On Monday, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian’s newly-completed coaching staff was dealt a curveball when defensive line coach Bo Davis, who accepted the position at USC on Jan. 7, informed Sarkisian that he would be leaving to take the same position at Alabama. This news came less than 24 hours before Sarkisian and the rest of the new staff was set to meet members of the media before the coaches set out to recruit for the rest of the month.
Davis became just the latest Trojan defector during an offseason that has seen five players forego their senior seasons and enter the NFL Draft: safety Dion Bailey, tight end Xavier Grimble, wide receiver Marqise Lee, center Marcus Martin and defensive lineman George Uko. Redshirt junior linebacker Hayes Pullard’s announcement that he would return for his senior season was a welcome surprise, but overall the early goings of 2014 have seen major members of the team depart.
Which brings me to the biggest void of all– — the one left by former interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Regardless of whether or not you believe Coach O deserved to be the next head coach instead of Sarkisian, nothing felt quite right about the manner in which his tenure at USC came to an end. Reports of a “livid” Orgeron storming out of the McKay Center might not be completely accurate, but the situation was much too uncomfortable for a man who’d spent a decade with the school, saved the 2013 season from disaster and will go down as, “one of the greatest Trojans ever,” according to Athletic Director Pat Haden.
Davis’ departure, however, leaves the door ever so slightly cracked open for a new ending to the Orgeron saga. USC is now in need of a new defensive line coach, and current recruiting coordinator Peter Sirmon, whose title also includes linebackers coach and Associate Head Coach of Defense, is just 36 years old and only has Division I college coaching experience as a graduate assistant at Oregon in 2009. Orgeron’s return would certainly be considered an upgrade, especially with only a few weeks remaining until National Signing Day.
As ideal as it might sound, this scenario makes much more sense on paper than it does in reality. There would be inevitable awkwardness around the program after Orgeron abruptly left the team three weeks before the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, upset that he was not retained as head coach. One would think that, after experiencing success as USC’s head man for two months, Orgeron had his sights set on landing another head coaching job elsewhere.
But with most of the high-profile coaching searches completed, it appears unlikely that Orgeron will lead another team onto the field in 2014. Rumors had swirled recently about him following former USC head coach Lane Kiffin to Alabama, where Kiffin was recently named the Tide’s new offensive coordinator, joining Nick Saban’s staff, but that will obviously not happen now that Davis has made the move to Tuscaloosa.
With Orgeron running out of time and options, a return to USC might not seem like such a bad idea from his perspective, especially if Haden is still interested in making him one of the highest paid assistant coaches in college football, as he said was his intention after Sarkisian’s hiring.
Bringing Orgeron back would certainly be seen as a huge win for Sarkisian by current players and fans, whose support for Coach O was overwhelming during the second half of the season. Team leaders, such as Pullard and redshirt sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler, were passionate in their support for Orgeron and would definitely welcome him back with open arms.
Orgeron’s ego is the determining factor in this hypothetical decision — would he be willing to return to a lesser position, once again having to serve under a former USC assistant coach? That much is known only by Orgeron himself. I can only imagine that it would be tough to go back to being an assistant, even a highly paid one, after proving to himself that he’s capable of leading a program.
It wouldn’t be an easy return, but it would make sense to all parties involved. Orgeron has been compared to legendary USC coach Marv Goux, a lifetime assistant known as “Mr. Trojan” who was revered for his toughness and competitiveness. Despite never getting an opportunity to be head coach, Goux is among the most beloved Trojans of all time. Orgeron’s place in USC lore has yet to be determined, but a return to the school would go a long way in cementing his legacy as a true Trojan great.
Nick Selbe is a senior majoring in communication. His column “Inside the 20s” runs Tuesdays.