Sarkisian’s troubling past begins to shed light on current problems at USC

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With USC placing head coach Steve Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence Sunday amid rumors of a troubles with alcohol, new information regarding Sarkisian’s past issues with alcohol have been revealed.

In a report from The Los Angeles Times today, one former unnamed Washington player claims he smelled alcohol on Sarkisian during team meetings. The report also gathered documentation to piece together Sarkisian’s past use of alcohol, going so far as to determine Sarkisian’s preferred drinks and locales while the head coach at Washington.

Sarkisian’s recent acts, from his preseason drunken outburst in front of boosters to this latest development have brought out criticisms from those with prior experience with Sarkisian, including current NFL players Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson. Both former Huskies played for Sarkisian befroe he took the USC job last year. The two took to their Twitter accounts to offer their takes on Sarkisian, although it appears those reactions may have been deleted from each of their social networking profiles.

It is one thing to have a battle with alcohol away form the playing field while out on recruiting trips and booster events. It is another to bring those demons with you onto the practice field, meeting rooms and to the sideline during a game.

USC Athletics Director Pat Haden announced an indefinite leave of absence for Sarkisian on Sunday after Sarkisian allegedly showed up to practice on Sunday “not healthy.” Haden himself has come under fire for the hiring of Sarkisian, a former assistant coach under former Trojans coach Pete Carroll. If there was enough of this evidence lingering about Sarkisian, one has to wonder how much Haden was aware of the troubles before hiring Sarkisian. If Haden was aware, what was the plan to address them as Sarkisian was hired?

Whatever the case, this is an unfortunate and disturbing situation for USC and Sarkisian. First and foremost, Sarkisian needs to address his personal ills by any means neccessary. If that means not coaching for a while, so be it. Sarkisian needs to confront his problems and take care of them before doing anything else, especially with regard to football. As for USC, providing assistance for Sarkisian through this troubling time is admirable, but that should not mean Haden and the university should stand by Sarkisian’s side by keeping him as head coach. Sarkisian brought an unstable environment into the locker room and that should be given a zero tolerance, especially in light of Sarkisian’s booster event comments this summer. USC can still support Sarkisian, but does not have to keep him on as head coach.

Minnesota regents approve new contract for P.J. Fleck

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As expected, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck now has a brand new contract to remain the head coach of the Golden Gophers. After agreeing to terms on a new deal and the school officially recognizing the new deal last week, just before a monster of a win for the program, the contract has been given the final green light to become officially official after the Board of Regents voted to approve the terms of the new contract.

As previously reported, Fleck will have a new seven-year contract good through the 2026 season and the terms of the buyout were significantly increased to fend off would-be suitors looking for a new head coach this year on the coaching carousel, and potentially in the next few years as well before the buyout drops off in price. Of course, any school with deep enough pockets willing to pony up to get Fleck to be their guy will still make a phone call or two, but Fleck appears to be settled in with Minnesota for the foreseeable future.

In addition to Fleck seeing his own pay increase, Minnesota’s regents also signed off on providing more combined salary for an assistant coaching staff with an extra $1.05 million being placed in the budget for assistant coaches.

Now that all of that contract business is squared away, Fleck can continue to focus on Minnesota’s next task on the field. This week, Minnesota heads on the road to face Iowa in a pivotal Big Ten West Division game. The Gophers remain undefeated and have climbed to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff ranking. A win on the road against Iowa could set Minnesota up for a regular-season finale riding an 11-0 record and the division already clinched for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

It’s no wonder Minnesota decided to lock down Fleck while they still could.

FAU TE John Raine awarded another year of eligibility

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We overlooked this one earlier in the week, but it’s a rather sizable piece of official news for Lane Kiffin‘s Florida Atlantic football program.

By way of the Palm Beach Post Tuesday, it has been confirmed that John Raine was recently awarded a fifth season of eligibility.  The ruling will allow the senior tight end to play for the Owls in 2020.

A broken ankle cost Raine all but four games of his true freshman season in 2016, paving the way for the NCAA to rule in his favor on his appeal for another year of eligibility.

“I’m super excited about it,” Raine told the Post about the NCAA’s approval of a medical hardship waiver. “I love being here; I love playing football.”

With two regular-season games plus a bowl remaining, Rainer has already set career-highs in receptions (26), receiving yards (426) and receiving touchdowns (five).  The touchdowns are tops on the Owls.

This weekend, a Notre Dame home game won’t be sold out for first time since 1973

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All good things, streaks in this particular case, must come to an end.

Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Notre Dame will play host to Navy in the 93rd renewal of their football rivalry.  And, according to the South Bend Tribune, the game won’t be played in front of a sellout crowd at Notre Dame Stadium (capacity: 77,622), which is actually a startling development.

This weekend, you see, will mark the first time since Thanksgiving Day 1973 (vs. Air Force) that the Fighting Irish haven’t sold out a home football game, snapping a streak of 273 straight sellouts.  Ahead of that streak being snapped, the Irish’s athletic director for the past dozen years, Jack Swarbrick, attempted to downplay the development.

From the Tribune:

It was never sort of important to me to keep it alive, but I understand why other people thought so. It’s a point of distinction to a lot of people and our fans.

“For me it’s always been: What’s the stadium environment like? Are we creating a great environment for our team and for our student-athletes? That you can say it’s also sold out is sort of a byproduct of that.

“But if my choice is (77,622) people in an environment that’s not really good versus 75,000 in a raucous environment, I’ll take the latter every time.

Notre Dame’s 237-game streak had been the second-longest active streak in college football behind Nebraska’s 373, which will move to 374 when Big Red hosts Wisconsin this weekend. The last time the Cornhuskers failed to sellout Memorial Stadium was during the 1962 season.

Four finalists named for 2019 Paul Hornung Award

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The field for the award that fetes the nation’s most versatile college football player has been whittled down significantly.

Earlier Thursday, the Louisville Sports Commission announced the four finalists for the 2019 Paul Hornung Award that have been chosen by the 17-member selection committee.  And (surprise!), all four of the finalists come from Power Five conferences: Lynn Bowden Jr. (Kentucky), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU), Joe Reed (Virginia) and Wan’Dale Robinson (Nebraska).

All four of the finalists come from the offensive side of the ball and have spent time as return specialists as well.  Because of injuries at the position, Bowden, listed as a wide receiver to start the season, has started the last three games at quarterback for UK, with the Wildcats going 2-1 in that span.

Reed is primarily a wide receiver and Edwards-Helaire a running back, while Robinson has split his time between both positions.

The 2018 winner of the Hornung Award was Purdue’s Rondale Moore, who likely would’ve been given serious finalist consideration again this year if not for his season essentially being derailed by a lingering hamstring injury.

For all of the statistical particulars for each candidate, click HERE the award’s press release: