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Debate: Did USC make right decision in hiring Steve Sarkisian?


USC confirmed Monday that Steve Sarkisian will be its next head coach. Did athletic director Pat Haden make the right call?

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  • Charles Davis
  • USC found great fit

While many would say the hire lacks imagination, I think it works well for USC, and that's the main concern -- not whether or not he "wins" the press conference.

The country was waiting for a "home run hire," one that would be surprising, and offer intrigue, and maybe a coach leaving a top-10 program to take over an iconic one that is just waiting for the right guy to restore it to prominence.

USC AD Pat Haden did his due diligence, and elected to bring back someone who's very familiar to the program. Sarkisian is connected to its most recent run of success, and he's had some success as a head coach. For those who sneer at his record at Washington, lest they forget UW's record when he took over?

Sarkisian has the acumen, the understanding of USC and it's culture, and the personality to be successful in the Land of Troy. I like the hire for USC, and know that he left the University of Washington job in much better shape than he found it.

Could Steve Sarkisian be successful at USC? Certainly. More successful than Ed Orgeron would have been? Doubtful. USC could have done better than either from a winning-track-record standpoint. But if Sark is the best you can do, might as well go with the O. Orgeron not only had the players' support, but he would have recruited better than Sark at every position except perhaps quarterback. Orgeron's record at Ole Miss no doubt hurt his cause, understandably. Sark's a safe pick, but the O had the higher ceiling.

USC values the familiar. Dating back to the hiring of John Robinson in 1976, all but two of the head coaches that followed had previous familiarity with the program. (Of course, one of the two that didn't was some guy named Pete Carroll, and that worked out pretty well for the Trojans.)

Combine that with the lack of an available slam-dunk option in the mold of Urban Meyer to Ohio State or Nick Saban to Alabama, and the decision to make Steve Sarkisian the next USC head coach earns a passing grade but little else.

Sarkisian, a former USC assistant with extensive recruiting ties in Los Angeles, knows the Pac-12 landscape and can win games with the Trojans. He will sign top players, develop them, win games with them and send them off to the NFL draft. Whether or not he can deliver a national championship by navigating a massively improved conference is a complete unknown.

James Franklin of Vanderbilt could have been an absolute star at USC, but also could have flamed out. Sarkisian is the steady, safe pick.

Whether Sarkisian can achieve the greatness USC has achieved in the past and aspires to in the future will be the criteria on which his tenure is judged. The odds are USC is going to be back in this familiar position sooner rather than later.

I thought USC was one of the five best jobs in college football. I say "thought" because if Steve Sarkisian is the best USC can do, it's no longer a top-five job. Sarkisian did a nice job getting Washington back on its feet after the ill-fated regimes of Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham. But once Washington was able to get back on its feet, it really didn't move forward. Ed Orgeron won more Pac-12 games as USC's interim coach than Sarkisian did in any season at Washington. And no way am I saying Orgeron deserved the USC job. I just don't think AD Pat Haden saw the bigger picture with this hire. He does know that it's OK to hire folks who have no connection to USC, right? And the idea that Sarkisian was hired without USC even talking to Vanderbilt's James Franklin? That's eye-opening. And stupid.

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