USC Fires Sarkisian: Helton In As Interim Head Coach

By City News Service

Steve Sarkisian was fired today as USC’s head football coach, one day after he was placed on indefinite leave by the university amid rumors of continuing troubles with alcohol.

Clay Helton, who was named interim head coach on Sunday, will remain in that role, according to 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,” 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.

“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.”

Sarkisian was placed on leave Sunday after he was a no-show at a team practice. Haden said Sunday he telephoned Sarkisian and “it was very clear to me that he is not healthy.”

Some players told reporters anonymously Sunday that Sarkisian attended a team meeting earlier in the day and appeared intoxicated.

Sarkisian’s struggle with alcohol became public during USC’s annual “Salute to Troy” preseason pep rally on Aug. 22, when the seemingly intoxicated coach slurred his words during a speech to the crowd, criticizing several opposing teams and used an expletive before uttering the USC rally call, “Fight On.”

Haden immediately rebuked the coach, with various reports saying the athletic director verbally berated Sarkisian after he was pulled off the stage.

Sarkisian apologized the next day, saying without elaboration that his behavior resulted from mixing alcohol and medication.

“I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night,” Sarkisian said. “I have a responsibility to all of them and I let them down. Pat Haden talked to me after the event about my actions and I assured him this will not happen again.”

Sarkisian, 41, said at the time that he planned to seek treatment to deal with his issues. Some team observers questioned whether Haden should have immediately removed Sarkisian as head coach at the time, but the coach remained on the job through the team’s first five games.

USC is 3-2 this season, following an embarrassing 17-12 home loss Thursday night to the University of Washington. Sarkisian left as coach of Washington two years ago to take the USC job.

The Los Angeles Daily News, citing anonymous sources, reported that some of the team’s assistant coaches believe Sarkisian was drunk during the Trojans’ Sept. 26 game against Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

According to the paper, coaches pulled Sarkisian out of a team huddle during the game because they believed he was intoxicated.

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October 12, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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