other side of the ball, Jim Chaney, as previously reported, will be Pruitt’s new offensive coordinator, but he won’t be in charge of any position groups as Pruitt will now employ a total of six offensive assistants.

Tee Martin, whose hiring as an unspecified offensive assistant was also previously announced, will serve as wide receivers coach.  The Vols’ former assistant at that position, David Johnson, will move to running backs while the former assistant manning that position, Chris Weinke, moves to quarterbacks.

UT’s quarterbacks were previously coached by Tyson Helton, the offensive coordinator who left Knoxville in late November to become the head coach at Western Kentucky.

There are only two offensive assistants who remain in the same jobs as a year ago — Will Friend (offensive line) and Brian Neidermeyer (tight ends).

Florida State parts ways with offensive line coach Greg Frey

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A self-created hole has suddenly, but not unexpectedly, opened up on Willie Taggart‘s Florida State coaching staff.

In a statement sent out by the university, Taggart announced that he has decided to part ways with one of his assistants, Greg Frey.  Frey, who was a member of FSU’s 1993 national championship team, spent this past season, his first, as the Seminoles’ offensive line coach while also holding the title of run-game coordinator.

Below is the head coach’s statement, in its entirety:

This morning I informed Greg Frey that we are moving in a different direction with our offensive line coaching position. I appreciate the hard work and expertise Greg brought to our program and understand how important it was for him that FSU be successful. I wish Greg and his family the best as he continues his coaching career. We are working to fill this position quickly.

This past season, FSU’s line surrendered 36 sacks, a total that was 12th in the ACC and tied for 16th-worst nationally.  Even worse, the Seminoles’ 2.8 yards per rushing attempt was 129th out of 130 teams at the FBS level.

Frey came to Tallahassee after spending one season as the run-game coordinator/offensive tackles coach/tight ends coach at Michigan.  Prior to that, he was the line coach at Indiana for six seasons.

Penn State reportedly losing special teams coordinator to NFL

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Those of you who had Penn State in the “Next Power Five Program to Lose an Assistant to the NFL” pool, collect your winnings.

While nothing is official from his new employer, 247Sports.com has reported Friday morning that Penn State assistant Phil Galiano is leaving James Franklin‘s coaching staff to pursue an opportunity in the NFL.  The specific NFL club for which Galiano is leaving wasn’t divulged.

Penn State subsequently confirmed Galiano’s departure from the program.

“We are excited for Phil and his family. This is a tremendous opportunity for Phil to return to the NFL,” the statement from the school read. “We are very appreciative of Phil and everything he has done for our program over the last two years. We wish him nothing but success moving forward.”

Galiano has been with the Nittany Lions for two seasons, first as a defensive consultant in 2017 and then as special teams coordinator and assistant defensive line coach this past year.  Prior to that, he was the special teams coordinator at both Miami (2016) and Rutgers (2015).

From 2012-13, Galiano was an assistant special teams coach on Greg Schiano‘s Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff.

Galiano would be the second change to Franklin’s staff this offseason.  Wide receivers coach David Corley was dismissed in early January and replaced a couple of weeks later by Gerad Parker.

Judge signs arrest warrant for Nebraska RB Maurice Washington

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The next step in Maurice Washington‘s legal odyssey has been taken.

Thursday, the Omaha World-Herald reported, a Santa Clara County (Calif.) judge signed a warrant filed earlier in the week that seeks the arrest of the Nebraska running back for alleged violation of that state’s revenge-porn law.  It’s alleged that Washington sent a sexually-explicit 10-second video, recorded two years prior by someone other than Washington, involving a then-15-year-old female and two other boys, neither of whom was Washington, to that same female in early March of 2016.  The female has claimed she is being sexually assaulted in the video, which shows the teenager performing oral sex on one boy while another masturbates.

Washington has already been charged with a felony count of possessing a video or photograph of a person under 18 who is engaging in or simulating sexual conduct and a misdemeanor count of posting a video or photograph of a person engaging in or simulating sexual conduct without consent, leading to the person suffering emotional distress.  Washington had dated the alleged victim prior to the video being recorded.

With the arrest warrant signed, Washington is now expected to turn himself in to California authorities at some point in the not-too-distant future.

From the World-Herald:

Washington’s attorney, John Ball, released a statement Thursday saying Washington will “continue to move forward with a self-surrender” and will voluntarily appear in court in California. Ball said a time frame for that first court appearance is still to be determined.

“We expected this, and were prepared for it,” Ball said. “… Mr. Washington will remain fully cooperative in this matter.

While the university and the NU football program were aware that authorities in California as well as the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office were actively seeking to speak to Washington, and were made aware of some type of situation involving the player in mid-September of last year, they have steadfastly maintained that they were not privy to the details of the situation until Feb. 8 of this year.

After some academic uncertainty throughout the offseason, Washington was cleared to join the Cornhuskers football team in early August of last year.  As a true freshman, and despite the off-field cloud hanging over him from the start of the season, Washington rushed for 455 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that were both good for third on the team.  His 24 receptions were also third-best, while his 221 receiving yards were fourth.