USC hires Steve Sarkisian as head coach


The USC football head-coaching search is over – and once again, the Trojans will be led by a disciple of former head coach Pete Carroll. Former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, who oversaw the development of two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks under Carroll alongside former USC head coach Lane Kiffin, has accepted the position and will replace interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

Despite widespread fan support for Orgeron that was slightly tempered after a season-ending 35-14 loss to UCLA, athletic director Pat Haden decided to hire Sarkisian, 39, after the former USC offensive coordinator compiled a 34-29 record (24-21 in the Pac-12) in five years at Washington.

Sarkisian interviewed with Haden over the weekend, and Haden confirmed that Sarkisian was offered the job Monday morning and promptly accepted.

“We are delighted to welcome Steve Sarkisian back to the Trojan Family,” said Haden, who will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. on Tuesday in the John McKay Center to formally introduce Sarkisian. “We conducted a very exhaustive and thorough search, pinpointing about 20 candidates and interviewing five of them. We kept coming back to Sark.”

It was reported earlier by multiple media outlets that Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had been interviewed by USC earlier this fall, in addition to Orgeron and Sarkisian. Sources tell the Daily Trojan that former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden was the fifth candidate to be interviewed.

Sarkisian was an assistant coach for the Trojans for seven years, including two years as the offensive coordinator for Carroll. During his time at USC, Sarkisian tutored two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, and the Trojans held a 22-3 record when he called the plays.

“I am extremely excited to be coming home to USC and for the opportunity that USC presents to win championships,” Sarkisian said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Meanwhile, Orgeron, who guided the Trojans to a 6-2 record following the dismissal of Kiffin, said he is leaving USC to pursue head coaching opportunities.

“I am grateful to the University of Southern California for the great time I had here,” Orgeron said. “I am especially proud of this year’s team and coaching staff, who had to start a new season and then bonded, played together as a family and competed like Trojans.”

Haden reportedly offered Orgeron a pay raise and a position on the staff as assistant head coach, but the former defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator was reportedly “outraged” at being passed over for the head coaching gig, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. Orgeron will leave Troy after overseeing a second-half run that featured a massive upset of then-No. 5 Stanford that reinvigorated USC’s fan base.

“[Orgeron] understandably was disappointed when I told him we were going in a different direction,” Haden said. “We talked about the possibility of him remaining at USC, but Ed wants to be a head coach and I am supportive of that.”

After staunchly supporting Orgeron throughout his tenure, USC’s players will have to rebound and play under new leadership. It has yet to be announced if Sarkisian or another current USC coach will lead the Trojans into their pending bowl game.

During his tenure in Seattle, Sarkisian was noted for his excellent recruiting skills across the West Coast, a skill that made him a very attractive option for USC. In 2008, the Huskies finished 0-12, and Sarkisian impressed the nation by leading Washington to a respectable 5-7 in his first year on the job. The Huskies’ eight victories this year were the most at UW since 2000.

Sarkisian’s contract with USC spans five years, according to Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf. He will be immediately tasked with reconstructing the Trojans’ offense, potentially with freshman quarterback Max Browne, whom he heavily recruited to play for the Huskies.

The Trojans have struggled to regain their status as an offensive juggernaut they held while under the tutelage of Carroll, Sarkisian and Kiffin in the mid-2000s. Washington was ranked No. 8 in the nation offensively this year, averaging over 500 yards a game, while USC was ranked No. 80 with 392.3 yards per game.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Boise State head coach Chris Peterson were also reportedly top candidates, with both having shown the prowess to guide programs to unprecedented success.

But in choosing Sarkisian, Haden decided to invest in the future of USC football by maintaining a link to the past.

Sarkisian was expected to have his first meeting with USC players at 7 p.m. Monday night, according to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include more information as this story develops.  

  • cdgalum

    I think it is time get get rid of the AD.. The President of the University should be looking for a new one. This trojan feels like the AD sucker punched us all.

