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Sarkisian terminated as USC coach

by Garry Paskwietz

USC made the announcement today that Steve Sarkisian has been terminated as the Trojans head football coach, according to a statement from USC athletic director Pat Haden.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

This brings a close to the brief head coaching tenure of Sarkisian at USC, and a difficult ending for a person who helped bring a lot of success to the Trojan football program.

It’s easy to forget that Sarkisian has a long history with USC, from a freshman semester spent on campus playing baseball (before he realized it was easier to throw a football than hit a curveball) to multiple stints as an assistant coach under Pete Carroll, where he helped tutor Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, as well as Rose Bowl winners John David Booty and Mark Sanchez.

Sarkisian very easily could have been the initial choice to replace Carroll at USC, if he hadn’t taken the job at Washington the year before Carroll left. As it turned out, the Trojan job opened up a few years later, and Sarkisian still got the chance to come “home” to take over the job he had long coveted.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a tenure filled with success. There were certainly some highs, with good individual numbers put up on offense last year, and a pair of outstanding recruiting classes, but overall it will not be viewed by history in a positive fashion. There were simply too many struggles on defense, too many disappointing finishes and lapses in fundamental play. And if you are going to make a drastic change in the USC offense, as Sarkisian did by going away from the pro-style to an up-tempo single-back scheme, it had better work, and this system didn’t. There were flashes of explosive playmaking, but not enough of the physical dominance that USC Trojan offensive football had been built on in the past.

And, of course, there was Salute to Troy and the “unfit” team meeting appearance on Sunday that led to his eventual dismissal.

So now comes a time for USC, and specifically Haden, to move forward with the process of allowing Helton to finish the season as the interim coach, and then make a decision on the best course of action for the future leader of the team.

As for Steve Sarkisian, a once promising coaching career has taken a detour, and we wish him well to get things back on track both on and off the field.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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