Last Monday, USC athletic director Pat Haden announced that he was removing “interim” from Clay Helton’s title, naming him the full-time head coach moving forward. Helton took over after Haden fired former head coach Steve Sarkisian in mid-October.
Fast forward one week to this Monday afternoon, and it’s been reported that Sarkisian has filed suit against USC, claiming that the school wrongfully terminated him as head football coach this fall. According to TMZ, Sarkisian alleges that the university fired him without accommodating his efforts to seek treatment for his “disability.”
“Under the circumstances of this case, California law required USC to make reasonable accommodation of giving Steve Sarkisian time off to get help for his disability and then return to his job,” according to the lawsuit. “Instead, USC ignored both its obligations under California law and the commitments it made to Steve Sarkisian.”
Sarkisian was on a flight to enter alcohol rehabilitation treatment on October 12, when he was fired via email by Haden. The suit emphasizes that Sarkisian has been “a person with a disability” because of his alcoholism, under federal law, and the stress of his job contributed to his alcohol dependency.
“Alcoholism is a recognized disability under California law,” said Sarkisian’s attorney, Alan Loewinsohn. “So firing somebody because of that disability is against the law.”
The suit says that Sarkisian is now sober and ready to return to coaching, but USC “has taken away his team, his income and a job that he loved.” The 41-year-old former coach is seeking more than $30 million to “make things right.”
Sarkisian went 12-6 (7-5 Pac-12) in one-and-a-half seasons with USC. From 2009-13, he compiled a 34-29 (24-21) record with Washington. In 2013, he led the Huskies to their first eight-win season since 2001.