by: STEVEN GEHEGAN/Staff Writer
The mighty Trojans of the University of Southern California have fallen far during the past few years.
Only a change of the athletic director will help them now.
The problem started several years ago when USC was hit with sanctions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association because of problems with Reggie Bush taking money from donors. Those sanctions rocked the football program, with a loss of football scholarships for several years.
Then USC wanted to get a new athletic director to help the program get back to the Pete Carroll era. USC ended up choosing Pat Haden, who seemed like a good man for the job, since he is from that area and all of his past success. But the longer that Haden has stayed, the worse things have gotten for USC.
The first thing that went wrong with Haden was the way he handled the firing of former head coach Lane Kiffin. There was talent on the team Kiffin was coaching, and they had high expectations going into that season, even though there was no depth on that team because of NCAA sanctions.
After a few losses into that season, Haden decided to fire Kiffin. This was a questionable call to fire a head coach in the middle of a season. Then the interim head coach, Ed Oregon, was able to rally the team and end the season on a winning note. Most of the players really liked Oregon and wanted him to be their future head coach. But Haden decided to go with someone he was more familiar with, Steven Sarkisian.
Sarkisian was the former head coach at the University of Washington, where he had some talent and got the nickname “Seven Win Steve.” So why would a school with a great program history such as USC settle for a decent coach in Sarkisian? Because he was one of the candidates who Haden liked personally. Though the first two years, things seemed fine at USC, outside of the incident when Sarkisian sent a text to Haden asking him to come down to the sideline and argue a call from the ref, which Haden did.
At the start of this football season is when things started to fall apart fast at USC. At the being of the season, Sarkisian showed up at a pep rally with students and boosters in attendance, and he was drunk and started using inappropriate language in front of all of these people.
During the next few days, Haden came out and decided that Sarkisian was fine and did not need to be punished. Then it was learned that Sarkisian was drunk on the field during a game USC won against Arizona State University. The following day Sarkisian was placed on administrative leave, and the day after that he was fired by Haden. It turned out that Sarkisian had alcohol issues dating back to his time at Washington.
It seems odd that Haden would overlook Sarkisian’s alcohol problem before hiring him. Haden seemed to want to protect Sarkisian to the end. It should be the end for Haden. As athletic director at USC. If Haden is willing to overlook an alcoholic head football coach, what else is he letting slip past him? So it must be time for Haden to leave USC.