  • USC parent

    American culture has become increasingly impersonal, technological, competitive and profit driven. It is rare in an organization, corporation and even family for people to feel truly valued, believed in and as a result strive to be and do their best. Coach O. brought this gift to our Trojan football team when he served as interim Head Coach.

    The turnaround from a mediocre season to a definite winning one was notable. The change in spirit by the players and fans, the pulling together as a family and the belief in themselves, each other and coach O was the true accomplishment. What a remarkable learning experience for all about the value we can bring to each other. What more could you ask from a college football coach?

    Pat Haden could not possibly expect more from anyone. Consider this–who as a coach comes to mind that you believe could have stepped in when Coach O did to produce both the remarkable turnaround in performance on the field and desire by the players to do their best? Likely no one.

    I am amazed and concerned that Pat Haden is insensitive and unmoved by the rare accomplishment of coach O. I will readily accept there may be some compelling reason for a change to Sarkisian I cannot identify since I am not an A.D.
    I do hope Sarkisian can produce as many wins as Coach O.

    USC lost the opportunity to deepen and broaden beyond the team a culture of belief in oneself and each other. USC played as well as they did and beat rhen #5 Stanford without depth of reserves because of the human qualities Coach O lived and instilled in our players. I expect we lost our last season game to UCLA in large measure because players knew or were deeply concerned Coach O was leaving. With interviews ongoing and a small tight world within USC athletics and players with Washington and teams, no doubt concern was there. If beating Stanford and the level of play USC displayed did not bring a head coach offer to Coach O, it clearly was not coming. As for the “excuse” that Pat Haden did not want to distract the team with an announcement, confirming Coach O. would have ended the distraction to the joy of the players. No announcement confirming Coach O spoke volumes.

    I do hope USC has successful seasons with win-loss records. What was lost with Coach O.’s departure as interim Head Coach can’t be tallied in the standings, but will be a lifelong memory for our players and hopefully a learning experience about the potential value we each hold for each other.

  • Bellaruby

    Coach O, what excitement and pride you brought back to the players, the fans and yes even the parents. It was so exciting to see the stadium packed with screaming fans and cheering the Coach O cheer! I asked my son what they were chanting and I almost cried knowing how proud the student body felt seeing the team perform so well under your coaching direction. God Bless you and so sorry to see you go. I could tell the players were off against UCLA, perhaps they already knew you were not going to be their head coach. What a shame!

  • Fightonfan

    I think I feel a little different the most of the people posting. Coach O did do a great job in the second half, or did he, or was coach O just breath of fresh air from the horribel Lame Kiffen…..I think the team played better because they were as happy to git rid of him as we were!!! But I do think coach O did deserve a chance at a full season. I think Hayden should of gave him 1 year to show what he could do. I did read last nigh where some of the commits that were on the wire are excited that Sark is coming in. The one thing I do know is that Sark is great at bring in the best of the best. I think as fans, we should support Sark and hope for the best. If he fails……Fire him and his buddy Hayden. Other than that, I am excited for change and FIGHT ON!!

  • Trojan Alum

    Coach O is a big loss. He orchestrated a fantastic turnaround and is one of the best recruiters ever. Sark will be only a bit better than his “brother” Lane Kiffin. He has left the U many times before, in 3 years he will be gone again. A sad day.

  • Steve

    Pat Haden…Backed coach Kiffen….hired Sarkesian…fired coach O… when Sarkesian flops….fire Pat Haden!

  • Angry Student

    Coach O…FiGHT ON FOREVER…Pat Haden…should be fired…I could do a better job at his position in my sleep

  • Josephine

    Haden hires in his own image. Just like Haden, Sarkisian is a white former quarterback. Haden only feels comfortable when people who look, talk and act like him hold all the top leadership positions in USC athletics.
    Currenly there are 2 full-time employees on the USC football coaching staff who are non-white. One was hired last season and the other was hired this season. If Haden had been doing his job, he would have integrated the football coaching staff years ago. Has USC ever had a black quarterback under Haden? Of course not. Only people who look like Haden are qualified to be USC quarterbacks. Even if Coach O had beat the Bruins, Haden would not have hired him. Coach O has rough edges, talks like a Cajun and sometimes chews tobacco. Haden would be embarrassed to take Coach O to his private club. Haden needs to retire immediately and the next AD at USC needs to be black.

