Seattle – Steve Sarkisian is becoming an old man in the Pacific-12 Conference.
Thanks to the dismissal of Rick Neuheisel at UCLA, Dennis Erickson at Arizona State, Paul Wulff at Washington State and Mike Stoops of Arizona this season, Sarkisian is tied for the fourth-longest tenure at his school in the Pac-12.
Ahead of him are Jeff Tedford at Cal (10 years), Mike Riley at Oregon State (seven years in second stint) and Kyle Whittingham at Utah (seven years). Like Sarkisian, Chip Kelly has been at Oregon for three years.
“I think that the reality of it is when you look at it, if we hadn’t added Colorado and Utah, nearly half of our conference is having turnover,” Sarkisian said. “And so I think it speaks to this is a tough business.”
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Indeed, the fact Wulff made it four years with his win-loss record was exceptional. Had Wulff not been coaching at his alma mater, he probably would have been done a season sooner.
“I think you look around and look at myself and Chip (Kelly) and (USC’s) Lane (Kiffin) and (Stanford’s) David Shaw, we haven’t been head coaches very long, let alone in this league very long, and so to see Jeff Tedford and the longevity he has had at Cal is encouraging,” Sarkisian said. “But obviously you understand the business that you are in and that you need to win, but you need to win the right way and do things the right way. I would have never thought this would be the case of our conference right now, no.’’
In the week leading up to the Apple Cup, Sarkisian was highly complimentary of the job Wulff had done at Washington State despite finishing with a 9-40 record in four seasons.
“I can’t speak on the decision side of it, and I really don’t want to go into that,” Sarkisian said. “What I do know is under Paul’s direction that program got better. I thought they improved and maybe their record always didn’t indicate that. But I do know, from a statistical standpoint, it did, from a point-differential standpoint it did.
“Whoever is going to get that job is going to inherit a better job than Paul inherited four years ago.”
At the time of Wednesday’s conference call with Sarkisian, Mike Leach had not been announced as Washington State’s new coach.
Sarkisian is nowhere near the path to being fired, but he expressed empathy for the coaches who were.
“Not only do I feel for those coaches but I feel for the families, the assistant coaches’ families,” he said. “When these firings take place, we always just assume it’s the one guy, but this impacts quite a few people, upwards of over 100 people, quite honestly, and the impact it can have on people’s livelihoods. Unfortunately there are winners and losers and you are trying to find your way to win more than you lose, but that is the nature of our business right now that college football has become a business.’’
The Huskies appear headed to either the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Antonio or the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Diego. The Alamo Bowl appears more likely, but Sarkisian has no preference.
“Having only been to one bowl in I don’t know how many years, we’ll take whatever we can get, quite honestly,” he said. “We’ll be excited about it. We’ll be fired up. We’ll embrace it.”
The practice schedule will be largely the same because the bowls are a day apart.
The Huskies will get back on the field on Saturday and then take the early part of next week off, before returning Dec. 9 for three more days of practice. Then, on Dec. 15, the Huskies will start five consecutive days of practice.
“The bulk of the first five practices that we have will be dedicated to our young players,” he said. “That doesn’t mean our veterans won’t practice. That doesn’t mean we won’t sprinkle in some things that we might like to have in the game plan, some new things we want to take a look at. But then we really dedicate ourselves and game-planning in practices six through 10 – that week of work right there, starting on the 15th.”
With the Alamo Bowl the likely destination for Washington, Sarkisian would then bring his players back to the field Christmas Eve and prepare for the Dec. 29 game.
The NCAA limits teams to 15 postseason practices.
“So we’ll get a good, solid 10 practices in for the game plan of it,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll get a really good look at our younger players and working with those guys for five good practices.”
Sarkisian was asked about the possibility that standout tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will be a basketball walk-on. Seferian-Jenkins was shooting around in Alaska Airlines Arena on Tuesday and talking with Huskies basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. Sarkisian said any discussion on that will come after the bowl game. … Sarkisian said coaches are working on getting defensive back Antavius Sims enrolled in January. Issues arose in the fall, and Sims was never admitted to school. … Sarkisian didn’t think linebacker Cort Dennison was slighted by conference coaches when he was named to the all-conference second team, despite being the Pac-12’s leading tackler. “Some of it is perception,” Sarkisian said. “We can nominate guys, and we obviously nominated Cort to be a first-team linebacker, but ultimately the other coaches vote and that’s the perception. And if he was the fourth-best linebacker in the league I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. There are some pretty good players.’’
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org