USC hired Steve Sarkisian. USC enabled Sarkisian. And in the end, USC snitched on and smeared Sarkisian to push blame away from the dumpster fire created by athletic director Pat Haden and the Trojan administration since the glory days under Pete Carroll. A program known for keeping things under wraps for decades all of a sudden became a sieve of information as soon as Sarkisian showed up drunk to meetings on Sunday, which resulted in him being put on an indefinite leave of absence.
Not a soul in the world should have been unaware that Sarkisian had a drinking problem at Washington, and if anyone didn't know, it became crystal clear at a preseason banquet that resulted in Sarkisian cussing, making a fool of himself, and blaming it on a mixture of alcohol and prescription pills. For USC to become high and mighty after an unexpected bad start to the season is laughable at best and disingenuous at worst. The people in charge knew when they hired him what was coming, and no one cared so long as it resulted in wins.
It isn’t a coincidence that this suspension happened with USC sitting at 3-2 overall and 1-2 in conference play. If the Trojans were 5-0 or even 4-1 with a loss to Utah, we’d get the same excuses USC fed us entering the season when reports surfaced about Sarkisian’s drinking problem from nearly every outlet before the schedule kicked off. To run a man’s name through the mud to justify your bad decisions is despicable, and it should cost more than Sarkisian his job. If Sarkisian goes, Haden should go. Haden knows it, and that is why all of this information is pouring out at USC like Haden was put in an interrogation room and is hoping the cops strike him a plea deal first.
We’re all guilty of trying to save our own asses. That is human nature, but it is sub-human to do so at the expense of a person in need of professional help. Sarkisian denied a drinking problem after video of himself at that preseason banquet surfaced. He passed blame on to the prescription pills and apologized. As an addict in recovery, it hurt me to watch because I’ve made the same speeches in private to family, friends, probation officers and judges.
At the end of the day, Sarkisian is responsible for his own actions, as is every single one of us walking this earth. No one can force him to go get help if he doesn’t think he needs it or is unwilling to accept his situation. Coaches shouldn’t get drunk around players who aren’t all of age. He is wrong for that and deserved to be given a leave of absence. No one will deny that. He messed up, and we all deserve to pay the consequences of our actions.
So do the enablers, though. USC is as at fault for this story as anyone else involved. Haden did his research before hiring Sarkisian, and it isn’t like Sarkisian is a stranger to the USC program. The Trojans knew, and this situation should’ve never gotten to this point.
There is a high likelihood that Sarkisian never coaches for USC again, and that is fine. There are more important things in life than a job. If he gets help, gets clean and can prove he’s capable of change, he’ll get an opportunity elsewhere. As harsh as America can be on social media, we are by and large a forgiving group that understands struggle and the need for second chances. Sarkisian deserves another chance once he shows a willingness to accept blame for his actions and take control of his situation. He didn’t murder or rape anyone. Hell, he didn’t even hit a woman, and we give guys who do that second chances in sports almost every week.
Sarkisian likes to drink, and it doesn’t seem like he knows how to control his intake once he starts. There are millions of people on this planet facing the same challenges on a daily basis. Haden, however, is simply a snake, and the only way to end the reign of a snake is to chop off its head. USC would look much better by getting rid of the source of the hiring than by dragging Sarkisian’s name through the mud when we already know he needs professional help.
UPDATE: As of 4:32PM EST/1:32PM PST USC announced that Sarkisian has been fired.
USC athletic director Pat Haden announces the termination of Steve Sarkisian as head football coach: https://t.co/KrqKSEf2hG
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) October 12, 2015
A former newspaper man, Mike Craven is the publisher of BirdsUp.com of the Rivals.com network. His work can also be found in Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine and in the Texas FNF Magazine.