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.