SEATTLE — Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has no problem acknowledging that his name is already being mentioned in conjunction with the coaching vacancy at the University of Southern California, where Lane Kiffin was fired early Sunday.
Fully addressing the matter, though, is murkier for the fifth-year UW coach.
Sarkisian’s connections to USC are too obvious to ignore. He was born in Torrance, Calif., and he was Pete Carroll’s offensive coordinator during the Trojans’ run of Rose Bowls and Pacific-10 Conference glory in the late-2000s.
Bovada, a Las Vegas-based gambling site, included Sarkisian on its list of favorites to land the job, placing his odds at 8-to-1. (Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, a former star linebacker for the Trojans, is listed as the favorite at 3-to-1.)
So when Sarkisian was asked Monday about his thoughts on Kiffin’s firing – the two are close friends – he pre-emptively
changed the subject mid-answer, anticipating that “the elephant in the room” would be brought up, anyway.
First, he expressed proper concern for Kiffin and his family. Then, he expressed proper deference to the University of Washington because it’s “an awesome place to be.”
“And I have never once, and I will never comment on hypothetical scenarios,” Sarkisian said. “I know that’s the world a lot of us in this room live in, and that’s your job to do and I understand that. But I’ve never done that in the four and a half years that I’ve been here, and I won’t do that. I have great respect for USC and the rich history and tradition that they have, but I’m proud to be the head football coach of the 15th-ranked team in America right now, and all the hard work that we put into this program for the last five years to get to this point, to be in an awesome match-up on national television Saturday night against a national championship contender in Stanford, and that’s where my focus is.”
Not exactly a denial of interest. But Sarkisian insisted he won’t let the coaching search of another team become a distraction for his, revisiting a season-long talking point he’s impressed upon his players.
Now it’s his turn pay heed, despite the Monday trifecta – early morning radio spot, formal press conference and weekly afternoon coaches show on 950-AM – each filled with USC questions.
“We’ve been on this zero-distractions mantra since the offseason, getting ready to open up Husky Stadium, and I’ve been talking to them about it,” Sarkisian said. “So this was a cool opportunity for me to go into our team meeting and use it from a personal standpoint and for them, too.
“Those kids are sitting at home in their dorms and their apartments and they’re watching ESPN, too. So this is a great chance for us to show and prove that there are zero distractions. We’re focused on the task at hand and the task is a big one this week, and that’s playing Stanford.”
Washington’s Oct. 12 game against No. 2 Oregon at Husky Stadium will kick off at 1 p.m. and air on Fox Sports 1.christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports