A day after placing coach Steve Sarkisian on a leave of absence, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden announced Monday that Sarkisian has been fired. In August, Sarkisian began a treatment program, under a Haden directive, while continuing to coach the Trojans. Sarkisian arrived for team meetings Sunday unable to work, prompting Haden to place him on leave, and the AD made the more definitive decision Monday.
"After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately," Haden said in a statement. "I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation. Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being."
Sarkisian has entered rehab, according to SB Nation.
"Steve Sarkisian is aware of the termination and is deeply disappointed," a source close to the coach told the site. "But right now his No. 1 priority is getting himself well. To that end, he has checked himself into a residential treatment facility. He's grateful for all the support that will help him get through this difficult time."
"It breaks my heart to see how this has gone. But he recognizes it and he's going to do something about it, so this is the day the turn occurs," Carroll said prior to the news of Sarkisian's firing. "... This is (a) big battle and we'll pull for him all the way."
Sarkisian embarrassed himself by making a speech while impaired at a booster function in August, prompting Haden to insist he enter a treatment program. According to the Los Angeles Times, records of Sarkisian's five years as coach at Washington, the job he held prior to being hired at USC, show a pattern of excessive alcohol consumption.
This is the second time in three years that Haden has fired a coach in midseason. He let Lane Kiffin go in October 2013, and named assistant coach Ed Orgeron as interim coach for the balance of that season. Sarkisian was then hired from UW to coach USC beginning with the 2014 season. Helton, the offensive coordinator and the Trojans' latest interim coach, will lead the Trojans in one of their toughest games of the season Saturday at Notre Dame.
Since Sunday, Haden has drawn criticism for his willingness to allow Sarkisian to juggle the stress of coaching a top college football program with treatment. Having said in August that he believed Sarkisian "heard (his) message loud and clear," Haden had little choice but to terminate Sarkisian less than two months later.
It's been a disappointing season for the Trojans (3-2), who entered the season with national-championship aspirations. However, Pac-12 losses to Stanford and Washington have dashed much of that hope already, and most of the team's toughest games still lie ahead on the schedule (Notre Dame, Utah, Cal, UCLA). USC has also lost veteran center Max Tuerk for the rest of the season to a knee injury.