Pac-12 Football: USC Opts For Sark?


With a boatload of young football coaching talent out there, USC is casting their lot with former assistant Steve Sarkisian according to multiple reports. It probably won’t take long this Monday for USC athletic director Pat Haden to get back out front of this story rather than playing catch up.

Nov 23, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian during a timeout against Oregon State Beavers in the first half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

There are always a myriad of ramifications surrounding coaching changes. This situation will follow form…with the largess of one of the highest profile jobs in the nation.

To be honest, this choice by Haden, a former Rhodes Scholar, leaves me shaking my head.

Was Coach Sark successful in rebuilding and turning the Husky football program around?

In terms of recruiting talent, Sark did an outstanding job of keeping many of the best Northwest athletes at home. He fought for and landed top talent from around the nation.

When reflecting on Sark’s won/loss record, there isn’t similar reason for adoration and praise. As good was he as at coming up with offensive game plans that get the job done, Sarkisian’s teams have been inconsistent at best when their defense takes the field. Despite talent level comparable to the elite Pac-12 programs, the Husky ‘D’ has not delivered on their promise.

Perhaps the deciding factor in tapping Sark for the USC job was a commitment to a defensive coordinator with a proven track record. We’ll find out later as this saga unfolds.

Much as it’s ridiculous to compare Sarkisian with former USC Coach Lane Kiffin, many of us will do that very thing. Yes, both guys are former assistants back when Coach Pete Carroll was inspiring his roster to perform at the highest levels. They each had a hand in that era of success for Trojan football. Neither have stood out above the crowd as head coaches.

Both Sark and Kiffin are relatively young guys who could provide stability for the Trojan program if the team wins national championships. Anything less than meeting that standard, well, just ask Kiffin what happens failing to deliver those goods.

So how does this effect the WSU football program?

Nov 29, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian shakes hands with Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach following a 27-17 Washington victory at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a chance a few key recruits currently verbally committed to UW will take a second, long look at playing their college football at Washington State under the tutelage of Coach Mike Leach and his staff. It’s not unusual for prospects to follow head coaches, leaving that possibility for consideration.

It isn’t silly to think the blip in recruiting for the UW might be a setback that takes a long time to recover from. Coach Leach is a proven performer. Give him any edge, including recruiting prospects who can flourish within his system and at WSU, Leach will come out on top every time.

And if the change of head coaches at Washington follows form, there is typically some backtracking in terms of the team’s won/loss record. Since UW hasn’t delivered a 10-win season to the Husky fan base, there may not be much of a drop off.

It would be nice to think the change in staff at the UW enhances WSU’s bowl invitation chances, but that doesn’t strike me as much of an influencing factor.

Who knows? Maybe this will throw off the Husky fan base to where they will be less concerned about their recent Apple Cup win and turn their attention to who will be their new head guy. OK, that falls into the category of “Who cares?”

One thing is certain, USC and the rest of the Pac-12 know Sarkisian. He’s similar to Coach Carroll when you put a microphone in front of him. Lots of energy and always a positive spin on things.

The big question is, will Coach Sark measure up to what it takes to elevate a program to national championship caliber? That’s what Pat Haden and the rest of Trojan football fans are expecting.

When it comes to head football coaches, WSU has theirs. The Cougar football program isn’t reeling. Rather, things absolutely look better for the crimson and gray than folks loving purple and …