Three days after his USC Trojans lost to the Washington Huskies in Los Angeles, coach Steve Sarkisian finds himself dealing with a much bigger problem.
After USC players reportedly noticed that Sarkisian was not sober during meetings on Sunday morning, the former UW coach was placed on an indefinite leave of absence by USC athletic director Pat Haden. Sarkisian left the USC campus prior to the Trojans’ Sunday practice, which was led by now-interim head coach Clay Helton, the team’s offensive coordinator.
Haden told reporters that when he learned Sarkisian was not at Sunday’s practice, “I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence.”
This is Sarkisian’s second known alcohol-related incident this season – he had to issue a public apology after he showed up drunk and used profane language during a speech at USC’s Salute to Troy booster event in late August, and said he would seek treatment – but Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News on Sunday reported several other instances of Sarkisian drinking inappropriately, citing anonymous sources. Reports also indicated that coaches believed Sarkisian was intoxicated during USC’s 42-14 victory at Arizona State on Sept. 26. As noted in that story, Sarkisian is going through a divorce from his wife, Stephanie.
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The Trojans are just 3-2 in Sarkisian’s second season as coach despite a top-10 preseason ranking, leading to speculation that his job might be in jeopardy. Sarkisian coached UW to a 34-29 record from 2009-13 before replacing Lane Kiffin (and then interim coach Ed Orgeron) at USC. The Trojans finished 9-4 in Sarkisian’s first season.
There is no timetable for Sarkisian’s return.