The University of Southern California is no longer operating a coaching search as reports surfaced that athletic director Pat Haden has decided to hire former USC assistant and current Washington head coach, Steve Sarkisian, for the job.
The immediate reaction by many was underwhelming, to put it nicely, but ultimately Sarkisian is a good hire for the Trojans, just not the name many wanted.
RealDawg.com, part of the 247 Sports network, broke the news that Washington would be losing its head coach, following an 8-4 campaign in Seattle. When the news went live there were plenty of negative reactions such as those of Chris Huston of NBC Sports and Dan Wolke of The Orange County Register.
Huston, a longtime critic of both Lane Kiffin and Sarkisian, and Woike are not wrong at all. The hire is, at best, underwhelming. For those who truly believe Sarkisian simply cannot coach, this certainly looks to be a flat-out bad move for the Trojans.
Coming just days after the season ended, with no other competition in the mix to hire not only a big name coach but to hire Sarkisian, it seemed to be a decision that was either made well in advance by USC or hastily. There was no rush to hire Sarkisian away from anyone, there was no one else knocking at his door. In fact, after a slew of mediocre seasons, folks in Washington were starting to wonder if he was the right guy for their team.
There was no other big job competition out there. Nebraska is not an open job. Florida made its firings and Will Muschamp was given a chance to prove himself. Texas still has a game to be played against Baylor before they can make a move.
And still, none of those jobs were looking for Sarkisian to be a savior.
Point here is that there were certainly other names to walk through the process. Not just to check into by calling agents and sending out feelers, but by truly engaging in the hiring process. Flying candidates out and talking candidly about the job. Giving the coaches and their families a taste of what Los Angeles has to offer. Backing up the proverbial Brink's truck to candidates and forcing them to say no.
Instead, USC underwhelmed both the media and its own fans by opting for the safe guy. A guy who knows the program, knows the area and knows plenty of the kids on the roster. A guy who has an underwhelming record as a head coach, 34-25, and just posted his best season, an eight-win run that included a three-game losing skid against the best the Pac-12 had to offer.
There are plenty of reasons to downplay the hire, but as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli points out, winning seven and eight games at Washington isn't a miracle nationally, but given what the program was upon Sark's arrival, it is a big deal. The program was at the bottom of the Pac-12 when Sarkisian took over, and he slowly helped build the team back into a respectable squad.
At USC, Sarkisian is not working on a massive rebuild of a downtrodden program. He is not trying to rebuild recruiting pipelines that have been cut off or remind people that USC does in fact have a football program. It won't be about him rebuilding a culture or proving that you can still win at the school.
Rather, the new head coach will be tasked with taking the current foundation and pushing ahead with the success. The talent that Kiffin helped pump into the coffers now becomes Sarkisian's in an effort to get to a Pac-12 Championship Game. That quarterback, Max Browne, from Sammamish, Washington and a guy with whom Sarkisian is familiar, becomes his project to work on in the spring.
It is not a home run hire, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare either, as Yahoo! Sports Dan Wetzel points out. The circumstances are laid out in Sarkisian's favor. He knows the program, he knows the kids, he knows the school, he knows the fans and he knows the recruiting area. Success is a door just waiting for Sarkisian to walk himself, and the Trojans, through.
Now, it is just on him to take the steps.
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