Senior College Football Columnist

USC hires Washington's Sarkisian to coach Trojans football program

Sarkisian helped groom two Heisman Trophy-winning QBs during his stint at USC's offensive coordinator.  (USATSI)
Sarkisian helped groom two Heisman Trophy-winning QBs during his stint at USC. (USATSI)

After a whirlwind 72 hours, Steve Sarkisian landed the USC coaching job, as the school announced on Monday afternoon.

The 39-year-old Sarkisian, a Torrance, California native, spent five seasons at Washington and led the Huskies to a 34-29 record after taking over a program that went 0-12 in 2008. He led Washington to an 8-4 record this season behind an offense that ranks eighth in the nation in total offense.

Washington finished the regular-season by winning four of its final five games.

The Trojans' coaching search took a couple of big twists last weekend. First, Sarkisian's team rallied to beat arch-rival Washington State on Friday and then a day later, Ed Orgeron's USC squad lost by three TDs to archrival UCLA. Word is Orgeron was getting serious consideration for the vacancy and believed he was in line to get the job, but that changed with the loss, opening the way for Sarkisian who had a lot of juice with folks close to AD Pat Haden.

On Sunday, there was a national media report that Vandy's coach James Franklin was a frontrunner for the vacancy, but sources told CBS that was never the case. Sarkisian had met with Trojan brass over the weekend and emerged as the leader for the job.

“We are delighted to welcome Steve Sarkisian back to the Trojan Family,” said Haden in a statement Monday afternoon. “We conducted a very exhaustive and thorough search, pinpointing about 20 candidates and interviewing five of them. We kept coming back to Sark. He is the only one who was offered the job. I believe in my gut that he is the right coach for USC at this time."

There is a perception in some circles that because Sarkisian, like Lane Kiffin, is a Pete Carroll protege, the two young coaches are similar. In reality, their personalities and leadership styles are opposite. And, while the Trojan fan reaction to Sarkisian's hire was expected to be met with a collective 'meh,' USC brass knew that if Sarkisian was as good a fit as they believed he was, that vibe would soon fade.

Sarkisian loved his situation at Washington, according to sources close to the coach, but he simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to coach USC. He spent the better part of a decade on the USC staff working for Pete Carroll, when the Trojans were on top of the college football world.

"I am extremely excited to be coming home to USC and for the opportunity that USC presents to win championships," said Sarkisian. "I can't wait to get started.”

The former standout QB at BYU has proven to be a good developer of quarterbacks. At USC, he helped groom two Heisman Trophy winning QBs, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. He actually enrolled originally at USC and played shortstop for the Trojans baseball team in the fall of 1992 before transferring to El Camino (Calif.) Junior College.

Expect Washington to consider Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter, Alabama OC Doug Nussmeier, Boise State's Chris Petersen and UCLA coach Jim Mora as potential Sarkisian replacements.

Orgeron, who was upbeat when contacted by CBS Monday, said he loved the USC players and family, but felt it was time to go. The 52-year-old coach, 6-2 this season at USC, will go back to the New Orleans area to be with his wife and kids.

 
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