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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Steve Sarkisian and his fall off the USC Trojan horse

Wally Skalij
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian yells at a referee in the fourth quarter of a 17-12 loss against Washington at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Monday’s events took a wild turn after USC Athletic Director Pat Haden announced the firing of head football coach Steve Sarkisian. The statement came after Sarkisian announced a leave of absence following the Trojans’ 17-12 loss to his former team Washington in the Coliseum. 

Sarkisian’s firing was a large issue that has snowballed ever since college football’s offseason.

The coach was, and is, a hot mess and a cancer to a team that values rich history. A team that thrives on being atop the Pac-12 Conference and competes for a national championship can’t afford to babysit its head coach. Sarkisian has an alcohol problem, and his love for booze was revealed at a team rally in August. 

Just before the season started, Sarkisian already showed signs of the snowball that wouldn’t end well for the program. 

Boosters, alumni and successful names that support the program attended the team’s rally where the alcohol started talking with Sarkisian’s slurred words and an f-bomb. 

What was the punishment? A slap on the wrist and Haden wagging his finger at alcohol. 

It’s as if a mother was not taking care of her screaming child in a restaurant. Everyone around is looking at the screaming child and looking at the parent, wondering when they are going to take care of the problem. This is exactly what Haden was going through. 

The problems were written on the wall: Sarkisian had a severe alcohol problem, and boosters held their breath to see if Haden would make a change. 

Sarkisian’s drinking problem just proved that even a bright past calling plays and winning national championships as an offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll doesn’t always result in success as a head coach. 

Sarkisian was supposed to be the guy to revive USC football back to its days under Carroll. He was a guy that grew up in Torrance, California, just minutes away from the USC campus, and who had the Los Angeles swagger. A young coach that related to players and brought a blue blood pedigree to the college football world was bound to have success at a program like USC. 

The Trojans have nine players who are ranked in ESPN’s top 300 committed to the program in the 2016 recruiting class. Expect changes to that class, depending on who takes over the program. 

The recruits during Sarkisian’s tenure were building up like a balloon that was about to pop, and in just a matter of two years USC was primed to return to the almighty days with Heisman Trophy winners and NFL first rounders. 

Of course a program like USC will interview big-name coaches, but the process will be as drawn out as “American Idol.” Chip Kelly, Mike Shanahan, Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury appear to be the best fits for the program. After two unsuccessful hires with Lane Kiffin and Sarkisian, maybe USC’s third time will be the charm. 

The turn of events was perfect timing for ESPN’s 30 for 30, which released a film called “Trojan War” on Tuesday night. Former Trojan Keyshawn Johnson co-executive produced the film. The film highlights the rise and fall of Pete Carroll’s USC football dynasty—and once again, there’s another hiccup this time around with Sarkisian.

The fate of USC football hinges on Pat Haden, and if he doesn’t make the correct hire, it will be his job at risk instead of the coach’s. Carroll was too generous, and Sarkisian loves to drink alcohol. What’s next, a gambler?

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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