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USC asks Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence

Steve Sarkisian TOS 151011

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian is taking an indefinite leave of absence, athletic director Pat Haden announced Sunday.

Haden announced the decision after Sarkisian didn't attend practice.

"It is very clear to me that he is not healthy," Haden said during the announcement.

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Clay Helton will serve as the interim head coach while Sarkisian seeks treatment. While it remains unclear exactly what transpired to prompt Haden's move, FOX Sports cited multiple sources indicating that Sarkisian showed up Sunday in no condition to work.

Sarkisian participated in an unspecified treatment program prior to the start of the 2015 season following an appearance at USC's "Salute to Troy" event during which he was admittedly impaired while using foul language.

USC -- then ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25 -- was upset by Washington, 17-12, at the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of a national-television audience on Thursday night. It was Washington's first win at the Coliseum since 2010. The defeat -- USC's second consecutive home loss -- essentially knocked the talent-stacked Trojans out of the national title picture. It doesn't get any easier for USC, either, as a trip to South Bend, Ind., to take on the No. 14-ranked Fighting Irish awaits on Saturday.

"I feel bad about it," Sarkisian said Friday following the loss to Washington. "I'm hurt about it. My job is to try to figure that out, to get the best out of our players every time we take the field."

Helton is in his second stint as USC's interim coach. He led the Trojans to a Las Vegas Bowl victory in 2013.

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