    • I don’t think race has anything to do with it, but I will say that Garrett was a stud and you’re right about Haden being an elitist jerk who would in fact be embarrassed to be seen with Coach O at a social function. He is a spineless jerk.

  • trojan parent

    There are some things in life that are ineffable. The belief we have in others and feel from others is one. It is nothing short of miraculous the sudden turnaround by USC under Coach O with the often expressed sentiment that he believed in us.

    I think an unheralded opportunity was lost by not hiring O for at least next season. I fully expect the players either know before Saturday’s game or strongly expected Coach O was not going to be named head coach for next year and this accounted for the letdown to Kiffin reign play level noted during the UCLA game.

    The players voiced what they needed and how Coach O provided it and their needs fell on deaf ears. I think this will make it very difficult for the players and Sarkisian and egret it may well show on the field.

    The magic was great while it lasted.

    A basic insensitivty

  • SC Mom w/ Greek Son

    I must say to Coach “O” you are a wonderful and caring man and we were very lucky to have you. What you did for SC will live on well past your short tenure as head coach. You showed what a man of faith and class can do with group of confused and bewildered young men. I hope this new Armenian head coach is half the man that you are.

    All our best Coach “O” and God Bless

  • dan

    Thanks, Pat for bringing back the Denny’s menu and the Bubble Screen with Sark. We’ve all missed them terribly the last eight games. Obviously, Orgeron never had a real chance. “Character”, that’s what Haden preaches, “Character”.”

    • Josephine

      If Haden was a man of good character, he would have put an end to the racist hiring practices in the football program the first year he was hired.

  • cdgalum

    Coach O you were there when we needed to bring life back to our USC team and fans, I am sure this is a decision Pat Haden will regret. Steve Sarkisian bailed on us once what is to stop him from doing it again?

    I think its time for the University to look for a new A.D. We need an AD who cares and rewards hard work. Coach O you will be a success where ever you go… If it were up to the students, players and alumni you would be head coach.. not someone who took off on us once before.

  • Anthony

    If Sarkisian does not work out that will be Hayden’s 3rd bad decision ( Kiffin, Coach O)
    Hayden should be fired in like manner !!! Coach O thanks for giving your heart to us !

  • TommyTrojan71

    Coach O did an amazing job of restoring some measure of dignity to SC Football after Haden’s boy, Lame, took it to never before seen depths of incompetence. The Trojan family owes Coach O an eternal debt of gratitude. Nonetheless, he (and we) had to learn the hard way: losing to the Irish and the Bruins in the same season is a no go.

    Let’s hope Ed gets another opportunity to lead and that Sark is where he shoulda been when Pete left.

  • Pete Carroll era brought back?

    Sark = Kiffin 2.0? hope not

    Anyways, thanks Coach O! You did a fantastic job.

  • Trojan Parent

    Thank you Coach O. You are the choice of the players, students, and the parents…

    How many coaches have their own cheer! “Coach O!”

  • Jennifer ’91

    Only time will tell if this is a good choice. Coach O, thank you for a great second half. You have made a fan in me. Where ever you land, I will cheer.

  • anonymous

    The interim coach did a fine job. I enjoyed the late morning televised USC pre-game show on ESPN 2 or 3 weeks ago. They really stuck it to Stanford. I’m a Buckeye. Best wishes in the BCS polls.

  • SCMom

    We will definitely miss Coach O. He brought life back into the team this year and hope he can stay.

  • 2004 Alumnus

    Coach O, I hope you go somewhere else, and get the respect you deserve. Thank you for all the hard work you gave to my university. I sure hate to get a coach in Sarkisian who is walking out on his current players in Washington.