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Pac-12 Notes: USC’s Failed Coaching Hires Are Perplexing

The warning signs for Steve Sarkisian were there for all to see when the USC coach showed up apparently drunk at a booster event in August, and used inappropriate language that led Trojans athletic director Pat Haden to pull him off the stage.

There were reports that he was drunk when the Trojans beat Arizona State this season, and that he showed up to work drunk again over the weekend.

Haden fired Sarkisian on Monday and released the following statement on the school’s website.

“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately. I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation. Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well-being.”

The Twitter trolls, opponent fan bases and the lower forms of our species were taking aim at Sarkisian after the news broke, but Haden’s words are where everyone’s mind should be. Sarkisian is a sick man. Let’s hope he gets help.

In the meantime, and on a far less important note, what the heck has happened to the head-coaching gig at USC? When Pete Carroll took the job in 2001, nobody wanted it. Paul Hackett had run the program into the ground in just three seasons, the facilities were aging badly and Oregon was on the rise.

It took Carroll just two seasons to win an Orange Bowl and three to win a national title. By the time he left to lead the Seahawks, USC was a plum job. Somehow, the Trojans made back-to-back bad hires when they had all that momentum. Lane Kiffin limped to a 7-6 record his third season and he was fired shortly into his fourth when the Trojans were blown out at Arizona State, 62-41.

The Sarkisian hire left the conference cognoscenti bewildered, given his inconsistency at Washington, but at least he was a local guy and he was walking into a major facilities upgrade. All of that was washed away on Monday and now the Trojans must find his replacement.

It really shouldn’t be this hard. USC is one of the best jobs in the nation and it sits in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the U.S. One point to ponder as the search begins is this: Should Haden be the one making the hire after such a dismal failure? Or should USC form a committee and get this one right before it finds itself back where Hackett left it?


The website coacheshotseat.com updates its rankings of college football coaches on the hot seat on a weekly basis. Guess who’s sitting at No. 9 — the hottest current seat in the Pac-12?

Mark Helfrich led Oregon to a 13-2 record, a national semifinal win over defending champion Florida State and a national championship game berth against Ohio State last season.

Can a guy who just played for a national title 10 months ago really be in jeopardy of losing his job? The answer is maybe in the wacky world of college football. Oregon is 3-3, out of the national championship hunt and likely out of the Pac-12 North Division hunt after humbling losses at home to Utah (62-20) and, gulp, Washington State (45-38, 2OT).

The Ducks could turn this thing around and silence everyone. There is no shortage of talent in this program, but the issues on defense seem so extreme that it’s hard to imagine the Ducks as little more than a .500 team. Given their remaining schedule. In a program this loaded with money and expectations, that just won’t do.


It was a resurgent week for the state of Washington. The Huskies went to Los Angeles and stunned USC, 17-12 on Thursday, and then Washington State upped the ante when it won at Oregon in double-overtime, 45-38, to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Ducks. The wins pushed the Cougars and Huskies into third and fourth, respectively in the Pac-12 North ahead of both Oregon schools.


— Five Pac-12 teams are among the top 25 teams in the nation in scoring offense. Arizona is seventh at 42.3 points per game; Oregon is ninth at 41.5; Cal is 12th at 40.2; USC is 13th at 39.8 and Utah is 25th at 37.

— Arizona State linebackers Salamo Fiso and Antonio Longino have formed a nasty pairing this season. Fiso is tied for 13th in the nation with 12.5 tackles for loss and Longino is tied for 22nd at 9.5. Fiso is also third in the nation in solo tackles per game at 7.5.

— Utah’s physical lines and punishing ground game are key factors in the Utes No. 4 ranking and undefeated record but the biggest factor may be the Utes’ penchant for creating turnovers. Utah is tied for second in the nation with 17 and has committed just seven, tying it for the second best turnover margin in the country.


“It was probably busier for them because I’m sure they were all cleaning up their apartments or their dorms for mom and dad.” — Coach Rich Rodriguez on how Arizona’s just concluded parents weekend impacted his players


With four teams appearing in this week’s AP Poll, the Pac-12 had a streak of five or more teams in the AP Top 25 snapped at eight consecutive weeks. Here are this week’s ranked teams: No. 4 Utah; No. 15 Stanford; No. 18 UCLA; and No. 23 Cal.


UCLA at Stanford

Oregon State at Washington State
USC at Notre Dame
Arizona at Colorado
Arizona State at Utah
Oregon at Washington

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