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Enemy Hire: USC Signs Steve Sarkisian

Irish rival Southern Cal reaches into its past to make a new hire for their head football coach position.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday December 2nd the University of Southern California began a new era with the hiring of Steve Sarkisian. The Lane Kiffin era lasted 3 years and one month and the Ed Oregeron interim era lasted the final 8 games of the 2013 season. Sarkisian now walks into Los Angeles as the Trojans are coming off their 4-year of sanctions.

Here's the resume of Steve Sarkisian:

  • 2000: El Camino Community College, Quarterbacks Coach
  • 2001-2003: Southern California, Quarterbacks Coach
  • 2004: Oakland Raiders, Quarterbacks Coach
  • 2005-2006: Southern California, Quarterbacks Coach
  • 2007-2008: Southern California, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterback Coach
  • 2009-2013: Washington, Head Coach

Here's what some staff members at One Foot Down think of the hire:


Eric: Well, as I wrote when Kiffin was fired back in late September and I looked at the list of possible candidates it was Sarkisian that made the most sense for USC at this point in time.

Every school wants to hire an A+ candidate---especially a traditional power program---so it's no surprise that USC fans would be upset with this hire. Still, I'm even less surprised that they hired Kiffin to ride out the sanctions and brought Sarkisian back as Phase 1 in their post-sanction world.

It's not a home run hire by any stretch of the imagination but I think Sarkisian will be reasonably successful at USC. In a vacuum this doesn't look like a great hire but these decisions aren't made in a vacuum. That's an important point to remember. Fans want to believe that an AD should be able to pick up the phone and make the best possible hire and if they don't it's because of incompetence, stubbornness, or worse.

As is often the case, 90% of the elite coaches are staying put and the other 10% simply say no.

I do think Sarkisian in combination with Tosh Lupoi are going to be very good as recruiters. Perhaps this will be glossed over because it's USC and they always recruit well but I think there's some major potential to grab a bunch of elite talent for the Trojans. There will be some blowback for the next two weeks but I'd bet USC finishes this class with a bang and are a force to be reckoned with in the future.

I'll be interested to see what Sarkisian does with the talent he has on hand in L.A. and especially what he plans on doing on offense. He's been a part of the Carroll pro-style hey-day but he also incorporated a lot of spread elements with Keith Price at Washington. I wonder if Sarkisian was more attractive as a candidate because he can stay with a pro-style base offense---which suits all of the current Trojan quarterbacks---while still adding some fresh schemes?

At the end of the day this isn't a scary hire for Notre Dame fans but I'm not so sure Sarkisian is going to be a failure. If you're asking me right now if he does better than Lane Kiffin I think he does significantly better. If he can win 7 or 8 games per year at Washington he should be able to win 9 or 10 a year at USC. That's not good enough for USC fans but that's just too bad, now isn't it?


Jim: Will he stick with the pro style or move to a spread? Will fans be okay with the latter? Will Orgeron leaving affect their 2014 class? USC never struggles for recruits. Will he develop them? Overall, pretty meh on the big splash scale. So was Carroll. So was Kiffin. I think he is an 8-10 win per year guy at USC. They could have done worse. Not sure if they could have done much better.


4pointshooter: Sarkisian replaced a coach that went 0-12 and coached 5 seasons including 4 straight winning seasons. Good for him- that said, it means that he had 5 chances to win six or more conference games but failed - never finishing higher than 3rd in the Pac-12 North. Ed Orgeron won 6 of 7 conference games on his first try.

I like what Irish Illustrated said when the news broke."We get it USC, the Pete Carroll era was great."


alstein: I don't get the strategy to just round up this gang so they can recruit you back to where you need to be. It's not 2005 anymore. Recruiting exclusively the west coast (which is ALL Washington did under Sark) just doesn't cut it, even if you are great at it. The national talent just isn't concentrated there to the degree it was even a decade ago.

Can they recruit nationally at an ELITE level, especially without Orgeron, or will Sark, Wilcox, and Tosh just stay out west? They used to be able to hand pick the players out east they wanted and get them. Will they anymore? I think they needed O to make this work, at least early, and he's gone. Maybe Tee Martin stays on board or they can steal Adrien Klemm from UCLA, but even still, I'm just not seeing it.

I really don't belittle his record at Washington because they had really struggled through their last two regimes, and he made them slightly above average quickly. You'd at least expect USC to hire someone with a double digit win season, though, right? Maybe a division title? No?


Mouth of the South: Sarkisian. Young, energetic, great recruiter, understands SC and LA, insert other cliches and buzzwords here. Sarkisian got UW playing adequate ball again, but he never really made them much more than Purdue West. Can he rebuild Southern Cal, and, yes, he does need to rebuild it. SC has cache and built in recruiting advantages that UW just doesn't, but now it also has to contend with cross-town rival UCLA, which by the way just pantsed SC on national television and looks like it is a rising force, that is, when it isn't getting pantsed on national television by the Cardinal, Ducks, Sun Devils, and all of the other not-horrible Pac-12 teams.

I look at it kind of like this: ND needs SC to be respectable for our strength of schedule and just because it's better to beat your rival when they're respectable. Sark will undoubtedly get SC playing respectable football. But then, Orgeron had them doing that, so if that's all the Sark hire gets them, well ok, it wasn't a bad hire, I guess. And call me crazy, but even after Orgeron's stint as interim head coach, I just don't think he is capable of successfully running a football program for more than a few games. Sooo, Sark. Yeah, I guess I'm kind of blah like everyone else.


Larz: I can't bring myself to care very much about this hire. I've tried. I even watched Seattle play on Monday night, wondering if I could somehow absorb some of that Pete Carroll, hipster, pseudo-surfer vibe and start to care even a little. That failed. Maybe Sarkisian really is some sort of coaching wizard and his magical powers to conjure up wins simply failed in the humidity of the pacific northwest. I guess the prevailing wisdom in Trojan land is that by returning to sunny LA his magic powers will also return.

In short, until Sarkisian does something impressive as a head coach, he strikes me more as a guy who brings a decided schematic advantage than a program builder.


Whiskey: I really don't understand what USC was going for with this hire. In my opinion Sarkisian is Lane Kiffin without all of the drama. I expect to see similar on field results.


pburns: After reading all of the insightful comments here about the future of USC football and recruiting under Sarkesian, I can still only bring myself to one point: pure unadulterated joy that I get to watch USC be not as good as they were. I'll eat my hat if Sarkesian brings them back to a perennial top-10 team, but at the moment I'll stick with my initial thoughts, and prepare to chant "SEVEN WIN STEVE" whilst at any future USC-ND tailgates.


First Down Moses: Isn't Sark the bad guy computer program from Tron?



Paul: I think Sark is closer to 8 wins per season than 10. It is not difficult to do well at Washington, yet like Clay said, he turned them into nothing more than Purdue West. If he had put together the same resume at Wazzu, then I'd be a little bit more impressed.

No Pac-12 championships. No BCS bowls. 1-2 Bowl record (Win vs. Nebraska in 2010, Losses in 2011 and 2012 to Baylor and Boise where they surrendered 67! points against the Bears in 2011)
Color me unimpressed.

The only reason he'd be remotely successful would be if he built a solid coaching staff around him because he doesn't really strike me as impressive.