Pat Haden

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

USC AD Pat Haden to retire

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USC athletics director Pat Haden is retiring, the school has announced. Haden, who has come under fire for a handful of reasons in recent years, will officially retire from his position as athletics director of USC on June 30, 2016. He will continue to work with USC for the next calendar year to assist with the renovations of the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Haden took on the role of AD at USC in 2010 after serving as a trustee of the university. Haden took on the job as USC looked to recover from fresh NCAA sanctions against the football and men’s basketball program (see: Reggie Bush). Haden made two coaching hires at USC, including the most recent hiring of Clay Helton after he had been an interim coach for the Trojans. The hiring of Steve Sarkisian ended up being a notable failure for Haden. USC also reworked its approach to academic standards under Haden’s leadership, which has proven to pay off with improved GPAs and graduation rates.

Haden was also one of the first members of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Haden stepped down from his position after receiving advice from a doctor to limit his involvement.

USC will now open a worldwide search for the next AD, which should be a search that attracts a number of high-profile candidates. USC president C.L. Max Nikias says he will work with Nick Brill, principal and co-founder of the Brill Neumann executive search firm in finding the new AD. There is no timeline for making a new hire, but there should be plenty of time to have a new permanent AD in place or ready to take over by the time Haden’s term as AD expires over the summer.

Not everybody seems happy about USC’s hiring of Clay Helton

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If there is one thing that can be said about USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach on a permanent basis, it is that it provides stability for the program moving forward. Current players have responded well to Helton. Future Trojans players are responding well to Helton on the recruiting trail. Former USC players? Well, that’s a different situation.

We saw some of this at Miami in recent years with former Hurricanes ripping now former head coach Al Golden. That was a bit of a different situation with Golden being a coach that went against the grain of all that was perceived to be representative of The U. Helton is different because he has been loyal to the program as an assistant coach during a turbulent time. He at least deserves respect of those following and those who have played for USC for that alone. The problem is Helton lacks the kind of appeal most wearing USC lenses expect from their coaching hire and it seems more likely to believe athletics director Pat Haden settled for Helton instead of being able to expand the coaching search and bring in a high-quality coach for the job.

There is one way to swing the emotions the other way for those unhappy with the decision. If USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship this week, that would be one step in the right direction for the Helton haters and the Haden skeptics (myself included). The pressure will be on more next season regardless of what happens this week in the Pac-12 championship game and whatever bowl game USC ends up playing. USC will be loaded with talent and will be a trendy pick to make a run in the Pac-12 and, perhaps, even the College Football Playoff.

USC fires Steve Sarkisian

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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.

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.

Steve Sarkisian publicly addresses his Saturday night antics, apologizes again

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USC head coach Steve Sarkisian made a fool of himself Saturday night. In an infamous moment the head coach of the Trojans would love to have back, Sarkisian dropped foul language while reportedly under the influence at a preseason gala event for significant donors to USC and the football program. It did not go over well in front f the crowd assembled, and USC Athletics Director Pat Haden gave Sarkisian a good talkin’ to. He has already apologized for his behavior, but on Tuesday morning Sarkisian met with the media prior to a football practice, at which time Sarkisian apologized once more for his actions publicly.

“I’d like to apologize for my behavior Saturday night. It was inappropriate,” Sarkisian said. “I feel bad for the University of Southern California. I feel bad for Pat Haden. I feel bad for our players and I feel bad for my own kids that the way I acted the way I did was irresponsible and something that I obviously don’t condone.”

Sarkisian went on to explain that he will be focusing on preventing this sort of episode to happen again, and Haden will surely be keeping his head coach on a short leash in these types of settings until he proves capable of handling himself better in the public setting. It turns out Sarkisian may have another problem to focus on, as he admitted to mixing alcohol and medication. He said he will seek treatment to determine if he has a drinking problem.

“I’ve met with Pat at length. There are some things we’re going to work on moving forward but it’s a hard time,” Sarkisian said. “I truly believe in myself as a coach to lead this team and to be the best coach for this team to go win a championship. I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by wonderful people. I’m thankful that I’m at this university that can offer no better support than any other university in the country.”

USC was picked as the Pac-12 favorite by the media earlier this summer, and Sarkisian took subtle jabs at Oregon’s uniforms this offseason. Please college football season, get here now.