10/20/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
On the field, it was a tough loss against a rival. USC fought hard and went back and forth against 14th ranked Notre Dame, before ultimately falling 41 to 31 on Saturday. But what happened on the field even in a losing effort is more of a win than what's happened at USC over the past week.
It started last Thursday with the Trojans losing to Washington at home in a game they were double digit favorites to win. From there Athletic Director Pat Haden announced the Sunday after the game that head football coach Steve Sarkisian was taking an indefinite leave of absence. Originally it was reported that Sarkisian didn't show up for practice that Sunday. But afterwards word had leaked out that Sarkisian did show up, but that he wasn't in any kind of shape to be there. Upon announcing the leave, Haden said that he had spoken to Sarkisian and determined that the coach was clearly not healthy and that's when Haden suggested he take the leave of absence.
A day later, Haden announced that Sarkisian was terminated as head coach. Haden said Sarkisian's firing was what was in the best interest for the USC football program. This incident before the firing came after an incident at an August event for boosters where Sarkisian was visibly intoxicated and went on a profanity laced rant before Haden had to step in to stop it. Reports surfaced that Sarkisian was drunk when he showed up and then vanished at the team meeting on the Sunday before he was fired.
This is another black eye for the USC football program. But not all of the blame belongs on Haden. Yes, he's the man who hired Sarkisian and ignored the rumors his drinking problems dated back to his tenure at Washington. Haden also let Sarkisian's behavior at that August event slide as well. But USC is a football program that has been in disarray since former head coach Pete Carroll left to coach the Seattle Seahawks. After Carroll left, the program was hit with heavy sanctions for "a lack of institutional control" during Carroll's tenure from the years of 2004 through 2009.
USC was once one of the proudest programs in NCAA football. Even with the allegations of wrong doing during Carroll's tenure, the success those teams had on the field can't be denied. But now the pressure to win that Carroll once felt. That Lane Kiffen felt as Carroll's replacement. And that Sarkisian had felt with high pre season expectations prior to this season. The pressure is now on Haden to bring in a coach who can lead USC back to glory.
The next coach Pat Haden hires has to be the right decision. Because if it's another wrong decision, it may very well be the last decision Haden makes as the AD at USC.
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