Head coach Steve Sarkisian to take forced leave of absence


Tal Volk | Daily Trojan

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian is taking a leave of absence, Athletic Director Pat Haden announced.

Haden’s announcement came after Sarkisian did not show up for the team’s practice on Sunday.

Haden said that he asked the second-year head coach to take an indefinite leave of absence after determining it was clear to him that Sarkisian was not in the right state of mind.

“It was clear to me that he was unhealthy,” Haden said.

Offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who was at Haden’s side during the press conference, will serve as the team’s interim head coach for the second time during his tenure at USC.

“It’s an honor,” Helton said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve been in this position before.”

Helton previously coached the Trojans to victory over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2013.

“I’ve spoken to our team and our coaches — they obviously had a great deal of concern for the health of coach Sarkisian,” Haden said. “It was also clear to me the support that Clay has from the team and the staff.”

While it remains unclear what exactly led to the decision to temporarily part ways with Sarkisian, it comes just a few days after the Trojans fell to Sarkisian’s former program, an unranked Washington team, 17-12 at the Coliseum.

USC (3-2, 1-2 Pac-12) went 12-6 under Sarkisian since he took the helm of the program in 2014 and will have to quickly turnaround to face rival and No. 14-ranked Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday.

“We’ve got a big task this week with the Notre Dame game, and Clay will do a great job getting our team ready,” Haden said.

The Trojans will be facing, perhaps, its toughest three-week stretch of the season with three ranked opponents — the Fighting Irish, Utah, and Cal — on the horizon.

Sarkisian’s future with the program, however, remains uncertain.

In August, Sarkisian apologized for inappropriate behavior he exhibited at the annual Salute to Troy event, where he appeared to be inebriated while slurring his words.

The 41-year-old Sarkisian later admitted to mixing an unspecified medication with alcohol and said that he would seek treatment.

4 replies
  1. HankC
    HankC says:

    Leave of absence? Why wasn’t Sark simply fired? (Because Pat doesn’t have the ****s to can his hire and friend even in light of the damage it’s doing to the University.)

    Now both Sark and Pat should be thanked and booted out onto Figueroa by Nikias. Now, not later.

    There are lots of alumni beating this drum, so let’s get it done before we lose the whole season.
    Now! Now! Now1

  2. louis redfoot
    louis redfoot says:

    i told him after that pep rally fiasco, championship or he’s fired. now what? is jimmy johnson working?

  3. Light worker I am
    Light worker I am says:

    Finally, someone is echoing what I was saying at his hiring. It seems some people have to go through the failure to come up to speed with those of us who saw Sark at Washington and made the correct assessment, which is,”can not take us to the promise land”. And to think, we lost a really good defensive coordinator over this hire.

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