Come on now, Trojans. I know that we pride ourselves on being the school that everyone loves to hate, and we have more rivalries than you can count on one hand, but when one of our own is struggling, it’s hardly a cause for celebration.
You might not agree with his coaching style, and you certainly have the right to dislike him after Thursday night’s loss to Washington and his 3-2 record this season, but he’s one of us and Steve Sarkisian deserves your respect.
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on social media celebrating Sark’s temporary dismissal and eventual termination. If Sark had been fired immediately after the Washington game, or if this was the end of the season and Haden announced that Sark wouldn’t be returning, that would be one thing.
But this is something bigger than his job as head coach and bigger than sports. This is about Sarkisian’s well-being and livelihood. This is about his personal struggle. He is the father of three young children who are now dealing with a very public meltdown.
Many reports are claiming that Sarkisian’s drinking is a result of his divorce and continued family problems. Instead of celebrating Sarkisian’s absence, the Trojan Family should wish him well in his time of struggle.
When Yankees pitcher C. C. Sabathia announced earlier this month that he would not join his team in the postseason so that he could seek treatment for this alcohol addiction, people had nothing but respect for him and applauded him for his courage and bravery. While Sabathia’s leave was voluntary and Sarkisian’s was forced, the issue at hand is the same.
Furthermore, the football team isn’t really any better off without Sarkisian than they were with him. It’s not like Pat Haden has gone out and hired a five-star replacement for Sarkisian. Instead, offensive coordinator Clay Helton will take over as head coach and lead a reeling Trojan team to South Bend to face the No. 14 team in the country. And it doesn’t get any easier from there. The Trojans will return home to face No. 4 Utah and then head north to take on a strong Cal team.
Furthermore, all of the confusion and drama that this situation has caused will only serve as a distraction to the team. The players have worked hard to prepare for this season and losing a head coach is nothing but a disappointment, especially for the older players like senior quarterback Cody Kessler who have been through two head coaches and two interim coaches.
The football team is facing an uphill battle after getting off to a 3-2 start overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12, and losing Sarkisian doesn’t make that any easier. Helton has been the interim coach before and is 1-0 in that position, and there is plenty of amazing talent left on the field for the Trojans. We have a capable quarterback with plenty of great offensive weapons and a strong defense. It is up to Helton to take charge of the team and fight on in the face of adversity and finish the season the way the team is capable of.
Meanwhile, it is up to Sarkisian to also be strong during a difficult time and focus on regaining his health. I hope he is able to get the help he needs and have a successful coaching career at another university.
If nothing more, he deserves some privacy and respect in this difficult time.
Regan Estes is a junior majoring in public relations and Spanish. She is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Wild Wild Westes,” runs Tuesdays.